The City of Airdrie is collaborating with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and other community partners to improve overall health and well-being in the community through the “Healthier Together Airdrie” initiative.
Together they will co-design Healthier Together Airdrie and plan to develop and apply strategies to improve the health and well-being of residents.
Dr. Lisa Allen Scott, AHS director of promoting health, told Airdrie city council on Oct. 3 that life and environmental factors affect about 60 per cent of health. This includes providing safe parks and walking paths for physical activities, access to affordable food to make healthy eating an easy choice, social activities to empower individuals, and affordable living to promote healthy choices.
“The major influences on health are not necessarily the ones provided by clinicians,” stated Airdrie administration’s report. “In fact, public policy (our actions as local government) has a stronger impact on overall population health than health care services.”
The initiative aims to address root causes of health inequities.
Coun. Al Jones noted this project is similar to the Blue Zones project, which the City of Airdrie was involved in, but was a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coun. Tina Petrow added there was a large uptake by the community in the Blue Zones project and hoped to see a similar interest in Healthier Together Airdrie.
While Jones expressed his appreciation for the project, he voiced his continued expectation for better ambulatory care and drastically expanded urgent care.
“By the end of this year we are losing four doctors and we’re already short,” he said. “We have a drastic need for family doctors in this community.”
Mayor Peter Brown stated the Health Minister is aware of the circumstances in Airdrie, adding a fix cannot be expected by tomorrow.
Petrow added that conversations around preventative health, and the need for expanded health care services, need to happen simultaneously.
“The more we do preventative, the less strain there will be on health care,” she said.
“The Healthier Together initiative is not intended to replace Council’s advocacy to the provincial government on enhanced health care needs for Airdrie but rather to complement it by addressing health more holistically resulting in a healthier community,” the report presented to council stated.
The Healthier Together Airdrie plan contains five steps, three of which are scheduled to wrap up by June 2024. These steps include engaging and connecting, understanding the community through data, asset mapping, and creating a plan to inform decision making.
According to the report, the City of Airdrie has already undertaken work in line with Healthier Together Airdie. For example, the Airdrie Fair Access (AFA) program provides residents facing financial challenges with subsidies to help them access municipal services. In turn, the ability to access recreation, leisure, and cultural activities contribute to positive health and well-being outcomes.