Healthy Communities, Healthy Economies

March 18, 2015

I’m really interested in the possibilities that arise from two realities:

  1. There are multiple benefits of providing health care to people where they live. In order to keep people and communities healthy, the evidence tells us we need to prioritize offering accessible, interdisciplinary care and support in communities – and when needed, in individuals’ homes.
  2. Current ecological, economic, and social imperatives call on us to rebuild our communities around locally-based, fair, and resilient economies.
Other posts in this series:

Nadine Gudz
Alexa Pitoulis
Adam Lynes-Ford
Jessica Knowler
Mandy McDougall

Check out last month’s series

Locally-based health care services, such as community health centres with interdisciplinary teams, have excellent health and wellness outcomes and are able to integrate with other community spaces and services that help keep people healthy and connected.

They also provide good, local, skilled (and green) jobs – one of the cornerstones of resilient local economies.

What are some key elements of “new economies”?

  • An integrated approach to health – the health of individuals, communities, economies, and the environment is intimately connected. An understanding that health is more than treatment, it’s about taking measures to maintain and improve our health before we get sick. When people get sick in Canada, half of our health outcomes are a result of social determinants of health – things like access to early childhood care and housing.
  • Community-based care – prioritizing the provision of care and support to people where they live.
  • Universally accessible care – an economy where access to necessary care and support is based on need, not an individual’s ability to pay.
  • Care that celebrates people – I work with a wellness centre that is led by –and for – transgender and gender diverse people. I’ve seen firsthand the remarkable power of providing care that celebrates gender diversity. It’s a simple concept, but one that I think could be applied to many other aspects of how we care for each other.

How does this relate to cities?

One of the projects I work on involves a mapping exercise with highschool-aged youth. Groups of participants get a large piece of paper and markers and are asked to draw what a healthy community looks like to them. Over the years I have been struck by the number of students who illustrate the importance of having health care services located near the other places and services that members of their families, especially elders, need to access. For instance, they draw clusters of grocery stores, immigration services, and community health clinics.

There is a real alignment between living in balance with our environment and supporting healthy communities and people. Just as clustering services and public spaces like parks, grocery stores, libraries around transit hubs supports vibrant communities and reduces the need for emission-intensive car travel, evidence shows that providing care for people in their homes, communities, and clustering multi-disciplinary teams in community health clinics have very positive impacts on people’s health. Moreover, localizing the provision of care localizes jobs.

What does real wealth mean to you?

Real wealth to me means the ability to connect with the land we live on, including an understanding of, and relationship to, the history of that land.

Along with that connection, real wealth is the ability to live in a way that is in balance with our environment.

In other words, the ability to live in a way that does not overburden the ecosystems to which we belong, and instead cares for them, is fundamental to our core sense of wellbeing and an antidote to the deep spiritually and economically destructive results of living out of step with the carrying capacity of our environment.

Adam Lynes-Ford is a father of two and an avid fisher and gardener. He served as National Director for the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and is the founder of Eatable East Van, a community food sustainability network. Adam was a board member of YouthCO AIDS Society and is a former educator with the Gulf Islands Centre for Ecological Learning. He has served as Co-Chair of the Coalition to Build a Better B.C. and is a current board member of the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre. He works as the Medicare Campaigner with the BC Health Coalition, an organization that champions a strong public health care system.

This blog is part of the ‘Voices of New Economies‘ series within Cities for People – an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks.

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need – ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.