Describe your job, i.e. what do you do, how long have you been doing it, brief description of your organization
I work in Population and Public Health (PPH) in the Saskatchewan Health Authority. I have been with my department since January 2011 and our work focuses on population health promotion approaches and addressing health inequities. My work largely encompasses the healthy built environment (HBE) area.
Which area(s) of healthy built environment do you work in?
For HBE in the Saskatoon and area, we created a Health Equity in Healthy Built Environment Framework to guide our work (adapted from British Columbia’s Healthy Built Environment Linkages Toolkit). Our framework includes four pillars of focus: Healthy Transportation Networks, Healthy Neighbourhood Design, Healthy Food Systems and Healthy Housing. I lead the Healthy Transportation Networks and Healthy Neighbourhood Design pillars.
In relation to your area of work in built environment, what are some notable projects that you have been or are currently involved in? Are you looking for help with knowledge translation/mobilization of the project outcomes/outputs, or seeking partners and collaborators?
One of our key activities is providing public health input, including health equity recommendations, into municipal projects/plans/policies and this is done through a variety of mechanisms (written submissions, through committee involvement, and more). For one plan in particular, PPH partnered with a local organization to do a Health Equity Impact Assessment on the City of Saskatoon’s Growth Plan. I was the PPH staff who co-led the HEIA and the recommendations are highlighted through ongoing processes with the City.
Another project to note is policy analysis, using the NCCHPP’s analyzing policy framework. These have been done to inform recommendations from the Medical Health Officers Office to a municipality and provide a comprehensive analysis to assist with case-building.
Is health promotion, population health, and healthy built environment part of your organization’s mandate and priority? How does your and your organization’s work contribute to improving population health through the built environment?
The vision for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is Healthy People, Healthy Saskatchewan and PPH is a portfolio within SHA. Health promotion is part of the SHA through many services and programs covering the continuum and ranging from individual-level to a population-level focus.
Population Health Promotion is specifically a focus of the PPH and, upstream actions to address the root causes of health inequities, is the core of our work. Work within the HBE area, and collaborating with the municipal system to mitigate negative impacts on population health, is a current focus. In addition, accountabilities from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health’s Population Health Branch include healthy social and physical environments.
What are some emerging challenges in your province in relation to the built environment?
Given Saskatchewan is a vast rural province we have to explicitly recognize the challenges, and opportunities, that come with this and avoid applying urban-centric information and methods. HBE work is not coordinated or connected provincially, however the amalgamation in Saskatchewan of thirteen Regional Health Authorities into one Provincial Health Authority, with the focus on primary health care and population health, provides great opportunity. Similar to other parts of the country, the challenge remains in building the understanding and attitudes of decision makers and the general population regarding the benefits of built environment projects, plans and/or policies that challenge the status quo.
What motivated you to become a forum champion, and what role do you think the forum can play to promote knowledge exchange and network development in HBE in Canada?
My passion for HBE work is twofold. This is an important area of work for public health practitioners since, how our cities and communities are designed and built impacts the health of the population. Second, health equity is not an automatic consideration when municipal policies/projects/plans are being created and/or decided upon. This is a key opportunity to mitigate potential negative impacts, as well as maximize positive impacts, from the onset.
I am excited to learn from my colleagues around the country and to have a place to share ideas, seek out learnings, information and advice. The HBE Forum has great potential to be a repository of information to inform our practice as well as encourage opportunities for colleagues to exchange knowledge and learnings and build connection through a community of practice.
For further information on the HBE work done in Saskatoon and area:
- Canadian Journal of Public Health article: Embedding health equity strategically within built environments
- NCCDH Blog: Building health equity into healthy built environments: A Saskatoon perspective