It’s the I Love Transit Week and we are talking to Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer and the Vice President, Public Health for Vancouver Coastal Health. Patricia is originally from Toronto, and has made Vancouver her home for the last 20 years, where she and her husband have raised their three sons. You can follow Vancouver Coastal Health on Twitter at @VCHhealthcare.
Why do you love transit?
When I use transit, which usually means I walk about 3 blocks from my house to a bus stop, I am happy that I am getting some physical activity without having to schedule it into my busy day. I like the fact that I am making a positive contribution to the environment by leaving my car at home. But what I love most about transit is that it is a much less stressful way of navigating a busy city than getting behind the wheel of my car – I like someone else to do the driving.
What’s your favourite mode of transportation?
I love the Canada Line. There is a station a block away from my Vancouver office, and it has become my preferred route to get to and from the airport and to meetings in Richmond.
Being an expert in public and preventative health, what exactly is preventative health and why did you choose that area of medicine?
I spent the early years of my medical career working in Emergency Departments, treating patients with many preventable conditions, including diseases related to smoking, alcohol consumption and injuries. I wanted to work further upstream to prevent these conditions from occurring. Public health and preventive medicine focus on three areas: promoting good health, preventing diseases and injuries, and protecting population health.
What are the key areas of health promotion?
Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health, by ensuring that the healthy choice is the easy choice. Some of our key health promotion activities include working with municipalities to design neighbourhoods that encourage people to walk, cycle and be physically active, ensuring healthy, nutritious food is readily available to everyone, and initiatives that discourage young people from starting smoking.
What about health prevention?
Prevention activities include such things as immunizing children, injury prevention initiatives, and maternal-child health programs for newborns and their mothers to help everyone get a healthy start in life. Health protection programs include food safety, water quality and air quality programs to protect the population from contaminants in the environment.
How are health and transportation connected?
We know that if we design neighbourhoods that encourage people to walk, ride bicycles and use transit rather than use cars, that people will be more physically active. Daily physical activity is very important for maintaining good health and preventing disease. Also, because many chronic diseases, including respiratory and cardiac diseases, can be caused by or exacerbated by toxins in the air, choosing modes of transportation that are less polluting can also help improve the health of the population.
What can we all do to increase the health of our population?
Encouraging people to be physically active seems like an easy way to improve the health of the population, but the truth is that it can be difficult for people to incorporate the recommended amount of physical activity in their daily routine (60 minutes daily for children and 30 minutes for adults).
Does active transportation factor into this?
Active transportation is any form of transportation that is “human powered”. Encouraging people to use active transportation to get to work, school and run their daily errands is an easy way of helping to achieve physical activity targets. Using transit is also considered a form of active transportation as people usually walk to the bus stop or transit station, and even 15 minutes of walking each way will allow adults to meet their daily recommendation for physical activity.
What’s an example of a simple transportation choice that can improve the health of the region?
Walking is my favourite mode of transportation. Try walking to one errand a week – if there are no local stores in your neighbourhood, consider those stores near your workplace; I make all my bank and pharmacy visits near my office. If these ideas don’t work, how about occasionally using the stairs while you are at work? Employers can help by ensuring stairwells are accessible and inviting.
Author: Borjana Slipicevic