In February 2013, we at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority were approached by the organizers of the Manitoba Planner’s Conference to deliver a post-conference Active Design Workshop with Dr. Karen Lee. Dr. Lee is the former Director of the Health and Active Design team in New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that collaborated on the development and implementation of the Active City Guidelines for New York City. Dr. Lee is currently providing the health authority with support through its participation in the Healthy Canada by Design CLASP II Initiative. The invitation was initiated by the conference organizers who wanted to include the link between health and planning as a key theme in their conference. It is an invitation that has opened many doors!
The Active Design Workshop attracted a wide variety of participants; planners, members of the community, health authority staff, urban planners, and staff from local governments and NGOs across Manitoba. It provided an opportunity for sharing, learning and discussion between different sectors in Winnipeg and Manitoba about the built environment and its impact on health.
Through the workshop planning process, we met and began developing relationships with planners and other staff from the City of Winnipeg. Through these relationships, we have learned about current projects in the City; projects that present opportunities to promote active transportation and active recreation. A dialogue has begun about how the health authority can be involved in this work; bringing health considerations into those discussions. We have now been formally invited to sit at the OurWinnipeg implementation table for the City’s Complete Community Strategy. This is a huge step for an external organization.
Our involvement in the Manitoba Planner’s Conference has also opened a door at the University of Manitoba. We were invited to attend a viewing with Environmental Design students from the Faculty of Architecture regarding their downtown urban re-design project. We dropped into the open studio time to hear the discussions and learn more. Since then, the Department Head & Associate Professor in the Department of City Planning has invited us to attend multiple viewings of the downtown re-design projects and to bring our health and physical activity perspectives into those discussions. These sessions have increased our understanding of environmental design and urban planning, while also providing us with the opportunity to inform Environmental Design students about active transportation and active recreation concepts that can be incorporated into their work. The professor now introduces us as “our new health friends”.
All of these developments have been unexpected outcomes that have grown out of our involvement in the Active Design workshop. While the initial outcome was the delivery of a workshop, the relationships developed through the process have laid the foundation for our work with the City of Winnipeg under the Healthy Canada by Design CLASP II Initiative and for years to come.
Prepared by Sarah Prowse & Deanna Betteridge, Physical Activity Promotion, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority