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Major Research Project Reflection Report MES Planning Program

Major Research Project Reflection Report MES Planning Program

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Title: Major Research Project Reflection Report MES Planning Program
Author: Mendonca, Jarvis
Identifier: MESMP02359
Abstract: Characteristics of the built environment have been found to influence the health of the population. Over the last two years of my Planning Program, I have taken several courses and independent studies during which I developed my knowledge of the disciplines of Public Health and Urban Planning. My interest in the subjects is a product of the fact that the population is spending more time being sedentary and as a result, they continue to become unhealthier. The primary area of concern in health is the rapid rise in obesity rates. Obesity rates continue to increase as food is more accessible and lifestyles are changing to exclude physical activity. The built environment is relevant to increases in obesity rates because evidence suggests that sprawling neighbourhoods with low density development have increased auto-dependency and created physically inactive neighbourhoods (Peel Public Health, 2005).

Being overweight or obese leads to other health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, hypertension and stroke. These health conditions decrease the population's quality of life but they also have economic and social implications. Economically, there are both direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include costs related to hospital care, physician costs and medications. Indirect costs include the costs related to loss of work due to disability for example. Social costs include the negative psychological effects that could result from negative self image or discrimination (Peel Public Heart, 2005, p11).

Obesity is not an issue isolated to Public Health because poorly designed, low density, sprawling neighbourhoods have been identified as contributors to physical inactivity, obesity and other chronic disease. The increasingly sedentary lifestyle has been complemented with need to rely on the automobile to travel. Planning is presented with the opportunity to reintegrate utilitarian physical activity by creating communities that are less auto-dependent and meeting the daily needs of the population in a more compact space. It can be achieved incorporating healthy development characteristics into future developments.

There is also an additional benefit. Healthy communities are complete communities and complete communities are compact and efficient. Developing in this manner is more sustainable for the future. Planning and Public Health go hand in hand. Both sides benefit from the relationship. Planning creates higher quality and more efficient development while Public Health benefits through the healthier population. As such planning and public health practitioners from the Region of Peel, City of Toronto and the Planning Partnership are working together to develop the Health Background Study Framework. The Health Background Study Frame work will cumulatively be a series of tools that can be used to evaluate the health impacts of a planned development or planning policy and to provide guidance on the development of healthier environments.

In the following report, I will outline the origins of the Health Background Study Framework. For my Major Research Project, I worked with Peel Public Health to evaluate one of the tools from their Health Background Study Framework: the Health Assessment Checklist. I will outline my responsibilities as per my project and speak to why I believe that the evaluating the tool is valuable to both the Region of Peel and to myself. In addition, I will discuss what I know about Public Health and the Built Environment from a planning perspective and outline my key takeaways from the process.
Type: Major paper
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/30272
Citation: Major Paper, Master of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
Date: 2014

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