June 17th, 2024

Healthy Lethbridge aims at improving active living

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on February 11, 2023.

Marty Many Fingers makes his way along the southside Kinsmen Park as he rides his bike uptown during the Friday noon hour. Herald photo by Ian Martens

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Healthy Communities Association of Lethbridge (HCALA), also known as Healthy Lethbridge, are looking for ways to make Lethbridge a healthy city.

HCALA’s goals include increasing accessibility for active living opportunities for everyone, increase active living green spaces around the city, increase community cohesion to create a healthy and active culture among others.

They work with organizations to secure funding for initiatives that promote healthy living, physical activity, healthy eating and community strengthening.

Kathy Lewis, a member of Healthy Lethbridge, said she was inspired by the city of Airdrie Blue Zone project when she read about it in 2020.

“What intrigued me about it was, it was a very holistic approach to looking at population health and how to help people become healthier from an upstream perspective,” said Lewis.

She said that for the World Health Organization (WHO) healthy cities are places that deliver for people and the planet. They engage the whole of society, encouraging the participation of all communities in the pursuit of peace and prosperity. Healthy cities lead by example in order to achieve change for the better, tackling inequalities and promoting good governance and leadership for health and well-being. Innovation, knowledge sharing and health diplomacy are valued and nurtured in healthy cities.

“We have undertaken the Imagine Lethbridge forum. Now time has passed and that’s already back in May (2022) and we do have a work plan and with all of the information that we gathered from that forum, our plan is to go to city council and city planners,” said Lewis.

Leader of Healthy Lethbridge, Heather Mathur said one of their premises is to have health in all policies.

“If you’re planning a new neighbourhood or doing retrofits of a neighbourhood, to have that health and all policy, to get the city to commit to that,” said Mathur.

 She said that could be applied to designing a community as well, as if a new school is being built, to keep in mind safety for kids, for them to be able to walk to school.

Diane Randell, a member of healthy Lethbridge who is an expert on neighbourhood development, said that what appealed to her about this initiative is that they are looking at the whole system and not just portions of it.

 “We’re looking at the whole picture, from a social lens, a cultural lens, an environmental lens and an economic lens, so any decision that are made should really reflect the impact that would have in all those areas,” said Randell.

She said they are renovating the Victoria Park neighbourhood with a vision to the future and what it could look like for future generations.

“We’re taking into consideration safety around the schools for example, ability to walk to school for those students that live in the area. It’s about gathering places that people can come together and connect, mobility of the populations and having a green policy to avoid removal of trees as they contribute to the environment” said Randell.

She said it was important to design or redesign communities with the intention of keeping the population healthy by providing ways that they can connect, engage in physical activity, and be safe.

HCALA has worked with local organizations to secure funding to install multiple outdoor gyms across the city to increase accessibility to physical activity opportunities.

They also hold events that focus in healthy living throughout the year and information can be found on their website or their social media.

Mathur said those interested in being part of Healthy Lethbridge either by becoming part of their email distribution list or attending their network meetings, can contact them by email at healthylethbridge@gmail.com

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