Funding, consultation for healthier communities

funding for boosting physical activity

During last week’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention, Premier Christy Clark announced the province will provide $30 million in funding for communities to increase use of local recreational facilities.

Intended to boost physical activity and community involvement, eligible projects will include indoor or outdoor recreational centres, such as sports facilities, community recreation spaces, fitness facilities, trails, bike paths, walkways and playgrounds.

Priority will be given to small communities, which often lack the capacity to fund infrastructure, she said.

The funding builds on the Healthy Families BC Communities Program currently underway.

UBCM Healthy Communities Committee chair Al Richmond noted that in the coming months, regional consultations will also take place with local governments around the province to find out how best to address their healthy-living priorities.

“Local governments in B.C. support the provincial government’s decision to consult broadly prior to launching a new community health initiative.”

These consultations will give communities an opportunity to talk about what policies, programs or services are needed in their community to encourage residents to adopt healthy lifestyle choices, prior to the rolling out of the Healthy Families BC Communities Program expected in early 2012.

The issue was forwarded to B.C.’s five area associations, Richmond explained, including the North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) for the Cariboo Regional District, to determine what the program will entail, how it will be rolled out in each area and what the funding mechanisms might be.

Communities within each region will then be consulted to look at chronic diseases and recreational opportunities to help people get more active, he added.

Once he receives the responses on how the associations want to approach community consultations in each region, Richmond will submit the plans to the province.

The B.C. Liberal government wants to get on with the program and develop that link between the province, the local governments and the health authorities, he added, which will have some involvement, and review what plans have been identified.

Richmond said the initiative is encouraging, as it’s the first time he knows of where the province is involving local government in its talks with the health authorities in a program of this nature.

“Certainly, the chronic disease is a huge issue for everybody but just getting people active, and programs to do that, are an important beginning to making everyone healthier in communities.”

Some places will have different priorities than others, Richmond said, adding he hopes to have an answer to take to the province within the next month.

Applications for the recreational project grants announced at the conference will be accepted between Oct. 14 and Dec. 28.

For more information on the grants program, visit the website at www.cscd.gov.bc.ca/lgd/finance/grants.htm.