The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2017 – Designing Healthy Living
A message from Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer
Without being aware of it, our neighbourhoods and how they are built influence how healthy we are.
I chose designing healthy living as the topic for my first report as Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer because of the tremendous potential that changing our built environment has for helping Canadians live healthier lives.
Chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease are the leading causes of death in Canada. It is alarming that in 2011, almost 2.7 million or 1 in 10 Canadians 20 years and older were living with diabetes. Rising rates of type II diabetes can be considered a red flag for poor health as they are associated with higher rates of other diseases and conditions and linked to an unhealthy diet, low physical activity and higher rates of overweight and obesity. Rates of type II diabetes and other chronic diseases in Canada could be reduced by seamlessly integrating healthy living into our daily lives which can be achieved, in part, by designing and redesigning our communities.
Improving public health and preventing disease through changes to our environment is a well-founded concept. For example, infectious disease rates in the last century were reduced not just through scientific innovation and vaccination, but also through infrastructure planning by improving sanitation and addressing overcrowding in residential neighbourhoods.
This report answers many questions but also raises several others. We need better information if we are to measure the health impacts of community design to incorporate evidence-based strategies into community planning. This report will raise awareness among Canadians about the unique aspects of their communities that they could take advantage of to improve their health. It will also encourage more dialogue across the many disciplines involved in community planning and health promotion so that neighbourhood design considers and promotes physical activity, healthy diets and mental wellness.
Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada