‘Healthy growth’ in Centre Wellington

ELORA – A new document to help plan for “healthy growth” and community design in Centre Wellington has been released.

On Sept. 30 Centre Wellington council heard from Amy Estill, manager of health promotion for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.

Since 2017 the health unit and Centre Wellington staff have been working together on the “Healthy Community Design Baseline Project.”

“The project was fully funded by public health and was offered to a limited number of communities as a health promotion initiative, Centre Wellington being one of them,” said township senior planner Mariana Iglesias.

“The main goal of the project was to establish a baseline of key indicators for healthy community design and they would be tailored specifically to Centre Wellington. So what they do is help us measure how the indicators have changed over time and how the community is growing and how the project is progressing.”

The main objectives are:

– measuring how residents currently travel in neighbourhoods and what they would like in community design;

– gaining an understanding of residents’ knowledge about the relationship between community design and health; and

– collaborating with municipal planning departments to measure physical environments of the current built design.

The municipality will be assessed in five, 10 and 15 years.

“The built environment really refers to the human-made or modified physical surroundings in which people live, work and play,” Estill said. “And really the built environment creates opportunities or challenges for people to live healthy.”

The project was based on four main features of a healthy built environment:

– neighbourhood design: dwelling density and intersection density;

– transportation networks: percentage of dwellings within 800 meters of features of interest;

– natural environment: percentage of parks and greenspaces; and

– food systems: modified food environment index which looks at the proportion of healthy food sources to unhealthy food sources.

Residents were asked to complete a survey (568 completed) about current behaviours, active travel-related behaviours and their knowledge of the link between community design and health.

The team also completed a project to map the physical design of Centre Wellington.

“Those two elements were configured together in order to make recommendations to improve the built design,” Estill said.

For the full report visit https://bit.ly/33mGkLT.

Councillor Stephen Kitras said he is concerned about using the report as baseline information because of the number of respondents and because certain demographics like economic indicators were not factored in.

Iglesias explained economic indicators were outside the scope of project. “It was focusing more on natural areas and people’s perceptions of growth,” she said.

Iglesias added the report is a starting point and the municipality is going to offer public education and implement some of the tools and recommendations identified.

“It’s basically a tool to gauge progress but it also is sort of a living document as well in terms of how it’s going to proceed or progress over time,” Iglesias said.

The municipality will get comments from public health on community design. Council voted to endorse the report, release it to the public and agencies as a resource and have staff implement its recommendations.