Healthy People Live in Healthy Places


From ParticipACTION to the latest in the endless parade of fad diets, a healthy lifestyle is typically framed as an individual choice. But there’s more than willpower (or lack thereof) behind the size of your waistline, the strength of your heart, and the pinkness of your lungs.

A growing body of research suggests the best indicator of health is whether the community you live in is designed to make healthy choices easy. The small, unconscious actions of our daily lives add up, and can ultimately have a bigger impact on your overall health than whether you join a gym or eat healthier.

“Where you work, where you live, where you play—that’s what keeps you healthy,” insists New Westminster community health specialist Deanna Tan. “That’s really where ‘health’ happens, at home in your community.”

Tan works for Fraser Health, which, like most public health agencies, has long focused on preventative health care through activities like providing vaccines, promoting hand-washing, ensuring restaurants comply with health regulations, and distributing condoms and clean needles. But increasingly, regional health authorities are starting to take a holistic look at the impacts of the physical design of communities on chronic disease.

healthy-places-14According the BC Provincial Health Services Authority, people with chronic health conditions represent about 34% of the population in BC but make up about two-thirds of healthcare costs. Rather than continuing to allocate resources to acute care services, public health is starting to look more carefully at prevention and promotion strategies, says Tan, one of which is creating healthier communities.

“The time in your doctor’s office, that’s treatment. There’s a little bit of prevention, but really that’s illness and sickness, not health,” says Tan.

Health authorities are increasingly focusing on the impacts of infrastructure and community planning on health based on research that links poor air quality to increases in childhood asthma; sedentary lifestyles and diet to diabetes and heart disease; and a lack of safe, affordable housing to paramedic and policing calls related to mental illness.

The idea is that planning and investment policies, such as zoning and investment rules, create a ripple effect that ultimately affects the health of the population as a whole. For example, people are more likely to walk to school or work, and do errands on foot when city blocks are short and there’s a diverse mix of businesses close to homes—factors determined by city land use and zoning policies.

Increasing walkability of neighbourhoods sounds like a ‘nice-to-have’ feature, but when viewed through a health lens it becomes a must-have for the economic health of our nation. Physical inactivity alone costs the Canadian health care system at least $2 billion annually in direct healthcare costs. While not the only factor in chronic illness, high obesity rates are linked with higher rates of type II diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and cancer. Public health specialists like Tan hope that by collaborating with city councils and other community partners, they can help decision-makers consider the public health impact of decisions involving housing, transportation, nutrition, access and inclusion, and the natural environment.

“The goal isn’t necessarily to do things differently,” says Tan, “but to view things differently.”

Not every community has been receptive to this ‘health lens,’ but in New Westminster, Tan and her colleagues have been invited to sit on several City committees, and to provide research, support, and expertise to staff as they draft an updated Official Community Plan (OCP).

The OCP is being revised in a process that began in 2014. Residents have been invited to attend numerous consultation opportunities and sit at the table. Recently, the City released the first draft of Land Use Map, which will be used to determine development in the city until 2041. It is based on the input of people who have attended meetings, written in, and voiced their opinions. The importance of getting this right can’t really be ignored as this document will define the city’s goals, policies, and vision for the future.

Councillor Patrick Johnstone, who has been an active participate on this process, says: “The OCP is ‘the big one’: it is the planning document that tells us the most about how our City will look in the decades ahead. Types of housing is a big part of it, but so is neighbourhood form, and how we will continue to support other work like our Master Transportation Plan and the Urban Forest Management Strategy as we experience regional growth.”

“A healthy community is one where you can walk or ride a bike safely, where services you need are nearby and accessible, where you are supported in raising your kids, and have comfortable options to age in place. However, in an urban area like New West, it also means protecting and enhancing our limed green space, assuring we have trees to moderate our local climate, people have an opportunity to plant a seed and grow some local food, and that neighbours can have meaningful social connections. We need to plan our community to facilitate these things, not limit them.”

“If you plan Cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places” – Fred Kent, Project for Public Spaces

Johnstone continues: “We know what makes people healthy, and what makes them unhealthy. A good OCP should build healthy choices right into the infrastructure, and should limit the resources we put into supporting unhealthy alternatives.”

For Tan, the OCP is more than just a planning document. “The OCP is a health document,” says Tan. “It is so connected. To us, it’s a no-brainer.”

How Community Planning Affects Health

(source: BC Provincial Health Services Authority)

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Moving On

Once you see how much house you can get somewhere else, you can’t unsee it. We all know that Metro Vancouver real estate is some of the most expensive in Canada, but we don’t appreciate just how much less it costs to live almost anywhere else.

Our move away from New West started with a look…

We had always enjoyed poking around the MLS to see what houses were available, but the day we had the whim to look outside the Lower Mainland was the day the urge for going was born. If you are happy here in New West, don’t look at the house prices in the Cowichan Valley, Sooke, Kelowna, Charlottetown, or Montreal. Don’t look at Halifax. Just, don’t. Continue reading “Moving On”

Leaving Home


Budding trees and blooming flowers follow the hard season of winter. Songbirds twitter their joy as they return home from exile. Foxes, bears, raccoons and coyotes emerge hungry from their dens, fattening up as they prepare to create and feed the next generation of critters. Heavy rain and fierce wind test the tallest of the trees, to see just how far they can bend.

Change is not easy.

When spring has sprung and the winds slacken, the rainclouds lift, the hungry bellies fill, the wandering return, and the flowers bloom, the transformation seems reassuring and inevitable. Beautiful. Easy.

Inertia is easy. Transformation takes work. Continue reading “Leaving Home”

Passing the torch: Tenth to the Fraser is now under new ownership

After 10 years in New Westminster and seven years of blogging about life in this great city, it is time for our family to say au revoir.

My husband Will has been offered a job transfer to the Montreal area, and we have decided to take the opportunity for his career advancement, as well as for our family to experience French-Canadian culture and language, explore new places out East, and take advantage of Quebec’s profound cost-of-living advantages over British Columbia.

It is hard to say goodbye to the city we love so well, and the many wonderful people we have met here, but this is an opportunity for a family adventure that we just can’t pass up.

Those who follow me on Facebook and Twitter knew this was coming, and a big question for blog readers has been what will happen with Tenth to the Fraser.

It has been very quiet around here while our family worked through the question of whether to stay or go, and then moved into a whirlwind of logistical planning to sell our New Westminster home, pack and move our family of five, purchase a new home in Quebec, etc, etc. The good news is, it won’t be quiet much longer.

I have sold Tenth to the Fraser to my very good friend and frequent collaborator Jen Arbo. Jen’s now working to transform the blog into a powerhouse local community resource. In 2016, she plans to relaunch Tenth to the Fraser with a new look & feel, more regular and frequent updates, and some awesome new features. If you’ve got ideas for improvement, a story idea, or want to put your hand up to be part of the new Tenth to the Fraser, leave a comment here or drop her a line on Twitter @jenarbo. Watch for her inaugural post as the new publisher for more details on her big vision!

As for me, well, you probably haven’t heard the last word. Once I get settled, I look forward to the occasional guest post as a ‘foreign’ correspondent! I feel so glad that I am able to pass the torch to someone who is as skilled and connected with the community as Jen, and I know she’ll grow Tenth to the Fraser into a fantastic resource for New Westminster.

In memory of New Westminster’s golden age: Wild Rice pays tribute to the King Neptune

Photograph shows a street view of Eighth Street, looking toward the river, showing the intersections of 8th and Victoria, Carnarvon, Columbia, and Front streets. Shows edge of CPR station, The Old Spaghetti Factory on the right, and a full view of The King Neptune restaurant at the foot of the street.
Photograph shows a street view of Eighth Street, looking toward the river, showing the intersections of 8th and Victoria, Carnarvon, Columbia, and Front streets. Shows edge of CPR station, The Old Spaghetti Factory on the right, and a full view of The King Neptune restaurant at the foot of the street. Photo: New Westminster Museum & Archives.

It’s been nagging at me to write about a particular Feast On The Fraser event that caught my eye: Wild Rice’s Tribute to the King Neptune on Thursday, October 1. Most people who moved to New West or came of age after 1982 will have no idea what the King Neptune is or why it deserves a tribute, but mention it to anyone who lived here during New West’s golden age when Columbia Street was the place to shop, and they will tell you that the King Neptune was the place to eat.

Continue reading “In memory of New Westminster’s golden age: Wild Rice pays tribute to the King Neptune”

Your guide to Feast On The Fraser

The full list of Feast On The Fraser events.
The full list of Feast On The Fraser events.

With twelve events over ten days, Feast On The Fraser presents New West folk with a dilemma: which one(s) to choose? Fear not, gentle reader. There is something for everyone in this week of foodie fun.

If you like to run with the cool kids: Get a ticket to the kickoff event on Friday, September 25. “Boathouse Brews & Bites” features a tasting menu of five mouthwatering treats incorporating Steel & Oak brew. It is the official launch party, so everyone who has had a role in putting together Feast On The Fraser will be there, including many of New Westminster’s movers & shakers. Tickets are $50.

If you’ve got someone you want to impress: Splurge on the Longtail Kitchen Seafood Boil & Fry on Saturday, September 26. Longtail is one of the best Thai restaurants in the Lower Mainland, so you know the food will be excellent. In addition to a smorgasboard of local Oceanwise mussels, clams, crabs, lobsters, fried oysters and prawns, the $83 ticket also includes a large bottle of Steel & Oak craft beer and live entertainment.

Another option is the Feast On The Fraser At Anvil Centre, on Saturday, October 3. For $94, Executive Chef Nin Rai will show you how to pair, prepare and plate a fancy meal at home. You will get to eat as well as learn. The menu includes vanilla butter poached sturgeon with local chanterelles, ice wine gelee, seared skin on Fraser run Steelhead with roasted butternut squash puree, and spiced pumpkin and banana fosters flambe. Wine pairings with each course are included in the ticket price.

Finally, Thursday, October 1, there is Wild Rice’s Tribute to King Neptune Restaurant. The King Neptune was the place to eat in New West many years ago, and longtime locals still talk about it with a pang of longing. The $45 menu includes an appetizer of fried oysters with house tartar and slaw, ling cod with anchovy butter and King Neptune salad for the main, and a Royal City Sundae for dessert. Each table will feature quotations from New Westminster’s archives that capture the history of our working waterfront (provided by New Westminster Museum & Archives).

For a date night that’s a little different: Head to the Palates & Paint Night Fundraiser on Wednesday, September 30 at 100 Braid Street Studios. The $53 ticket includes a painting lesson from a professional artist and a wine tasting featuring three glasses of Pacific Breeze‘s garagiste-style vino and a selection fo appetizers. The event is also a fundraiser for the Arts Council of New Westminster. All materials are supplied and no painting experience is necessary.

Go on a two-hour romantic riverboat cruise aboard the M.V. Native for the $38 Wine & Dine Cruise on Friday, October 2. Enjoy Pacific Breeze Urban Winery’s award-winning wine expertly paired with a meal of paddlewheeler sliders, fresh seafood chowder and mixed green candied salmon salad.

Take your sweetie out dancing at The Heritage Grill Dine & Dance on Wednesday, September 30. For just $35 you’ll enjoy a three-course meal and dancing to live entertainment with Ranj Singh.

For a night out with the girls: Join the Belly Dancing Divas at Taverna Greka on Friday, October 2. Your $39.75 ticket includes drinks, dinner and a chance to learn some new belly dancing moves! Your ticket includes a glass of wine or a pint of beer, pita and dip appetizer and a main course of your choice.

To enjoy new-to-you tastes: Try the Raw Night at Rain City Juicery on Sunday, September 27. Certified Holistic Practitioner Vanessa McKay from Good Fooditude will offer a taste of raw, vegan cuisine featuring nut pate sushi, raw zucchini pad thai and a raw vegan lime tart alongside drinks from Rain City Juicery for $43.

For fun on a budget: The Rock Band Party on Tuesday, September 29 at the Columbia sounds like a hoot. For $23 you’ll get a beer, highball or glass of house wine and your choice of sliders, chicken strips, flatbread pizza or potachos while enjoying the Harmonix Rock Band video game. Live entertainment with audience participation.

If sports are more your style, try Monday Night Football at Match Eatery on September 28. For $30 you’ll get a three-course dinner along with an exciting night of football. The menu includes a 4oz beer pairing with each course.

Or, for just $20 per adult or $15 per child, you can enjoy a pizza dinner and watch the Boston Pizza New West Master Chef Cookoff on Sunday, October 4. Up-and-coming young chefs will square off against the BP head chef to create the ultimate pizza. The winner will take home a voucher for free pizza for a year and may have their creation featured as a BP menu item.


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, paid for by Tourism New West.