What makes your city a healthy place to live? Social connections, walkability, bike lanes, transit, healthy food options, employment, traffic patterns and parking all contribute to the health of a city and the people who live there.
In January, our current Guest Librarian Robin Mazumder, hosted a Healthy Cities Panel Discussion at Central Library.
To kick off the evening, Robin announced a new healthy cities project he has brought to Kitchener: Lightbrary. Robin partnered with the Waterloo Region Local Health Integration Network and the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre to secure funding for light therapy lamps free to use at any Kitchener Public Library location. Research shows that daily use of light therapy lamps during the winter can be an effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Learn more about Robin’s term as Guest Librarian and the Lightbrary project.
The event included experts in the field and a discussion on ways we can make Kitchener a vibrant, healthy and happy city. Speakers and panelists includes Dr. Colin Ellard (Psychology) and Dr. Leia Minaker (Planning) from the University of Waterloo and Rod Regier, Commissioner of Planning, Development and Legislative Services for the Region of Waterloo.
“Cities are, by definition, full of strangers.” ~ Jane Jacobs
Dr. Ellard talked about the ways living in a city can change our brains. “There’s a mismatch between our brains and the structure of cities,” he said. Social isolation is on the rise in cities, and is one of the reasons healthy cities research and conversation is so important.
Dr. Minaker talked about the need to consider equity in the concept of a healthy city. Is it a healthy city for people who have lower incomes, or for people with disabilities? Is healthy food easily accessible? “People in Waterloo Region, on average, live one kilometre from a grocery store,” she said. In many places, it’s easier to access fast food or junk food than healthy food. This is known as a “food swamp.”
Rod Regier talked about the Region of Waterloo’s official plan, which focuses on reurbanization and intensification. He also talked about the Ion, the region’s rapid transit project, “the most profound city-building project we’ve ever undertaken.”
The night wrapped up with questions from the community about gentrification and affordable housing, light pollution, and neighbourhood strategies. People who attended also had a chance to contribute their healthy city ideas (see photo above). The ideas included:
- More community centres
- More greenery, community gardens, trails, parks, and recreation infrastructure
- More walkable – better side walk maintenance and snow removal
- More animal friendly locations; green space, dog parks, animal friendly cafes
- Ensure new developments include space for gardens, woodlots
- Inclusive & colourful spaces
- More garbage, recycling and compost bins on the streets, making it easy to recycle on the go
- Public fire places
- Mobile food market with leftovers from Kitchener Market on Saturday afternoons
- Have more community markets open on weekends and evenings
- Have more cafes and small businesses – give the opportunity to open in our communities
- Book mobile; back again please
- Create more opportunities for citizens to share their gifts and talents without red tape like the Taco Stand project by Cambridge Idea Exchange – check it out!
- More frequent transit locally
- Better transit connections to Toronto
- Integrating students and long-term residents: well off and less well-off
- Universities could do more to reach out to low-income local students
- Shared maker/hacker spaces; shared tools
- Create venues where people can interact with different people: seniors & IT staff & youth & professors, etc.
- Lighting ordinances that align with the concepts of the international dark skies association to control light pollution and trespass
- Make streets safer for cyclists
- Dedicated cycling lanes
We’d like to thank Robin for hosting and organizing the event, our speakers, and everyone who attended or followed along on Twitter. Please stay connected to this very important topic:
Healthy Cities: Books and films from the KPL collection
Sign up to stay up-to-date with @PsychOnStreet projects: bit.ly/urbanrealities