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Healthy Community Pillars

The Healthy Community Expert Panel identified four major challenges for healthy sustainable development within the City of Greater Sudbury. The process of identification involved expert advice, analysis, discussion reflection, and consensus. The four identified major categories cover health, social, environmental, and economic sustainability issues.

Greater Sudbury’s population gradually increased in 2006 from 2001. It recorded a population of 158,265 – slightly higher than that reported for 2001 but well below that which was reported in 1996 (165,336). This slight growth, which is projected to be sustained over the next two decades, falls far short of provincial projections during this same time period. Since 2007, Greater Sudbury has been engaged in the development of a local settlement strategy to address issues around settlement, integration, retention and attraction of newcomers to the community.
Most recent data from Statistics Canada indicates that between March 2009 and March 2010, Greater Sudbury experienced slight shifts in unemployment, employment, and participation rates. The city’s unemployment rate increased from 8.0% to 11.1%, which is higher than reported for the rest of the province (8.8%). Likewise, employment rates and participation rates were also challenged throughout the period of March 09-10, as employment rates decreased from 59.5% to 55.2%, compared to a provincial rate of 61.1%, and participation rates decreased from 64.7% to 62.1%, compared to a provincial rate of 67%. 
Greater Sudbury’s arts & culture community has made tremendous gains in the past decade and is now acknowledged as a true growth engine. Not only does a growing arts & culture sector provide jobs and increase tourism receipts, it adds to quality of life and attracts talent to those occupations that will nurture all the growth engines. The Greater Sudbury Arts & Culture Charter, Strategy and Grant Program fosters community support for arts & culture while encouraging other levels of government to invest in artistic and cultural activities in the city. In turn, the arts & culture sector will reinforce downtown destination development plans, including the proposed Laurentian University’s School of Architecture.
Infrastructure in the City of Greater Sudbury is aging, requiring significant investment and operating costs. The current infrastructure deficit compromises competitiveness, lowers our community’s quality of life, and hampers our ability to attract and retain educated and skilled professionals. Adequate facilities for commercial and industrial sites in addition to systems for the delivery of water, power and waste disposal services are quite literally the underpinnings for the successful economic development of a city-region. Because economic prosperity is also dependant on the transportation and distribution of goods and services to larger national or global markets, rail, water, road and air links are also part of the infrastructure requirements. Ongoing efforts to expand traffic and services at Greater Sudbury Airport are key, as is the progress of “four-laning” Highway 69 to reduce driving time to key southern Ontario markets. At the same time, effective passenger rail service to and from Greater Sudbury is an ongoing challenge to be addressed.

As a result of these and other compromising factors, such as a nation wide shortage of physicians, leaving 30,000 local individuals without the services of a physician, the health status of Greater Sudbury citizens is often found to be at or near the bottom of rankings when compared to other communities in national surveys and reports.

In general, the citizens of Greater Sudbury continue to report higher rates of chronic disease (heart disease,    diabetes, cancer, etc.) and obesity, relative to the province, although improvements have been made in the areas of premature mortality rates, rates of smoking and heavy drinking, as well as in terms self-reported physical activity.
Community safety is a large concern in the City of Greater Sudbury as injury and death rates, due to poisonings and unintentional injuries in Northern Ontario, are higher for all age groups in comparison to the province as a whole.


Greater Sudbury has shown both positive and negative trends with respect to its housing and homelessness sector. On a positive note, as of 2006, GS residents were less likely than their provincial counterparts: to be renters (slightly); less likely to spend more than 30% on shelter; and finally, were far less likely to be priced out of the housing market compared to citizens residing in other comparably-sized cities.

Approximately 445 individuals are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Greater Sudbury at any given time. Demographically speaking, 41% of homeless persons are girls or women, 32% are Aboriginals, and 79% are adults between the ages of 20 and 59.* The fact that the homeless population is quite diverse means that a ‘one size fits all’ strategy will likely not result in success. Targeted efforts need to take into account the overrepresentation of certain segments of Greater Sudbury’s population such as Aboriginals; women, children and adolescents escaping violence or abuse on the home front; as well as those with mental, physical and/or addiction issues.
In 2004, the City of Greater Sudbury reported to have a smaller number of families and individuals living below the Low Income Cut Off (LICO) than the rest of the province and country. Individuals and families with incomes above the LICO were not as well off as their counterparts in other parts of Ontario or Canada, earning $4,000 less than the national average and $12,000 less than the provincial average. Furthermore, poverty has remained high amongst Aboriginal people and lone parent families.

In 2005, there were 4,225 families (9% or 1 in 10) and 7,645 unattached (non-family) individuals (36% or 1 in 3) who reported living in poverty. Lone-parents with dependent children at home (under the age of 18) were most vulnerable, with more than 1 in 2 (54%) living in poverty.*

In terms of food security, 2008-09 saw a 30% increase in food bank usage, with significant increases experienced between April and August of 2009.
Increasing educational attainment is one of the most effective ways to ensure a healthier population and an informed citizenry. That being said, the CGS reports improved overall rates of post secondary education (for both men and women equally) and significantly higher numbers of citizens (mostly men) with a trades/apprenticeship qualification.

When one looks at retention rates locally, there has been a slight increase in the number of students who graduated in 2007-08 as compared to 2006-07, comparing favourably to provincial rates. Although hard data on Aboriginal drop-out rates is difficult to find locally, most recent national data indicates Aboriginal youth as being three times more likely to leave school prematurely. Local stakeholders indicate that drop out rates are high enough to warrant programs targeting this hard-to-serve population.

After a century of mining in the area, over 80,000 hectares of land and water were left either completely devoid of vegetation or in a semi-barren state. Large reductions in local air pollution due to smelting have encouraged the recovery of these areas through natural plant colonization, resulting in enhancement of ecosystem function.

In an attempt to reduce metal toxicity to plants, allowing millions of trees to be planted in formerly barren hillsides, the City of Greater Sudbury established an award winning Land Reclamation Program. However, the recovery of our ecosystem and plant diversity is still a work in progress as thousands of more hectares remain to be limed and planted.

The recently released Sudbury Soils Study (2008) reported that there were some metals identified, which could conceivably pose health risks to future generations of Sudburians under certain conditions. Other than human health risk assessment, the study identified the need for remediation from the perspective of plants and animal life locally, leading to the development of the Greater Sudbury Biodiversity Action Plan, which is now being implemented.

Soil health and more particularly, the stripping of topsoil has been identified most recently as a direct threat to the future viability of food sustainability. Most recently, efforts to protect the city’s topsoil were made easier by the adoption of a by-law which will limit the amount of topsoil that can be stripped locally.
With a geographic area of 3,627 square kilometers, the City of Greater Sudbury contains more lakes than any other municipality in Canada with 330 lakes totalling over 10 hectares in size. Greater Sudbury’s lakes serve not only as a drinking water source but also provide valued recreational and aesthetic opportunities.

Our lakes have long suffered from industrial pollution, effluent disposal, urban runoff, and waterfront development pressures. Fortunately, industrial smelter emissions and mine tailings have been greatly reduced and several modern wastewater treatment plants have been built. However, other severe problems are impacting our lakes: storm water runoff, nutrient enrichment, shoreline alterations, wetland destruction, waste disposal and invasion of exotic species. Also, we are seeing more climate warming related episodes, such as the increase in frequency and duration of blue-green algae blooms.

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