Important advances in health promotion in the province have been made over the last 20 years however there has been little progress in disease prevention or improving health outcomes. With growing evidence that the built environment (the constructed places where we live, go to school, work and play) was an important determinant of health it was time for public health workers to focus attention on increasing the knowledge of the critical link between health and community design. A conference in 2011, Building Healthy Communities: Bringing Health and Wellness to the Community Planning Table was the beginning of many initiatives to link planners, policy makers and practitioners. The Building Healthy Communities Collaborative (BHCC) was formed as a collaboration of public health workers, planners, policy makers, researchers and volunteers to maintain the momentum of the conference. Several workshops have been held linking potential partners in planning and health including Regional Wellness Coalitions, community and private planners and government policy makers. The Collaborative has worked with potential partners on a strategic planning process which will strengthen the work of building a healthy environment throughout the province.
With local interest in the relationship between health and the built environment growing it became evident communities and government needed a way to assess how our communities were doing in their work to build health promoting communities. Do they have the appropriate design, the community development policies and practices, the facilities and programs which enable our citizens to make the best choices for their health? Could communities use more information to support their planning process? BHCC looked at what had been done in other jurisdictions, consulted community planners, eventually identifying a set of data that might be useful to communities in their planning process. With the guidance of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) the Collaborative consulted community leaders at the annual conference of MNL. Through this process the Collaborative has identified a group of markers (indicators) that are available and which leaders have identified as potentially useful to their planning. We hope that these indicators can be put into a database that is accessible to communities. The report from the project will distributed to provincial and municipal governments and other stakeholders. Eventually we hope that a tool can be developed that communities can interact with and use to develop their own monitoring strategies.