Waters: Is a municipal strategy needed to do the obvious

Kelowna coming up with a plan about how to make the city a healthy place to live.

Alistair Waters

Making a city a healthy place to live—both literally and figuratively— is a laudable goal for any community. And it’s even better when more than just physical health is taken into account.

And that’s just what Kelowna is doing with its current Healthy City Strategy, a partnership with Interior Health.

But it begs the question: Does the city need a strategy to do what it should be doing anyway—creating a safe, healthy environment for all its residents that takes into account issues such as the how is develops, the services it provides and all aspects of life in the said city?

It seems what Kelowna is striving for with its Healthy CIty Strategy is exactly what it is supposed to do.

The guiding principles include prioritizing the “built” environment, integrating health into its policies, maximizing partnerships, communicating simply and broadly with its residents, leading and catalyzing innovation and embracing complexity.

Sounds like the mom, dad and apple pie of municipal operations.

Kelowna council received an update on the ongoing work on the strategy Monday from city staff and it all sounds very promising.

The strategy includes a vision of a community safe, active and inclusive for all ages and abilities, a community where those making the decisions talk to those affected by the decisions, where needed services and amenities are provided and “theme” areas, such as healthy transportation, healthy housing, healthy natural environments, healthy food systems and healthy neighbourhood design are all addressed.

The city has plenty to build on having done a pretty good job in the past. But there are challenges and issues to overcome.

Housing is the currently one of biggest. With prices and rents skyrocketing, the availability of rentals incredibly low and the promise of more rental housing out there but still a ways off, the healthy requirement of putting a roof over one’s head is getting harder and harder to realize for some in this city.

The folks at city hall have a specific plan to address that with its promised Health Housing Strategy, but that plan is not expected to be complete until next year.

The overarching Healthy City Strategy itself is an ongoing work, a long-term integrative plan that focuses on healthy places and spaces, community health and quality of life for Kelowna residents.

Working with Interior Health, the strategy’s overall vision is “Working together to create built environments in which people and places thrive.”

It sounds like a motto for any responsible local government. A place to thrive should be the end goal for al communities.

What is sad is that in today’s climate to achieve such a goal it takes a specific municipal strategy, one that has to be developed by city staff, stakeholders and residents themselves.

What the Healthy City Strategy calls for is what should be done as a matter of course.

No city should need a strategy to tell it that it needs to keep its residents healthy—that should be a given.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.


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