Kristen Foerster - Headshot


Kristen Foerster is a recent graduate from Honors Specialization in Health Promotion. Kristen intends to continue her studies through a Master’s of Public Health and looks forward to building a career in health promotion.

By Kristen Foerster

One major challenge the Canadian Health Care system faces is the growing number of overweight and obese citizens. In 2010, 41.1 per cent and 27.2 per cent of Canadian men and women, respectively, self-reported as being overweight (Statistics Canada, 2012). Only 53.8 per cent of Canadians are physically active during leisure time, which could be associated with high obesity rates (Statistics Canada, 2011).

A new innovation being introduced is a “dynamic city” (Galloway, 2010). This involves an urban reform of the country. In the 19th and 20th centuries, urban reforms helped overcome fatal infectious diseases that were affecting a large percentage of the population (Bloomberg, Burney, Farley, Sadik-Khan, _ Burden, 2010). The same reform needs to be implemented to fight obesity. I believe cities need to be redesigned to obtain healthy communities. Cities are no longer being designed for people, rather for cars and other vehicles. Cities are demoting physical activity, while promoting a sedentary lifestyle. This challenge needs to be addressed so that citizens are able to walk to work, public transit, and grocery stores comfortably and safely, while engaging in physical activity (Galloway, 2010).

I believe the government needs to refocus their ideas of health promotion to prevent obesity. Although it is important for citizens to learn about their health and how to maintain it, it is also important for the government to assist its citizens in achieving these goals. Cities in North America, such as New York City, New York; London, Ontario; and Brampton, Ontario are already beginning to implement urban restructuring. By redesigning the city, citizens will have more opportunities and better access to healthier lifestyles.

I believe the design being implemented needs to be practical and fun. The Fun Theory in Stockholm provides the perfect example of practicality and fun combined. By creating their “piano staircase,” a staircase that plays music as you step, 66 per cent more people were inclined to use the stairs than they were to use the escalator (Rolighetsteorin, 2009). This demonstrates that simple incentives can promote the healthier option.

I also believe it is important to create communities with relevant destinations. The new communities need to be multipurpose so that people do not have to travel from one community to another, which would defeat the purpose of urban redevelopment. Instead, each community needs to incorporate a variety of facilities that are accessible by foot or bicycle, and not automobile. According to Bloomberg et al., evidence suggests the more useful services that exist in an area, the more likely people are to walk (2010). Some examples of services that could be offered in an ideal community would be a school, a supermarket, a library, a park, a gym, clothing stores, a café, a restaurant, a bowling alley, and a community center. By incorporating all of these services, people would be more motivated to use these built communities for convenience and exercise.

It is also important to consider environmental aesthetics, as well as safety, when remodeling a community. The more environmentally pleasing an area, the more likely people will enjoy being there. The more green space provided, as well as trees, ponds, fountains, etc. would help create an appealing environment.  It should also be a community where people feel safe at all times. Suggestions for a safe community are lots of lighting and security personnel or video cameras.

Once a fun, safe, and practical community is implemented, people will begin to see the benefits they are receiving from a healthier community. It is, however, important to note some challenges an urban reform may encounter. Since these healthier communities are designed to be practical by foot, they cannot be too large because that will demote its use. It is challenging to determine what facilities and services should be implemented. The redesign of a community would need to be specific to the needs of the people, therefore a lot of time and money need to be invested in determining these factors. It should also be noted that not all services can be available in one place, and that vehicles will still be needed to travel to services outside the community. It is possible to promote the use of bicycles when travelling outside the community. This requires that communities work together when remodeling to ensure easy access to neighboring communities.

Overall, I think it is important to start rebuilding communities to better suit people rather than vehicles. The more opportunities that are created for walking and cycling, the more likely people are to use them. Convenience is also important since people are always on the go. Easy access, practicality, and enjoyment all play an important role in promoting the use of these new communities. I believe that as these communities become more popular, obesity rates will begin to decrease and people will begin to live healthier lives.

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References:

Bloomberg, M.R., Burney, D., Farley, T., Sadik-Khan, J., _ Burden, A. (2010). Active design guidelines: Promoting physical activity and health in design. Retrieved from http://centerforactivedesign.org/dl/guidelines.pdf

Galloway, S. (2010, July 16). Ignite London: The future of London [Video file]. Retrieved from http://londonfuse.ca/video/ignite-london-sean-galloway-future-london

Rolighetsteorin. (2009, September 22). Piano Stairs [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.thefuntheory.com/piano-staircase

Statistics Canada. (2011). Percentage who were obese and overweight (self-reported), by sex, household population aged 18 or older, Canada, 2003-2010. [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2011001/article/desc/11464-01-desc-eng.htm

Statistics Canada. (2012). Physical activity during leisure time, 2011. [Data file]. Retrieved  from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2012001/article/11667-eng.htm

This article is published under the Bright Ideas project, a joint Ivey International Centre for Health Innovation and NationalHealthWatch.ca initiative aimed at promoting ideas of future leaders and generating dialogue.  Over the course of the next three months, Bright Ideas will profile blogs from Ivey health stream students. 

The views expressed in these blogs are the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the International Centre for Health Innovation or NationalHealthWatch.ca.