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Community planning with health in mind

Community planning with health in mind

Have you ever thought what would improve the quality of life for people living in your community? What would make your community a better place to live? What matters most to you? Sharing your ideas, visions, and views during an Official Community Plan (OCP) process is a perfect opportunity to engage in local government planning to help shape your community.

Every 5-10 years, local governments must update their Official Community Plan. An Official Community Plan (OCP) is a bylaw, which contains goals and policies that guide land use into the future. The OCP reflects the values and priorities of the community. It serves as a guiding document for city staff and elected officials when making decisions about many aspects of community planning. Community planning with health in mind provides more opportunities and reduces barriers for all people to live healthy lives.

Research shows that approximately 60% of what influences our individual health is related to elements found within our everyday lives and the environment that we live in[1]. An OCP has the ability to significantly impact the way our communities are planned, and therefore significantly influence the individual health of community members. A healthy community is when the built, social, economic, and natural environments are well balanced to allow people the opportunity to live to their full potential and come together to make their community better for themselves, their family, friends, neighbours and others. Read the Link between planning and health: Official Community Plan for more information.

Best practices to support healthy community development include:

  1. Compact and complete communities support walking, cycling, and use of public transit over cars. This leads to improved health outcomes, better physical and mental well-being, and greater opportunities for social connectedness.[2]
  2. Prioritize diverse housing forms, tenure types, and mixed income development. Unstable housing can lead to poorer health outcomes. Stable and affordable home provides warmth, safe, and healthy environment to support your health as well as foster good mental and physical health and improved quality of live. Read Health & Housing Backgrounder & Case Study for more information.
  3. Agriculture directly impacts health by influencing food choices and healthy eating patterns. For example the presence of local farmers’ markets encourages people to eat more fruits and vegetables.1

As a member of the public, it is important to become involved in local government planning. Local governments must consult with the public on planning and development processes. Visit your local government webpage to find out more on how you can become involved today – they often have a newsletter you can sign up for to receive updates.

Right now, the City of West Kelowna is in phase 1 of its OCP Update to create a new community vision and is seeking input from anyone that lives, works, or visits West Kelowna. Visit ourwk.ca to learn more.

For more information on the link between health and planning visit:

[1] Canadian Medical Association. Health Care Transformation. 2013.

[2] BC Center for Disease Control. Healthy Built Environment Linkages Toolkit: making the links between design, planning and health, Version 2.0. Vancouver, BC. Provincial Health Services Authority, 2018.