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The choices people make are supported by the choices that they have1

There are two broad ways to improve peoples’ health and wellness. The most common is by encouraging individuals to change certain health habits such as eating a healthy diet, becoming active and eliminating tobacco use, among other ‘health behaviours’. The second is by creating environments that support making the healthier choice the easier choice. The Healthy Communities Approach focuses more on the second category.

The Healthy Communities Approach originated in Canada in the late 1980’s and is being used in cities, towns and communities all over the world. “Healthy Community initiatives are based on the social determinants of health, which encompass key aspects of people’s living and working circumstances that affect peoples’ health and well-being. It employs an active and vibrant process that integrates the principles of health promotion and community development within a multi-sector community planning framework”2.

The core values of the Healthy Communities Approach are capacity building and empowerment of individuals, organizations and communities3

Produced by BC Healthy Communities Society the following video reveals the root causes of ill-health and the fundamental role communities play in creating environments that promote health and well-being.

Source: PlanH BC Healthy Communities Society

As the video shows, healthy communities have a multitude of characteristics. How many features apply where you live?

  • Engaged citizens
  • A vibrant economy
  • Affordable housing
  • Protected parks & green space
  • Accessible community services
  • Thriving neighbourhoods
  • Clean air and water
  • A sustainable environment
  • Ethnic and cultural diversity
  • Healthy public policy
  • Opportunities to make healthy choices

The Healthy Communities Approach

The Healthy Communities Approach strengthens the community’s capacity to engage citizens, politicians, and other stakeholders, giving them a voice and responsibility for the long-term health and wellbeing of their community.

This approach is made up of the following 5 essential building blocks:

  • community engagement
  • inter-sectoral collaboration
  • asset-based community development
  • political commitment
  • healthy public policy

  • Dig Deeper for more information about the Healthy Communities Approach

    A Healthy Communities approach is effective for chronic disease and injury prevention because it:

    • Addresses multiple determinants of health – such as: the social and economic environment, the physical environment, a person’s individual characteristics and behaviours – which influence common chronic disease and injury risk factors
    • Recognizes the relationship between individual lifestyle ‘options’ and social/environmental/economic conditions
    • Builds individual and community capacity for achieving enhanced health and well-being
    • Strengthens a community’s ability to take action
    • Helps to plan and implement strategies in various settings
    • Draws on the collective expertise and resources of diverse community stakeholders
    • Enhances community-based skills, creates more supportive environments, and promotes healthy public policy6

    Click here for information on the core values and building blocks of the Canadian Healthy Communities Approach

    Click here for a brief history of Canada’s role in building healthy communities  

    Learn more about what the other Healthy Community Networks in Canada have been working on:

    Check out the Community Tool Box for in-depth information about Healthy Cities/Healthy Communities

    The World Health Organization initiated the Europe Healthy Cities Project at the same time that the Healthy Communities Approach began. The WHO has developed a comprehensive online resource with information and resources to support users to better understand and apply this ‘Healthy Settings’ approach for disease prevention and health promotion.