Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Health rating depends on neighbourhood: report

Your neighbourhood may help determine how healthy you are, according to a new report that suggests affluence and accessibility are key factors.
The report, released on Tuesday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, looked at how people in urban areas rated their health.
There were not only substantial differences between cities, but also between neighbourhoods within the same city.
The percentage of people in various cities who ranked their health as excellent or very good were:
Calgary, 67 per cent.
Halifax, 63 per cent.
Vancouver, 59 per cent.
Montreal, 58 per cent.
Toronto, 56 per cent.
"Canada's life expectancy is among the best in the world, but not everyone has the same chances for a long life," said Jennifer Zelmer, vice-president of research and analysis at CIHI.
"Differences between regions of Canada — or even between neighbourhoods within a city — can be as large as differences between countries."

In Vancouver, there was a 15 percentage point gap between neighbourhoods for the adults and youth who rated their health as excellent or very good in 2003, and the same was true in Montreal.
Neighbourhoods were divided by income, education level, where residents lived alone, housed recent immigrants or single parents.
People who lived in neighbourhoods with higher income and education levels were more likely to be physically active during their leisure time, were less likely to smoke and more likely to report excellent or very good health.
Canadians who lived in neighbourhoods that were more pedestrian friendly tended to be more physically active, and children who lived in places with more safe and accessible play spaces were less likely to be overweight, Zelmer said.
Suburbs, where people often drive to work, had higher rates of overweight and obesity than downtown areas, where residents may be more likely to walk, bike or use public transit.
Immigrants tended to report better health, and areas with higher levels of newcomers also reported lower injury rates, perhaps because cities, where immigrants often head to, have more pedestrian walkways, Zelmer suggested.
The findings suggest planners should promote active living, and measures such as changes to building codes may make a difference, Zelmer said. For example, the death rate from fires fell 75 per cent after smoke alarms were required.

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