Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Barrie Office
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Board Meeting Notes May 18, 2016

May 24, 2016
Bricks and mortar that improve health; Bracing for the summer’s big events

Bricks and mortar that improve health

The federal government’s pledge of billions of dollars to rebuild infrastructure needs to keep the public’s health in mind.

That’s the concept behind Simcoe Muskoka’s medical officers and the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health (COMOH) call for the federal and provincial governments to keep health and health equity in mind when designing new infrastructure and transportation systems. Their resolution is being taken to the annual meeting of the Association of Local Public Health Agencies (ALPHA) on June 6.

Community design has a powerful influence on health, Dr. Gardner told the Simcoe Muskoka Board of Health. Good public transit reduces the reliance on private vehicles and improves air quality. Well located stores, offices and community services near homes creates more social connectivity. Well-designed pathways encourage active transportation through walking, cycling, wheelchairs or inline skates. Green spaces improve the quality of life.

Dr. Gardner credited the assistance of Associate Medical Officer Dr. Lisa Simon and Acting Associate Medical Officer Dr. Ian Arra in preparing the draft resolution for COMOH. The resolution will give ALPHA authority to advocate for the concept at both federal and provincial levels.

Bracing for the summer’s big events

Smoking laws, emergency response, infectious disease control and surveillance, food service and safe water inspections, extreme heat, and substance misuse: they all have to be managed by the health unit at mass gatherings. Two events at Burls Creek in Oro-Medonte are expected to draw 40,000 people each, tapping heavily on the resources of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit to protect the crowds from public health hazards. Over the last five years, the health unit has managed the G8 Summit, International Plowing Match and the Pan Am Games.

Steven Rebellato, director of the environmental health department, told the board of health that research suggests that any event that draws large crowds has the potential for more injuries and illnesses than communities of the same size. This summer’s noteworthy events include the Wayhome Festival and Boots and Hearts Festival at Burls Creek along with the Ontario 55-Plus Games in Midland in early August. One-time or annual events require extra work and resources to ensure that food is safe, clean drinking water is available, and other health promotion activities will be taking place. Rebellato said strong relationships with health care and emergency response agencies across the region have helped ensure that the events have all taken place safely. But, he quipped, “it takes a lot of extra coffee.”

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