Integrating Indigenous Community Planning into a Healthy Built Environment
Canadian Public Health Association Public Health 2016
In collaboration with NCCAH, this session included four presentations, each addressing different aspects of a holistic approach towards integrating the natural and built environment, economy, and health in Indigenous community planning. The following concepts emerged from the 90-minute symposium:
- A healthy built environment takes into consideration community design, housing, infrastructure, air and water quality, and are associated health indicators such as walkability, proximity to traffic, access to healthy food, proximity to green space.
- In considering the design and planning of a healthy built environment in an Indigenous community context, it is necessary to use knowledge, methods and practice that promote self-reliance, resiliency and respect for Indigenous culture.
- Indigenous-led planning within a comprehensive community planning framework considers governance, land and resources, health, economy, social, culture and infrastructure development, has seen successes (e.g., Westbank First Nation in BC, Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nations 96 & 97 in SK).
- Awareness and application of culturally appropriate practices, standards and ethics, and effective communication using oral and visual histories and traditional ecological knowledge will promote respect, trust, mutual learning and cooperation helping to improve built environment conditions that impact health.
- Indigenous determinants of health are different from social determinants of health and include such considerations as colonization, residential schools, self-determination, language and culture, geography.
- Existing conditions in Indigenous communities – lack of quality housing, poor infrastructure, lack of culture and language, lack of employment and economic opportunities, health issues (chronic conditions and mental health), population increases – impact delivery of programs, services and health.
- There are unique cultural dimensions, characteristics and historical challenges to planning a healthy built environment for Indigenous communities. Methodologies, processes and tools used in the urban form are not directly transferrable to planning in Indigenous settings.
- Relationship building is essential for successful planning in Indigenous communities. It involves listening, understanding and sharing community values and priorities (such as a vibrant and strong sense of belonging and community well-being).