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How do the built and natural environments in Edmonton’s core neighbourhoods and Strathcona support and promote wellbeing? What are the key place-based factors that affect urban wellness there?

Five streams of research provided insight on urban wellness as it related to public spaces. 

Research Streams

Ethnographic Research - InWithForward

InWithForward uncovered that there were some surprisingly welcoming and humanizing third spaces in the inner city, where anyone can feel legitimate, without stigmatizing line-ups or eligibility criteria. These dignified spaces are important, and we need more of them.

Evenings and weekends often stretch on. Places like the Mustard Seed are roaring places at night - and with the vibe of a music hall, rather than a service, it’s an attractive place to be. There are few other options for places to go at night that feel ‘normal’ and ‘dignified.’

What if there were more physical spaces with a vibe of normalcy, where people might start to build other networks and find activities to fill their day? 

Community Ethnography - MaRS Solution Lab

Relates to access to recreation, arts, culture along with access to affordable fresh food. It’s about activating the latent human, physical and cultural assets in our communities - the vacant lands, the empty storefronts, even rooftops.

Public Engagement - Calder Bateman

Community conversations and doorstep interviews led to a series of neighbourhood walks, generating four themes related to place:

  • Safety
  • Vibrant community space
  • Accessible public services
  • Transportation options
Public Realm Research - Situate Planning + Placemaking

Guided by the Community Wellness Framework, stakeholder workshops explored the many existing tools and levers, programs and/or assets that can be used to improve wellness related to public realm in the Recover neighbourhoods. Over 100 solution ideas were generated; they can all be found in the Situate report.

Literature Review - University of Alberta

The researchers reviewed academic articles and grey literature from Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. One focus area was about built and natural environments.

Key messages from this work include:

  • Built and natural environments can be developed, used, and repurposed to facilitate health behaviours such as physical activity, healthy eating, and social interactions.
  • Community participation is important for the sustainability of interventions. Diverse, interdisciplinary, cross-departmental community collaborations are recommended to ensure mutual benefit, the effective use of community strengths and resources, shared decision-making, and sustainability.
  • When planning and implementing changes to the built and natural environments, it is important that the unintended consequences be considered. Changes should therefore be made in tandem with policies that account for, and prioritize, the health inequities among underserved or disadvantaged groups. These policies must also recognize, and account for, the impact of political will, competing interests, and market demand.

For More Information

Email urbanwellness@edmonton.ca

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