Knowing your neighbours can improve your health

What are you doing to celebrate the holidays? If it includes a block party with your neighbours then you can count eggnog and cookies as a healthy option!

The most recent newsletter from the Vancouver Foundation outlines that the top concern of people in Metro Vancouver is the lack of connection in our communities. This comes in a few different forms, not knowing your neighbours, feeling overwhelmed by commuting and work commitments, identifying a lack of participation in our civic elections and volunteer organizations. But whatever form it takes, isolation is affecting the health of individuals and our communities.

Our health is complex and part of the whole picture of our lives and communities, not just the results of our annual check-up at the doctor. It is affected by our sense of belonging, within our families, neighbourhoods and cities. Many people in Vancouver and British Columbia are identifying that they are lonely, disconnected from their neighbours and that this isolation is affecting their daily lives.

The science tells us that increasing social connections can improve our heart health, help us avoid colds, and help our ability to fight off chronic diseases, even cancer. The most recent Provincial Health Officer’s report identifies the importance of connection for women’s health.

Isolation can be especially harmful to the young and old in our society, to newcomers and those on lower incomes. If it takes a village to raise a child, then what does it take to raise a village?

This quote found in the Vancouver Foundation’s report sums up the need and the reward: “The truth is struggling neighbourhoods won’t improve because of a federal grant or outside resource alone. Lasting change only occurs when people take ownership of their community and their own lives. We can pave the streets and paint the houses, but unless people care about each other and the future of their community, it won’t be a truly great neighbourhood.” ~ The Centre for Great Neighbourhoods of Covington

At this time of year people need the warmth and friendship the season is meant to bring – so invite your neighbour over for some holiday cheer, lend a hand raking leaves or shoveling snow as the weather permits and say ‘hello’ to friends you know and everyone you meet! It won’t just improve your holidays, it will improve your community.

Samantha Hartley-Folz
Manager, Programs and Policy
December 2011

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