Vibrant Economy

Credit: Picture BC

Vibrant economies contribute to the health and well-being of people and communities by providing economic security and access to opportunities. This includes access to education and living wage employment, affordable housing, healthy food, and the kinds of services and amenities that promote strong and healthy families and vibrant and sustainable communities.

What is this issue about?

A vibrant economy supports a mix of economic activities and promotes economic security by enabling:

  • access to living-wage1 employment and economic opportunities
  • participation in the labour market for all members of society
  • access to basic necessities, including safe and affordable housing, healthy food, education, and social and recreational opportunities

Why is a vibrant economy important to health and well-being?

There is a significant relationship between income and health. Research shows that individuals with lower incomes frequently have poorer health outcomes and diminished access to opportunities. They can also have a greater sense of financial vulnerability and be at increased risk of poverty and exclusion.

The BC Healthy Living Alliance estimates that there are a number of major risk factors associated with poverty and health inequity, including higher levels of tobacco use, reduced physical activity, and increased obesity. In addition, higher levels of food insecurity, chronic or preventable diseases, and stress are associated with poverty and low income.

By creating the conditions for a vibrant economy – which provides for increased economic security and financial sustainability – it is possible to contribute to positive individual and social outcomes such as improved access to basic necessities (food, clothing, housing) as well as access to the types of social, economic, recreational, and educational opportunities needed to promote individual health and well-being.

Did You Know?

  • Unemployed individuals were 1.5 times more likely to report a mental illness within a 12-month period compared to those who are employed.i
  • Women in B.C. in the lowest income group were three times as likely, and men twice as likely, to suffer from heart disease when compared to the highest income group.ii

Why do vibrant economies matter for local governments?

Vibrant economies engender healthy communities where residents enjoy a high quality of life. Working with senior levels of government, local governments can promote increased economic security and access to opportunities by:

  • promoting access to opportunities through job training, asset building, health education, and outreach
  • developing local action plans that increase economic and social integration while addressing economic and social exclusion, and that promote economic security through access to living-wage jobs, transit, and affordable housing

Take Action

Policy and Planning

Incorporate measures of health and well-being into local community plans.

The City of Quesnel offically adopted a living wage policy for all municipal staff.  City staff and contracted municipal service providers will see their baseline wages rise to a living wage of $16.52 per hour, up from the provincial minimum wage of $10.45.  Mayor Bob Simpson hopes that the new policy will encourage other local employers to adopt a living wage policy.

Working with community partners, the Resort Municipality of Whistler developed a long-term strategy that focused on providing a high quality of life for residents by tracking key indicators such as income, housing affordability, and cost of living.

Encourage businesses to adopt human resource policies that support economic and social diversity, including active outreach to vulnerable and marginalized populations, through career fairs, diversity training, and targeted strategies and initiatives that encourage and support living wages.

The City of Vancouver’s Equal Employment Opportunity Program (EEO) provides services within the City such as community outreach and presentation to enhance access to employment opportunities, coordinating work experience placements with community agencies and educational institutions, and providing training on harassment prevention, diversity, human rights, and building respectful workplaces.

Support place-based planning and decision making. While each community is different in terms of the assets and resources that it brings to local needs and priorities, many local governments have taken active steps to develop partnerships and initiatives to support healthy childhood development, healthy eating, and access to safe, secure, and affordable housing.

The City of Surrey’s execution of its social plan has built partnerships with other public institutions such as the Surrey Public Library, non-profit organizations such as YMCA, and businesses such as Guildford Mall, which have helped in its achievement of objectives in social planning areas such as childcare, literacy, and community events.

Processes

Conduct research and engage the community in strategies to reduce poverty. Creating an information baseline can help inform discussion and engage residents in key issues.

The City of Burnaby has created neighbourhood profiles with information on family and household income, employment, and measures of affordability.

Work with local residents to expand the base of economic opportunities. Broad social and demographic changes, as well as structural changes in local economies (such as a decline in forestry and mining economies), have meant that local governments must actively explore partnerships to provide an expanded range of local opportunities.

In 1991, Teck Cominco, a big employer in the City of Kimberley, predicted that its Sullivan Mine would close down within 10 years. The City of Kimberley worked toward developing other economic opportunities in the community, primarily around recreational opportunities (ski resort and golf course). Kimberley’s Economic Development Office was involved in this process of creating new opportunities.
https://kimberley.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentDisplay.aspx?ID=683

Partnerships and Programs

Encourage opportunities for volunteerism and engagement. These activities can contribute to a sense of inclusion, social cohesion, and well-being. Local governments can help build vibrant communities by providing access to volunteer opportunities that help build skills and social networks.

The City of New Westminster has 38 committees and task forces that residents can join.

Promote personal learning, growth, and opportunities for social inclusion. Some communities have implemented strategies that promote the inclusion of vulnerable residents. These strategies promote asset building and access to education.

The City of Revelstoke used a range of strategies to engage residents in discussions about poverty.

Waterloo Region created ALIV(e) to educate about the impact of poverty on peoples’ lives.

Develop resource guides for individuals at risk of poverty or exclusion. Community resource guides provide information on community-based services that assist low income households and those living in poverty. These guides often focus on services and other supports that address health, income, and employment challenges.

Kelowna’s Community Resources created a directory of community service information.

Invest in social and economic infrastructure. Many local governments contribute to community health and well-being through investment in jobs, housing, and transit, as well as key social, cultural, and recreational services and amenities. Making amenities affordable to residents is also crucial.

The City of Williams Lake offers free recreation to grade 5 students, an affordable recreation card program for residents with limited financial resources, and a special needs pass for people with permanent disabilities. http://www.activewilliamslake.com/activeindex.asp?p=690

Publications

Links