This section supports taking action to create healthier communities in different ways.
Overriding, is the healthy community approach. Using this approach enables action on various focus areas within broad environments and settings.
How our communities are designed (built environment), how individuals are supported within communities (social environment), and the condition of the natural environment in which we live, all affect our health. Innovative collaborative solutions for addressing these three environments ultimately lead to healthier communities –hence healthier choices, for all.
Buildings, spaces and products that have been made or modified by humans. Dimensions of the built environment include land use patterns, transportation systems, building design as well as the human activity patterns that occur within in them1.
Natural ecosystems and habitat, including air and water quality, global climate, plant life, animals and land, as well as human interactions with nature.
Inclusive communities that value all their members and include supports for social connectedness and belonging – e.g. age-friendliness, civic engagement, public participation.
Where we spend the majority of our day can harm or enhance our health. “Settings are the physical places and social spaces where we lead our lives. Because they are central ‘nodes‘ in our lives, and because they combine the physical and social environments, they can be powerful foci for health promotion programs.”2 Communities, schools, workplaces and health care are important settings for creating healthy choices and options
Community at large
Community-wide initiatives, too, can impact many more people than a single small-scale effort. Access to safe, healthy, and affordable food, walkable and bicycle friendly infrastructure, public transit, shade structures in parks and playgrounds, tobacco-free and municipal alcohol reduction policies and bylaws are major multi-sectoral efforts to create healthy communities.
Schools can model a healthy environment for youth who spend many years in these settings. When healthy options are available at a younger age, there is greater likelihood that young people carry positive health choices into adulthood. Policies around healthy cafeteria and vending options, physical activity opportunities, and alcohol and tobacco reduction programs are ways that schools can create health promoting environments.
Many adults spend the majority of their day at work, so it’s no surprise that the workplace is a powerful setting to support health. Workplaces also have the resources and systems to implement initiatives on a broad scale. Workplace wellness policies and activities, such as time for physical activity, on-site kitchen and eating areas and healthy food options, sun-safety training, weight management and shift-work programs, and/or on-site health screening help create a healthier and more productive workforce. Good health is good for business!
Health care settings
Includes your family doctor, walk-in clinics, emergency departments, hospitals and long term care facilities, as well as public health programs and services offered in your community. The health system supports individuals through health care decision making and care planning, making connections to community resources and supports, and increasing access to health promotion opportunities to prevent avoidable illness and promote the health and well-being of Albertans within and between communities. In practice, this could mean that an individual who is admitted to hospital or visits their family doctor is asked about preventable risk factors for chronic disease, such as tobacco use, engaged in a ‘healthy conversation’ and connected on to tobacco cessation or other identified healthy lifestyle supports and services in the community.
Health inequities are the avoidable differences in health between groups of people in a community, province or country3. Populations vulnerable to poor health outcomes tend to be overrepresented in health care settings; especially emergency departments, and other acute care settings. Lower Income and social status – key determinants of health – are linked to poor health. The greater the gap between the richest and poorest people, the greater the differences in health4. Community-wide initiatives level the playing field in that they are accessible to everyone, ensuring that all members of the community have an opportunity to achieve their health potential. Such initiatives lay the foundation for equity in in that they address unfair and avoidable differences in health outcomes among population groups.
The healthy community video shows how community-wide initiatives benefit everyone.
1. Built environments and health, Healthy Public Policy Information Sheet, AHS 2011; Beyond Bricks and Mortal Mental Health and the Built Environment Canadian Mental Health Association, ON. Network Summer 2008
2. Trevor Hancock. 2009. Act Locally: Community-based Population Health Promotion. Senate Sub-Committee on Population Health. URL: https://sencanada.ca/content/sen/Committee/402/popu/rep/appendixBjun09-e.pdf
4. WHO (The determinants of health) http://www.who.int/hia/evidence/doh/en/
Build a Healthy Community
Learn about the approach to make your community a healthier place
See what other communities across Alberta have done to promote healthy living
Find tools, resources and learning opportunities to help strengthen your community.