At a press conference in Edmonton, key government representatives were on hand to announce that the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is investing $4.4 million over a five year period to support the University of Alberta’s Housing for Health project.
The University of Alberta will partner with the Christensen Group of Companies, an Alberta-based real estate developer, and many other organizations to incorporate active design features into two new residential buildings and surrounding neighbourhoods in Edmonton and Whitecourt.
“The neighbourhoods where we live, learn, work and play are an important foundation for healthy living,” said Hon. Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources. “Investing in the University of Alberta’s Housing for Health initiative is just one of the ways the Government of Canada is working with partners on innovative projects to encourage healthy living and to help prevent chronic diseases by addressing common risk factors. By working with developers at the design stage, we have a great opportunity to support built environment projects that can have positive long-term impacts on the health and well-being of Canadians.”
As research has shown, designing communities that encourage regular physical activity and make healthy eating the easier option can improve overall health and help prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. It can also help people remain more independent as they age in their communities.
The Housing for Health project aims to design buildings and communities in a way that encourages physical activity, healthy eating and a sense of community belonging. Community design features may include the creation of green spaces and paths around the housing developments to encourage walking, biking and playing. Gardens may also be created to promote physical activity outdoors, access to healthy foods, and community engagement. In addition, the project will provide residents with health promotion programming.
“Cities and communities can be designed and built to set people up for success so that healthy choices are the easier choices,” said Dr. Theresa Tam Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. “The University of Alberta’s Housing for Health project is an example of how we can address chronic disease risk factors, like sedentary behaviour and unhealthy eating, by designing communities and neighbourhoods to serve as a foundation for healthy living.”
Throughout the initiative, the communities and key stakeholders—such as developers, planners, transportation and housing organizations and academia—will be engaged in the planning and implementation of active design features. PHAC’s investment in the project will support community engagement strategies and bring together multi-sectoral stakeholders to help incorporate active design features into the housing site designs.