The Physical Environment Domain reveals differences in the built environment of Ottawa neighbourhoods (census tract level). It ranks Ottawa neighbourhoods on the levels of access to transit, services (walkability score), and amenities including rental stock, community places for meeting and usable green space. Through empirically mapping inequity, this NEI domain aims to support decision makers in making evidence-based decisions that can produce a more equitable, stronger, and healthier Ottawa.
The Physical Environment Domain has six indicators:
Average number of meeting places within a 10 min driving distance
Walkability score (proximity to services rather than pedestrian amenities)
Green space (usable green space) the average amount of green space per square kilometer weighted using population weights
Percentage of people spending over 45 minutes on their commute
Percentage of dwellings that are not owned
The built environment can impact the health of populations by determining among others the walkability of neighbourhoods, access to amenities, green space, and pedestrian infrastructure. For example, research shows that communities with mixed land use (e.g. well-connected streets, good walk scores) are more likely to be more active than communities that are car dependent. Similarly, communities that engage in more active transportation have better health outcomes 1. Walking, cycling, and using public transit can increase physical activity levels, improve mental health, reduce injuries and illness (e.g. diabetes and cardiovascular disease), and encourage a sense of belonging and overall social inclusion. A strong transit network can also reduce inequity by increasing access to services and employment opportunities 2.
The importance of health and place extends to the availability, suitability, and affordability of housing. Individually and collectively, access (or lack there of) to quality affordable housing can influence health outcomes. Limited affordable housing can create place-based inequities by determining the neighbourhoods’ people can afford to live-in, possibly impacting access to a built environment that can facilitate optimal physical and mental health 3.
1 Coalition Linking Action and Science for Prevention. (2015). Active Transportation, Health and Community Design. Health Canada, 1–12. Retrieved from https://www.cip-icu.ca/Files/Healthy-Communities/FACTSHEETS-ActiveTransportation-FINALenglish.aspx
2 Canadian Institute for Health Information. (2008). Reducing Gaps in Health: A Focus on Socio-Economic Status in Urban Canada. In Canadian Institute for Health Information – report.
3 Votta, E., Denny, K., Robert, A.-M., Martin, M.-C., Palaniappan, U., Valk, N., … Zelmer, J. (2006). Improving the Health of Canadians: An Introduction to Health in Urban Places. In Canadian Population Health Initiative.
By the Ottawa Community Foundation
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by the Alliance to End Homelessness
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