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Planning for Health
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Planning for Health

II. Acquire knowledge

Public health units identified three separate bodies of knowledge that have assisted them or would assist them in their efforts to engage with the planning process to achieve healthy built environment outcomes. 

The first useful knowledge base is related to the impacts of the built environment on health. While this evidence is well-established in the literature, there is an ongoing need to synthesize it and adapt it for the local context. This type of evidence is discussed further below, under ‘Use Evidence to Influence and Mobilize'.

Knowledge of the planning process in Ontario is necessary to identify opportunities for input and engagement. In the survey of health units across Ontario, over half reported that all or most of their staff had taken some form of training in municipal planning or community design. The Ontario Public Health Association’s Public Health and Planning 101 course has been helpful in this regard. The Healthy Built Environment Linkages Toolkit from the BC Centre for Disease Control was also repeatedly cited as useful by focus group participants. While both these resources are excellent, there is demand for even more detailed training around how to apply the evidence to achieve healthier outcomes in the Ontario context specifically. Part of the challenge is becoming familiar with the vocabulary and standards used by land use and transportation planners at the project-level (i.e. in environmental assessments and development applications).

Public health units cited an understanding of municipal department structures and roles, and the legislative frameworks they operate within, as helpful to establishing meaningful collaborations. Familiarity with institutional frameworks helps public health units identify places where departmental agendas align with healthy built environment goals, and where structural barriers exist. Understanding internal departmental processes is also the first step towards suggesting changes to these processes so that they better incorporate a health lens. This knowledge is localized, as each municipality’s institutional structure is different. 

• One health unit reported working with each of its lower-tier municipalities to adapt tools and evidence to that municipality’s context of planning, geography and how their departments are structured.

Resources for practitioners compiles reports, training, toolkits, newsletters and more that public health units identified as helpful.

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