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Healthy Cities Panel

March 1st, 2017

The Healthy Cities Panel took place at the Kitchener Public Library on Wednesday, January 18th. A ClimateActionWR representative was in attendance and for the benefit of those who could not make it this post will provide a report of the event!

Guest Librarian to KPL Robin Mazumder was the organizer of this discussion. Robin is currently a PhD candidate in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo. He organized experts in the field in order to facilitate a discussion about how to make Kitchener a vibrant, healthy, and happy city. Panelists include Dr. Colin Ellard (Psychology) and Dr. Leia Minaker (Planning) from the University of Waterloo and Rod Regier, Commissioner of Planning, Development and Legislative Services for the Region of Waterloo.


Robin and panelists taking audience questions. Left to right: Robin Mazumder, Dr. Leia Minaker, Rod Reiger, Dr. Colin Ellard.

The Healthy Cities Panel was presented in three separate, but related presentations from each of the panelists.

Dr. Colin Ellard got the event started with a discussion about humans in cities and the emotional response of the individual to the built environment. As the Director of the Urban Realities Laboratory at the University of Waterloo the research he and his team conducts is focused on studying  the impact of urban design on human psychology. Using wrist-worn devices he measures the relative amounts of stress experienced in different locations, for example, it was seen that subjects experienced high levels of stress when in proximity to or crossing busy, noisy streets and lower levels of stress when walking through parks and community gardens.

Dr. Leia Minaker spoke next about the role of Planning and Public Health in creating personal health as well as healthy cities. The Region of Waterloo has one of the first Official Plans to include language surrounding access to local and healthy food within neighbourhoods. On average in Waterloo Region people live much closer to a convenience store or a fast food outlet then they do to a healthy shopping alternative. Additionally, over three times more shelf space is allocated to junk foods over healthy foods within 1km of the average home in Waterloo Region. Shocking statistics! At the community level, Dr. Minaker stressed the importance of health and nutrition of the individual in creating a healthy region.

The third and final speaker for the evening was Rod Reiger who also spoke about Planning and Public Health within the Waterloo Region. Mr. Reiger touched on various topics including the importance of the ION LRT in facilitating more transit options and increasing connectivity within the Region as well as promoting the development of neighbourhood food markets powered by volunteers.


The evening was full of great ideas to create healthy and happy cities and regions! Understanding how the built environment affects your mood and health is a key part of achieving health within a city. Dr. Minaker and Mr. Reiger both presented on how to make a healthier city with an underlying message of decreased carbon emissions and climate action. Purchasing your groceries from a local market in your neighbourhood and using public transit are two excellent ways an individual can take action against climate change!

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