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The Healthy Neighbourhoods Data Challenge has officially announced its five finalists:  the City of Calgary,  Local Logic,  Peel Public Health,  Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, and  CounterPoint (Winnipeg Trails Association). These organizations impressed the judges with their novel data sets, data sources, and analytical methodologies to improve our understanding of physical environments and linkages to health outcomes.
Each of the finalists will receive $10,000 to continue developing their solutions in Phase 2. This next phase will involve adding a qualitative layer to the neighbourhood design element(s) presented in Phase 1. The finalists will then vie for the challenge-winning prize of $50,000, and an opportunity to scale and integrate their concept into existing public health surveillance systems.
The City of Calgary
The City of Calgary delivers programs and services that foster social inclusion and advance the well-being of residents. This work includes policy and planning, research and evaluation, neighbourhood and community development, as well as social programs. The team is developing an equity index using social determinants of health data to understand the effect of geographical inequity at the neighbourhood level. A physical environment index is one of five domains included in the equity index. It uses municipal data sources such as public transit, business licenses, parks, and the city census. By providing objective information about health equity as a proxy for need, the index can contribute to operational decisions that have greater impact and enable more-fluid resourcing to meet changing community needs. This will be a valuable tool for municipal planners and decisionmakers to understand physical infrastructure and geography by neighbourhood.
CounterPoint (Winnipeg Trails Association)
CounterPoint is a free open data and crowdsourced app that counts and analyzes all forms of traffic, with the goals of making transportation safer, and foster to increased walking and cycling. CounterPoint submitted a collection of street-usage, behaviour and built-form data recorded and shared by people using the app from around the world that reveals who is using streets and why. A “count” is typically done by someone sitting at a bench or cafe patio looking out over a street recording what they see. The app then uses special tools for measuring the built environment, including Street View post-processing to further enrich the data. With CounterPoint, any individual with a phone can gather evidence on a block by block level, and compare it to somewhere else on the planet. This is critical to better neighbourhood design because it provides insight on patterns and causation, and determines the secrets behind our healthiest, most successful neighbourhoods.
Local Logic is a location analysis company with a mission to build the most comprehensive understanding of cities to improve citizens’ quality of life. The team is collecting data that assesses how suitable a home location is for a person’s specific lifestyle preferences. This collection is composed of thousands of open and commercial datasets, as well as datasets that they have assembled themselves. This can enhance neighbourhood design, as the data clearly shows how different aspects of the built environment relate to environmentally healthy behaviours, such as lower car use and increased rates of walking and cycling. The datasets show these connections not just at the neighbourhood level, but down to the level of individual street segments.
Peel Public Health
Peel Public Health includes health experts, practitioners, researchers and changemakers working together to deliver programs, services and policies that support healthy communities. The team has identified key built environment metrics that are created from available, reliable and consistently updated data. Together, these quantify pedestrian infrastructure, traffic calming, public transit access, food availability, food access, food density, population density, residential density, land-use, service proximity, and street connectivity. This supports the future creation of a healthy neighbourhood index based on scalable quantitative measures of a health-supportive built environment. This can be used to take a point-in-time assessment of the health promoting potential of a neighbourhood, while also enabling the long-term monitoring of changes to this potential.
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) uses innovative approaches to deliver evidence-informed health programs and services to meet the distinctive needs of Canadian communities. This collaborative project incorporates the expertise of public health and municipal planning professionals to create tailored baseline measures of healthy community design features. The project involves the collection, analysis, and presentation of physical design data, remote-sensed environmental data, and residents’ perspectives regarding neighbourhood design (walkability), transportation networks (active transportation), natural environments (green/blue spaces) and food environments (food systems). The data is helping WDGPH and municipalities better understand local physical environments, celebrate design strengths, identify areas of opportunity and collaboration to create healthier built environments, and track progress over time. WDGPH anticipates further work to develop additional indicators and to link built environment with neighbourhood health outcomes.