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October 31, 2016

Sharing Stories and Learning from Others: The Healthy Rural Communities Toolkit

Have you heard of the Healthy Rural Communities Toolkit? It’s a guide for rural municipalities that helps recognize the characteristics commonly associated with rural communities. It provides examples of innovative practices, and land use and development strategies that can help to enhance the built environment and contribute to positive quality of life and health outcomes.

In March 2016, the Healthy Rural Communities (HRC) Team showcased their work with the Healthy Rural Communities Toolkit, here on the Planning Exchange Blog. The HRC team consists of former OPPI President Dr. Wayne Caldwell, RPP, Public Health Unit staff from across Ontario, planners, key stakeholders and graduate students from the University of Guelph. If you haven’t seen that post yet, check it out!
This post is a follow-up to share some of the activities and successes that the HRC team has experienced since March.
Success Stories
As planners, we understand that case studies, highlighting the successes and lessons learned by our colleagues, is key to advancing the body of planning knowledge and best practice. Consequently the HRC team has worked diligently to collect interviews and share stories from others working within their respective fields of practice to build healthier communities.
We’ve captured some success stories in short videos that are featured on our website as an accessible, sustainable means of transferring knowledge to others. Have a look!
Joanne Haley: South Glengarry - Joanne shares her town’s Active Living Charter. The Active Living Charter has led the town to apply for funding from the provincial government for creating an age-friendly community.
Kelsey Lang: Guelph-Eramosa - Guelph-Eramosa has implemented urban design guidelines to make the township more walkable. The township has engaged the community in their zoning by-law review and, as a result, accessory apartments in agricultural areas are now permitted. On-farm diversified uses are encouraged as well.
Ron Vandewal: South Frontenac - The mayor of South Frontenac speaks about the success his community has experienced by providing programming for their youth at the arena in the summer months. Staff have teamed up with the local health unit to provide healthy snacks for their young participants.
Do you have a story to share? Please let us know! Sharing a success is a great opportunity to showcase your work and have others learn from it! Please feel free to contact us; your project may be more innovative than you might think!
Key Lessons
  • Online communication - YouTube videos, blog posts, websites, and other digital engagement tools
    • YouTube videos have been very well received and provide short snippets of information for those interested in implementing similar initiatives in their respective township/municipality.
    • Our website is up and running. We used Wix, which is a user-friendly platform for creating websites. One lesson we should share is to make sure that prior to building a website, verify that the source of your funding will support monthly payments to host a website. Our funding ends next year, and we want to ensure the website is available well past this time.  
  • Collaboration between sectors - Public Health and Planning partnerships, and the University of Guelph and OMAFRA partnership have been vital to the success of this initiative.
  • Learning from others - Past successes and experiences!

Next Steps
The HRC Team will be hosting multiple workshops across Ontario. The goal of these workshops is to encourage and bring stakeholders together to initiate building a healthier community.
If you are interested in learning/attending an upcoming workshop please feel free to contact us for further information. Finally, if you have any stories, comments or would like to discuss the toolkit, please get in touch.

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s), and may not reflect the position of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

Post by Taylor Wellings & Jenn Burns

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