Using a public health lens for policy making

When most of us think of public health these days, the daily Hinshaw report on the status of the pandemic in our province and city, and the rollout plan for vaccinations come to mind right away.

But for me, public health is much more than our current crisis. It is the basis of everything I do and it would be at the heart of how I represent you as city councillor.

To me, public health includes housing, accessibility, safety, and other fundamental prevention and promotion measures. I believe a city councillor should ask “how do we create the conditions in our workplaces, schools, and neighbourhoods so that people are healthy and our communities are vibrant?”

Focusing on this question ensures a city’s policies and actions lead to a better quality of life for residents from all walks of life. To help answer this question and use this lens effectively, we need good information to understand the story of the current state of our city.

In Edmonton, like many other cities, there is a gap in this data. For example, since COVID19 began in Canada, advocates have been asking for health authorities to share detailed data on who is most impacted by the virus. This is so that different sectors (health, food security, housing, etc.) can work together to meet the specific needs of different populations.

We can learn a lot from resources like Toronto’s COVID19 Status Dashboard that breaks down information by demographic to see a clearer picture of the impact of the pandemic. Information leads to knowledge, which leads to action. This is true not only for COVID19, but also for a variety of public health issues such as housing, economic development, and poverty.

This is the kind of data-driven public health lens that I would plan on using to inform decision-making as your city councillor.