From the moment you start your day, the design of your community, and the many ways you get around can affect your health and happiness. Think of the places you go, such as work, school, or places to shop and have fun. Whether you are looking forward to getting together with friends or spending time outdoors your well-being is affected by built and natural environments and how you interact with them. Poorly designed communities can make it hard to get around by transit, foot, or bicycle, affect your mood and can even lead to health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, respiratory disease and cancer. Every community has unique needs and is planned differently. What we build requires enormous investments, lasts a long time and has a huge impact on climate change, air quality and our health. Our communities need to be complete, with a rich mix of land uses; convivial, with places to spend time that are friendly and lively; connected through great complete streets; compact; and cool by ensuring we have trees and sustainable development. But it’s not just how the built environment is created. It’s also about our daily choices. For instance, choosing to take public transit can reduce air pollution and give you a chance to read a good book. Biking to a local store is good exercise and you might see a friendly neighbour along the way! Before heading out, check the Air Quality Health Index tool for your area to see if it is a good day to exercise outdoors. This helps you make better decisions for your health. Our built environment needs to evolve and there are several ways you can make a difference – start early; learn about the municipal planning process in your community; join a community association; and give your feedback to your Councillor or Municipality. Get involved! Be part of the solution. Small steps add up and can have a big impact. As we think of changes that will make our communities healthier, let us not forget that First Nations, Inuit and Metis people were the first protectors of our land. We acknowledge the culture and heritage these groups bring to our communities and the need to keep this in mind as we make community design changes. Change is difficult but these problems need solving now. So get your ideas ready! Because when you contribute to the healthy design of your community we can all end up healthier and happier.

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Methew Wade

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