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News Release

Build wisely for the future or risk health: medical officers' report

May 14, 2014
Improving the design of our communities and transportation systems is needed to take the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area in a direction that will improve health for the general public.

­­­BARRIE – Improving the design of our communities and transportation systems is needed to take the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area in a direction that will improve health for the general public.

It’s a process that includes Simcoe County, says Simcoe Muskoka District Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner.

Dr. Gardner is one of four medical officers who co-wrote Improving Health By Design in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area, a report on land use and transportation planning as it affects the diseases associated with inactivity, obesity and poor air quality.

The report, unveiled on May 14, contains warnings of the consequences to the public’s health of continuing to build and plan cities “with the motor vehicle at their centre.”

“All our technological improvements have given us great mobility, but they have also removed physical activity from people’s lives—and generated harmful pollutants,” said Dr. Gardner. “The convenience is taking a serious toll on our health.

“In the GTHA, including Simcoe County, obesity and inactivity are costing us $4 billion a year,” Dr. Gardner said. “We see more than 12,500 new cases of diabetes every year, all attributable to inactivity; and more than 850 premature deaths per year and 3,300 hospitalizations because of traffic-related air pollution. This can be improved by factoring human health into municipal planning.”

The report predicts that if planning and transportation are improved, as many as 330 premature deaths and 1,000 new cases of diabetes could be prevented each year. It makes three key recommendations:

  1. Fund The Big Move, the long-range plan from Metrolinx, the provincial agency that coordinates transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
  2. Strengthen provincial policies to support greater walking, cycling and public transit.
  3. Normalize the planning for walking, cycling and transit use by municipalities.

Without any change to current community design and transportation systems, the next 20 years could see more gridlock and greater threats to health, including

  • a 33% increase in commute time;
  • a 200% increase in economic costs of lost productivity due to congestion;
  • a 27% increase in small particulate air pollution from traffic emissions;
  • a 30% increase in greenhouse gas emissions from traffic;
  • an almost doubling of cases of diabetes with one in six adults being affected.

Simcoe County is a part of the report, since it is included in both the Metrolinx Big Move and Places to Grow as a region of high urban growth potential.

Copies of the report are available on the health unit website at http://www.smdhu.org/Promos/MOHreport.aspx

 

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Editors note:

Simcoe Muskoka District Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner will be attending the press conference in Toronto this morning. He will be returning to Barrie and will be available for local interviews by approximately 3 p.m.

 

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