Help make New West a healthier city

Residents urged to take part in My Health My Community survey

There's a lot more to health than just diet and exercise.

It's all the easily overlooked factors of everyday life - the homes we live in, the neighbourhoods we walk through, the way we get around our city - that play a big role in developing healthy communities.

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"It's whether or not our schools have playgrounds, whether or not we have sidewalks, whether or not we have bike lanes," said Deanna Tan Francoeur, a community health specialist with Fraser Health.

Tan Francoeur is part of the Healthier Community Partnership committee - which also includes representatives from city council, the school board, MLA Judy Darcy's office, city staff, school district staff, physicians and members of the public.

The committee is currently promoting a survey, My Health My Community, to take stock of all the factors affecting the health of New Westminster residents.

The survey is a joint project of Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and UBC. Tan Francoeur noted the questions range from what we traditionally consider "health" matters - such as food, exercise and smoking - to broader issues of livability.

"It's not just about your individual behaviours. It's more about where we live, work and play," she said.

The information is critical for planning for the future, she said, both from a health perspective and from a city planning perspective. And she pointed out it's particularly important now that the mandatory federal long-form census has been cancelled.

"The information we get from this survey is something the city really needs, and something we need from a health perspective too," she said.

One of the keys to the survey's success will be to get responses that are representative of the community, so the committee is hoping to hear from a cross-section of all ages, cultures and backgrounds.

"Different populations are going to have different needs," Tan Francoeur said.

They're distributing the survey to various populations - such as seniors, families with young children, new immigrants and vulnerable populations - with help from service organizations in the city.

But they're also hoping to reach the general public and get as many responses as possible from all residents.

Statistically, the goal is two percent of the population - or just over 1,100 people.

The online version of the survey is available in English and Chinese. A paper version is also available in Punjabi.

The survey takes an estimated 15 to 20 minutes.

See www.myhealthmycommunity.org to find out more and to take the survey.

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