11-year-old Kaitlyn, with help from mom Amanda Sidhu, gives Dr. James Lee a wave during her online appointment with the B.C. Children’s Hospital specialist. Kaitlyn was in Abbotsford, Lee in Vancouver Kent Kallberg
For Amanda Sidhu, ensuring her daughter Kaitlyn got the medical care she needed was complicated and time-consuming, living as they do in Mission.
As an 11-year-old with semi lobar holoprosencephaly, a brain condition that causes seizures, diabetes and bone problems, Kaitlyn sees several doctors at B.C. Children’s Hospital every couple of months. She uses a wheelchair, doesn’t speak and is fed through a tube.
Trips to the hospital were disruptive. Amanda had to take a day off work and arrange for a nurse to be in the car for the one-hour-plus drive each way into Vancouver for a 15-minute appointment.
The trips stressed out mom and daughter, who dislikes car rides and associates the hospital with the unpleasant experience of surgeries, said Amanda.
So she welcomes the opening of the two virtual care sites in the Fraser Valley, in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, which allows Kaitlyn to have an appointment online with neurologist Dr. James Lee and her other specialists.
“It takes a lot of the stress from her, like a long 2½-hour drive in the car, and this is just a short drive from home,” said Amanda, after Kaitlyn’s virtual appointment on Friday at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital. “It’s great, Dr. Lee’s amazing, and we’re able to talk about everything we need to talk about and get everything figured out over the computer.”
And Kaitlyn can be cared for by the nurse at the centre, if needed, she said.
She said she has friends and relatives who live in the Interior and they have to take a week off to travel to Vancouver for appointments.
The two sites in the Fraser Health region — where about 300,000, or 40 per cent of B.C.’s children, live — are the 18th and 19th virtual sites opened in B.C. for young patients to have virtual appointments with B.C. Children’s Hospital doctors, according to the hospital.
“This is a great opportunity for patients to get care closer to home,” said Lee, who said the video conferencing option removes the geographical and distance barriers to health care.
Having a virtual appointment can “decrease the burden of travel on our patients and their families,” especially with patients with complex medical needs that require seeing several specialists, he said.
A nurse is always in the room and can take vital signs and other measurements for the doctor, he said.
He said most young people are comfortable using computers to communicate. “For young people and children, this is probably completely pretty natural for them because they may not have known anything else,” he said.
It’s an innovative way to deliver care to pediatric patients across the province, said Kit Johnson, a provincial director with Child Health B.C.
The virtual sites are located in rooms with child-friendly decorations and pediatric equipment in facilities for health care providers, including hospitals, health units and wellness centres.
The 19 telehealth centres in B.C. is part of a collaboration between Child Health B.C., B.C. Children’s Hospital and the provincial health authorities.
B.C. Children’s Hospital doctors do about 140 virtual appointments a month.
When it comes to the skin-care industry, green is definitely gold.
With new natural brands popping up, seemingly daily, and more mainstream companies introducing additional “clean” products into their lineups — eschewing ingredients such as sulfates, parabens, formaldehydes, phthalates and more — the shift is prompting some retailers like Sephora to carve out shelf space in their stores (both bricks-and-mortar and online) dedicated to the growing green movement.
According to Mathilde Thomas, co-founder of the French beauty brand Caudalie, the driving force behind the growth in the natural beauty industry is all thanks to an increase in consumer consciousness surrounding natural skin-care ingredients and benefits.
“Consumers are more informed than ever and looking at brands to make informed decisions from a 360-degree perspective,” Thomas explains. “While the ingredients in the products are taking centre stage, consumers are also looking at everything from a brand’s facilities down to the packaging and its environmental impact.”
That increased interest in what goes into a product is prompting brands to be more transparent about their tinctures, from production to packaging.
“Sustainability and brand transparency has become important in every consumer-goods category and beauty is no different,” Tayler Mariles, founder of the Vancouver-based natural beauty company Midnight Paloma, says. “Understanding what you’re putting on your face and body is just as important as knowing where the food you are feeding your family is coming from.
“Is the brand Canadian? Do they care about the people using it? Where are the ingredients sourced? All of these things are much more ‘on the radar’ now then they used to be.”
As more information about product ingredients enter the beauty-sphere, consumers are faced with the opportunity to better inform themselves on elixirs than ever before.
“People are incredibly savvy when it comes to product ingredients these days, especially in Vancouver,” Mariles says. “No one even knew what paraben was five years ago, and now you’ll get people asking if there is synthetic fragrance and chemical preservatives in our formulas.
“Customers are very educated.”
If you’re unsure of how to get started on your own ingredient education Mariles says going online is a great place to start.
“The internet is an amazing tool for this, but you definitely need to watch what you read,” she says. “There is a lot of good information but there is also a lot of fluff. I like to take a look at what is banned in the (European Union). They are usually a little bit ahead of us in terms of ingredient testing, so knowing what they are watching out for is a great way to stay on top of it.”
And be aware that, as the industry continues to change with awareness, so too will the list of “bad” ingredients.
“There will always be a new ‘dangerous ingredient’,” Mariles says. “Before getting too worried, I like to research and see what is actually going on to assess the risk.
“There are always going to be products that aren’t natural and that’s fine. Not all preservatives are bad necessarily. But when there are serious carcinogens in products that’s when these companies need to ask themselves: ‘Who is benefiting, and why?’ If you wouldn’t use a product on your own child, why would you market it to the masses? With the knowledge we have now there really are no excuses for formulating things with cleaner ingredients in mind.”
According to Mariles, one of the most common questions she faces in regard to her product lineup — ingredient inquiries aside — is how consumers can make the shift from traditional beauty products to a more “clean-beauty” routine.
“People want to make the right choices but they don’t know where to start, and they certainly don’t want to spend a fortune changing over,” she says. “It can be an overwhelming process at the beginning, but slowly adding good clean options is easy now. There are tons of options in everyone’s budget.”
To get started on the greening process of your own skin-care routine, she recommends starting with the few products that you use everyday — your personal skin-care MVPs (most valuable products of course) — rather than the more novelty creams, oils and other assorted tinctures.
“Get some good clean replacements and go from there,” Mariles says.
Expanding one’s knowledge of the green-beauty movement, as well as further understanding the list of potentially harmful chemical ingredients lurking in self-care products, is important for more than just one’s piece of mind, though. According to Thomas, an increased level of awareness can also help safeguard against buying “greenwashed” products — or beauty and skin-care products that are purported to be “clean” but have buried chemical ingredients or production processes.
“It’s important for customers to do their own research and look critically into the ingredients that brands are using in their products,” Thomas says. ” ‘Natural’ to one brand may mean something completely different to another. In fact, there is no one definition of natural.”
At Caudalie, which promotes the use and benefit of products featuring antioxidant-rich grape seed sourced from their family’s vineyard in Bordeaux, France, Thomas says there’s an emphasis on avoiding ingredients that have been linked to health-care concerns.
“As a brand, we frown upon including ingredients that are endocrine disrupters, that can be irritating or that are bad for the environment and use the smallest proportion of preservatives as possible and are committed to avoiding certain controversial and artificial ingredients,” Thomas explains. That emphasis on a more sustainable product also extends to the production.
“It’s important to me that everything from our facilities — to the product, packaging and formulation — leave as little negative environmental impact as possible,” Thomas says. “I’m also especially proud that Caudalie is an active member of 1% for the Planet, which is an organization that works to protect the environment. We’re proud of the fact that at the end of 2018, we planted more than four million trees globally and have plans to plant more than eight million in eight countries by 2021.”
As the green movement continues to gain momentum, shoppers can expect to discover more resources for information, increased transparency and even more “clean” beauty brands on offer — and, as it has been for the past five years, the push will come from consumer demand.
“The more educated people are, the more demand there will be for sustainable, healthy products,” Mariles says. “It’s like everything in our lives now, the more we know, the better we can change our lifestyles … Transparency is going to be more important than ever moving forward.”
When she thinks about the toll a lack of nursing resources is having on her family, Stephanie Hill Davie is overcome with emotion.
Her son, Owen, requires round-the-clock care. He is diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome and Kabuki syndrome, two rare genetic conditions that prevent him eating or sitting up on his own.
“Owen has no muscle tone, so he needs constant supervision because he can easily roll off of devices,” Hill Davie said. “I’ve done simple things like go to the washroom and have come back and he’s choked, vomitted and blue, and he needs resuscitation immediately.”
She said Owen has qualified for 168 hours a week of nursing services but starting last fall, those hours have been dwindling. Since April, those hours have dropped for 56 a week.
She’s now at her wits’ end.
She has been in touch with the nursing support services’ coordinator and the nursing agency. She has also reached out to the province’s patient quality care review board, an ombudsperson, local MLA, the B.C. health minister, the province’s premier and even the prime minister, even though she knows health care doesn’t fall under the federal government.
“It’s all over the news that there’s a nursing shortage within British Columbia,” Hill Davie said. “Why isn’t the health minister looking at the programs that he already has in place to help families? And why he hasn’t recognized that there’s a crisis for a lot of families?”
According to the BC Nurses’ Union, upwards of 25,000 nurses are needed to staff the province’s health care system over the next 10 years. The number includes new nurse positions and replacement of retiring nurses.
In an emailed statement, the Ministry of Health told CTV News, “Our government is committed to providing children and youth with complex needs the healthcare services they need to live in their home and community.”
“While we cannot speak to individual patient cases, the ministry and Provincial Health Services Authority are aware of this patient and a nursing support services program coordinator is working with the family and his health care team to support him,” the ministry said.
Hill Davie said if the family does not receive the nursing support they need, she and her husband will have to take on the role as Owen’s care taker.
“It’s forcing my husband and I into caregiver burnout,” she said. “All three of my kids deserve a mom. They don’t deserve one person providing care to one child.”
VICTORIA — A provincial court judge has found that collusion, whether intentional or not, was a factor in the acquittal of a care-home aide accused of sexually abusing elderly, disabled patients at a facility in Victoria.
Forty-year-old Saanich resident Amado Ceniza was accused of multiple counts of sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a person with a disability.
He had pleaded not guilty and denied the allegations made last July by three women being treated at Aberdeen Hospital’s extended-care facility for elderly residents.
The court heard the women have mobility issues, two rely on wheelchairs and another uses a walker, and each testified she was groped, hugged and kissed without her consent.
Judge Dwight Stewart ruled there were concerns about possible inadvertent collusion between the women and he also found inconsistencies in testimony about the chronology of events and the description of the alleged perpetrator.
However, he said there was a probability that Ceniza tried to hug and kiss two of the women, and found his conduct to be highly unprofessional.
Stewart praised the women for their bravery during the trial and said greater attention will be paid to these cases because of their advocacy.
Jemma Lee says she’s had problems with fatigue her entire life, but in the last decade migraines and frequent bouts of the flu have turned that fatigue into a new beast.
The 52-year-old was diagnosed three years ago with extreme myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.), a neuroinflammatory disease known to many as chronic fatigue syndrome. It causes extreme tiredness and affects various body systems to the point where Lee says she is “unable to move.”
Lee was shocked to learn recently that her four applications for assisted living in Victoria have been declined by the Vancouver Island Health Authority due to “unscheduled care needs.”
‘Prisoner in my own home’
“I was so incredulous,” said Lee, who lives alone in a 240-square-foot home on Galiano Island, where she’s forced to chop wood for warmth and doesn’t have access to filtered water.
“I’m a prisoner in my own home.”
After moving to Galiano in 2012, Lee said her symptoms worsened. Last year, she counted 140 days of seizures, which can affect various parts of her body, leaving her “unable to speak” for as long as 45 minutes, she says.
Lee said she regularly sees a doctor and a community nurse, and receives online emotional counselling.
While she’s happy with the support she’s had, she said the services on Galiano are not advanced enough to help her as she deteriorates.
“Right now I rely on my friends to take me to my health appointments and it’s a minimum 12-hour day to … take the ferry and come back,” she said, adding that her appointments typically last no more than 40 minutes.
“[My friends] have to be able to cope with me if I have a seizure … and take responsibility for me.”
With low income and no family in B.C., she said only assisted living in Victoria can meet her needs and give her nearby access to specialized services like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social workers, and acupuncture.
Peter Luckham, Chair of the Islands Trust, said Lee is “not alone” in her difficulty accessing assisted living as a Gulf Island resident, because the services are hard to come by.
“At the end of the day, you end up leaving the islands” for more advanced services, he said.
Unpredictable health issues
Lee said Island Health doesn’t want someone with “unpredictable health issues,” as there are days where she could be walking relatively well, and others where she’s “seizuring on the floor.”
She recently wrote an open letter to Island Health, detailing her condition and imploring them to reconsider.
A statement from the authority says it is “aware of Ms. Lee’s concerns” and is “reviewing her application with her in order to provide the most appropriate care plan for her needs.”
Lee said that she and others with the disease are fighting for it to be recognized as a biological condition in the same way diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are. The term chronic fatigue syndrome, used widely by medical professionals, reduces the legitimacy of the disease by making light of it, she said.
Not taken seriously
Dr. Mohamed Gheis, a neuropsychiatrist in Victoria who runs a rehabilitation program for people with neurological disorders, said M.E. patients are still “not very well understood” by Canadian health-care workers.
Right now, these patients are “not receiving the care they deserve as sources of disability,” he said.
Lee said she’s had doctors ask her to explain M.E. “When you go to the hospital, you’re having to advocate for yourself constantly,” she said.
Elizabeth Sanchez, the president of the ME/FM Society of B.C., said some M.E. patients have had doctors laugh at them or berate them, and some patients have committed suicide because “they just can’t bear their lives any longer.”
She said the society has been trying to get the province’s Ministry of Health to understand the severity of the disease, but it’s a slow, frustrating process.
“They don’t understand that there is a crisis for M.E. patients,” she said. “But there is a light at the end of the tunnel … We just don’t know how long that tunnel is.”
VICTORIA — A British Columbia pediatrician who treats children and youth struggling with substance abuse issues says he supports placing young people in treatment facilities against their will if they’ve suffered an overdose.
Dr. Tom Warshawski, who treats youth in the Kelowna area, told a coroner’s inquest into the death of 16-year-old Elliot Eurchuk that an overdose is a life-and-death situation where a young person’s brain and actions are being controlled by the potentially deadly drugs.
Warshawski said Thursday that committing young people to secure treatment facilities where they can’t leave for a time period of about one week at least allows doctors to help clean the drugs out of their systems and open their minds to the possibility of future treatment.
“It’s not a panacea,” he said. “It’s not a guarantee of success. I think it’s an important tool that needs to be looked at. The choice is involuntary (treatment) versus continued life-threatening behaviour.”
Eurchuk died of an overdose in 2018 about two months after he was forcefully admitted to a Victoria youth treatment ward for a week-long stay.
The inquest heard his parents took the action when he overdosed in hospital on illicit drugs. At the time, he was undergoing treatment for a blood infection that is common to intravenous drug users.
Eurchuk’s parents, Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk, have testified efforts to help their son were thwarted by medical privacy laws that allowed information to be kept from them about the teen’s addiction issues.
Eurchuk denied using street drugs to his parents and doctors, and it was only after his overdose in February 2018 that he started talking about drug use with his family doctor. He refused to allow his parents into the discussion, the inquest has heard.
Warshawski said patient confidentiality is an important issue, but when it involves young people and it is life-threatening, parents should know.
“Opioid overdose is at the extreme end of risk of death, and certainly we would disclose,” he said.
Warshawski said he is part of a working group that has provided recent research documents about secure care treatment for young people to B.C.’s Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.
“When it’s life and death, we really have to get our act together,” he said.
Warshawski called the acceptance of voluntary youth drug treatment the “best possible situation.” But he said current waits of up to 12 weeks for treatment beds for youth in B.C. is “scandalous.”
He said there is little geographical co-ordination between health officials about available beds for young people, meaning a teen in Kelowna volunteering for drug treatment could be denied immediate help even if there is an available bed at a facility in North Vancouver or Prince George.
Dr. Alice Virani, B.C.’s top clinical medical ethicist, testified Thursday that many options, including treatment effectiveness and fairness to the patient, must be considered before a youth is committed to secure drug treatment.
“It’s never undertaken lightly,” she said. “In certain circumstances, secure care might be justified.”
Virani said youth treatment for eating disorders in B.C. involves placing young people in secure care.
Former B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall was also scheduled to testify later at the inquest, which is coming to a close after hearing from more than 40 witnesses over eight days.
When Mari-Lynn Cordahi was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 21 years ago, she would have welcomed someone to talk to who knew from experience what she was going through.
Today, she fills that role for others newly diagnosed with MS, thanks to her role as a peer mentor on Curatio. Dubbed a ‘social health prescription,’ Vancouver-based Curatio is the brainchild of co-founder and CEO Lynda Brown-Ganzert.
“I’ve connected with people through the Curatio app,” said Cordahi. “One person in the UK, I connected with her within days of her being diagnosed.
“If I put myself back 21 years ago, I know what she is going through. I sure would have appreciated it if something like this had been available then.”
Using a combination of artificial intelligence and private social networks, Curatio’s mobile app fills a gap in our healthcare system, creating personalized support networks for patients and caregivers who are newly diagnosed or navigating their way through an illness or chronic condition.
The idea came to Brown-Ganzert when she was undergoing fertility issues and complications in pregnancy.
“It was when we were having our second child and there were some complications and issues around that,” she said. “I became a patient and found, ‘oh my goodness, there are some really broken pieces here.’
“Being an entrepreneur you’re always thinking how you could fix it. The genesis of Curatio came from that – looking at the isolation, the difficulty patients have navigating, the lack of curated information you can trust that is personalized to you, connecting with others who are similar to you or have gone through the same thing.”
Brown-Ganzert, whose background is in digital media, had spent the previous 10 years building private mobile social networks. Her experience with the healthcare system convinced her that the idea of private social networks could be applied in the healthcare field.
“A good friend of mine had a heart attack and became our first use case,” she said. “With him and together with Alireza (Davoodi), my co-founder, we built a prototype in 40 days, went on to win a global challenge and our first customer and we were off.”
That was five years ago. Today Curatio is used in more than 85 countries and in four languages.
“Where I started from was recognizing social was a missing piece in healthcare transformation. When you start to connect patients, and we have clinical evidence to show this, you have improved outcomes,” said Brown-Ganzert.
When you sign onto the system, an AI agent helps you navigate to find what you need. There are currently three active communities: in heart, multiple sclerosis and thalassemia, an online community ThaliMe, plus you can sign onto the general Curatio network, or as a caregiver.
Along with the social support, the app provides everything from medication reminders to self-assessment, helping patients manage their disease or chronic condition.
Brown-Ganzert took the concept to the Dragon’s Den, winning over three dragons from the television show who are among investors who so far have put US$1.6 million into the company. Curatio counts a number of non-profit patient advocacy organizations as clients, delivering a means to reach patients that complies with privacy and regulatory requirements. The platform is also being used in research, providing a social plugin that helps research teams connect to participants in their community.
For Beverly Sudbury, of Charlottetown, PEI, Curatio creates connections to a global community of people who share a diagnosis of MS.
“For me I like connecting with people and I like finding new sources of information or bouncing ideas off people,” she said.
Sudbury, who is also a peer supporter on the network, said she checks daily to see what’s new.
“It’s building an online community of people you can get support from when you’re having a crappy day,” she said. “They’ll say ‘keep going,’ or they’ll help out with a different perspective.”
Users create their own profile on the app, but they don’t have to use their real name and can choose what information is publicly displayed.
There is also a private chat function.
“For me the chat functionality is fantastic,” said Sudbury.
Unlike friends and family who can’t really understand some of the issues facing people with MS because they haven’t lived with the disease, Sudbury said other patients will know exactly what she is talking about.
“I’ll say ‘I’m tired,” and a friend will say, ‘I know what you mean, I was up really late last night,’” she said. “But it’s not the same.”
Cordahi, who was an elementary school teacher before MS forced her to stop teaching 15 years ago, likes to volunteer since she can’t work and Curatio provides that opportunity to engage.
“When you talk to someone who has gone through this journey, there is definitely a sense of comfort and trust that they understand and are going through something similar – even when it’s difficult subjects or personal things,” she said.
City Centre Urgent Primary Care Centre at 1290 Hornby St. in Vancouver. Francis Georgian / PNG
Vancouver Coastal Health is being criticized for waving “profit-motivated” corporate partners through the door to manage an urgent and primary care health clinic in downtown Vancouverfunded by taxpayers.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says it welcomes the idea of the clinics established by the province — where doctors, nurses and other health professionals work as a team — but says they should be run on a not-for-profit basis with community oversight or governance.
“Unfortunately, there is an alarming development taking place under the watch of Vancouver Coastal Health,” the CCPA says in a report released today that refers to the City Centre Urgent Primary Care Centre at 1290 Hornby St. in downtown Vancouver and a clinic planned for south Vancouver.
Opening such clinics across the province has been a major priority for Health Minister Adrian Dix but the government has not been open about business models and financing structures, so Postmedia and groups like CCPA have had to submit freedom of information requests to get details.
In a fact-checking exercise, Postmedia showed that in February’s throne speech, the government inflated the numbers of doctors and nurses being hired to work in such clinics. The government’s primary health strategy includes funding for an additional 200 family doctors, 200 nurse practitioners and 50 pharmacists. But they won’t all be working in such centres.
There are eight urgent and primary care centres in B.C. with a variety of business models. Another two — in as-yet undisclosed locations — are expected to open soon.
Documents released to Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-leaning think-tank, show that Coastal Health invited medical corporations to run centres, says Alex Hemingway, a CCPA economist and public policy analyst. The only clinic to open in Vancouver so far was contracted by Coastal Health to an entity called Seymour Health Centre Inc., whose CEO is Sabi Bening.
The downtown Vancouver centre operates like other medical offices and walk-in clinics in the sense that services provided to patients are covered by the public health insurance plan. But many family doctors are opting for $250,000 salaries instead of paying overhead and then collecting a medicare fee for each service. The clinics have extended hours, some doctors have emergency training and the model is meant to take the pressure off hospital emergency departments.
It’s also intended that the clinics will assist the many patients who don’t have family doctors to get attached to one. Health outcomes are better when patients have a history and continuity with doctors.
Although the vast majority of doctors’ offices are privately managed by their own corporations, Hemingway said there is plenty of evidence to show that not-for-profit models deliver superior care. Hemingway said doctors’ practices are “small scale” compared to the new models of combined urgent and primary care clinics.
Hemingway said it’s worrying that Seymour Health was contracted by the health authority to run Vancouver’s first urgent care centre. According to the government, the startup costs of the clinic were $1.9 million. City Centre Urgent Primary Care has a taxpayer-funded operating budget of about $3.7 million annually, including salaries, administration and overhead cost. The centre is a partnership of the ministry, Coastal Health, Providence Health Care, the Vancouver Division of Family Practice, Doctors of B.C. and Seymour Health Care.
Hemingway said the health authority is leasing the property from a private owner, “meaning it appears to be using public dollars to enhance a privately owned real estate asset. This is an unwise use of public capital investment dollars, which could be invested in publicly owned assets instead.”
Gavin Wilson, a spokesman for Coastal Health, said the Seymour group has 80 years of experience operating primary health care clinics. The costs and the agreement between Coastal Health and Seymour “are similar to contracts we hold with not-for-profit health service providers.”
Wilson said urgent primary care centres provide same-day care for non-life-threatening problems to people who would otherwise have no other option than to go to an emergency department. They have more services than traditional walk-in clinics since they have diagnostic equipment, such as X-ray and ultrasound machines, and labs and pharmacy services.
People who live in walkable neighbourhoods and have access to parks in Metro Vancouver save the health-care system tens of millions of dollars each year, and have lower rates of chronic illness than those who don’t, according to a new study.
The report, called Where Matters, used data from two existing studies — the My Health, My Community Survey, and the B.C. Generations Project — and clearly shows the correlation between health and neighbourhood design, said study lead Lawrence Frank.
“That’s unusual. Then, we monetized all those results and showed wildly reduced health-care costs, relatively speaking, across the continuum of place types — from the most sprawling, exurban, car-dependent to the most walkable urban. That’s never been shown before, no one’s ever had that,” said Frank, who is a professor in sustainable transport and the director of the Health and Community Design Lab at the University of B.C.
Direct health-care costs — such as medication and hospital visits — for diabetes are 52-per-cent less for those living in walkable areas than in car-dependent areas. The cost for hypertension is 47-per-cent less, and for heart disease is 31-per-cent less.
Walkability is a measure of the physical characteristics of neighbourhoods that support walking, such as a higher concentration of housing units, a mix of land uses and smaller block sizes.
The direct health-care costs for those living near parks are also significantly lower. The spending on diabetes is 75-per-cent lower for people who live near six or more parks than those who live near zero to one park. The costs are 69-per-cent lower for hypertension and heart disease.
Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, said at the report’s unveiling on Monday that containing costs is important in the health-care system, but it shouldn’t be the only reason to create healthy environments and improve the health of the population.
“We need to do this because our citizens value this. They value their good health, the good health of their family, their friends and their loved ones,” Daly said. “When municipal, provincial governments and other decision makers are thinking about what work needs to be done, they should be keeping this in mind.”
Daly said she hopes the report will give those decision makers good data to make healthy decisions.
The report also shows, unsurprisingly, that people who live in walkable areas and near parks get more exercise and are healthier.
Those living in a somewhat walkable area or a walkable area are 20- and 45-per-cent more likely, respectively, to walk for transportation than those living in car-dependent areas. They are also more likely to meet the weekly recommended level of physical activity.
People in walkable areas are 42-per-cent less likely to be obese and 39-per-cent less likely to have diabetes than car-dependent people. Those in moderately walkable areas are 17-per- cent less likely to have heart disease.
Living in a walkable area means people are 23-per-cent less likely to have stressful days. They are also 47-per-cent more likely to have a strong sense of community.
People living in an area with six or more parks are 20-per-cent more likely to walk for leisure or recreation, and 33-per-cent more likely to meet the weekly recommended level of physical activity than those living in an area with no parks.
They are 43-per-cent less likely to be obese, 37-per-cent less likely to have diabetes, 39-per-cent less likely to have heart disease and 19-per-cent less likely to have stressful days. Those living near six or more parks are also 23-per-cent more likely to have a strong sense of community belonging.
Frank said he hopes that the study will make those in power more comfortable acting on making investments in active transportation and developing policies around growth and development that support physical activity and active living.
Andrew Devlin, manager of policy development for TransLink, called the work “cutting edge” and said the onus will be on governments and agencies like TransLink to take the information and use it to create policy.
“I think what’s really unique to this piece of work, besides being a local data set for us to draw from to make decisions, is really the monetization element of it,” he said.
James Stiver, manager of growth management and transportation for Metro Vancouver, said the information will help with the future development of regional plans.
“This work is critically important to the work we do at Metro Vancouver and ties really nicely into the theme of the work we do connecting transportation to infrastructure to build complete communities,” said Stiver.
The project was a collaboration between Metro Vancouver, the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., the City of Vancouver, and TransLink, which contributed a total of $320,000 to the project, and the University of B.C.
“What makes it really cool is that all of these agencies are working together, and that’s what could make this region a better place,” said Frank.
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