Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, focuses on making cities and settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This is significant, as currently half of the global population, or 3.5 billion people, live in cities today, and a projected 5 billion people, or 60% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030.
SDG 11 is one of the two foundational SDGs of Healthy Cities in the SDG Era, alongside SDG3: Good Health and Wellbeing. Throughout the series, we’ll explore the ways that these SDGs intersect with other goals, including gender equality, education, reducing inequalities, zero hunger, and climate action.
Dr. Patricia O’Campo is the Interim Executive Director of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, a Scientist at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, and Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. She holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Population Health Intervention Research and has an established program of research focused on policies and health, and how urban and social policies can ensure people are healthy.
Garrett Morgan is a doctoral student in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto working under the co-supervision of Dr. Blake Poland at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Dr. John Robinson at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Garrett is also a student in the Collaborative Specializations in Global Health and Environment and Health, at U of T. He is an urban planner and sustainable development consultant with professional experience in the public, private, and non-profit sectors in rural, suburban, and urban environments in Canada and the United States. His research explores the relationships between resilience, sustainability, and equity in Toronto’s marginalized communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CREDITS: This podcast is co-hosted by Dr. Erica Di Ruggiero, Director of the Centre for Global Health, and Ophelia Michaelides, Manager of the Centre for Global Health, at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, and produced by Elizabeth Loftus. Audio editing is by Anwaar Baobeid. Music is produced by Julien Fortier and Patrick May. It is made with the support of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:00:07] I'm Erica Di Ruggiero and this is Healthy Cities in the Era, a podcast about the Sustainable Development Goals and how research conducted by faculty and students at the University of Toronto is helping to achieve them. In this episode, we'll look into SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, which focuses on making cities and settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. SDG 11 targets encompass ensuring access to adequate, safe and affordable housing and transportation for all. Improving resilience to natural disasters, and reducing the per capita climate impact of cities. This is important as currently, half of the global population or 3.5 billion people live in cities today, and a projected 5 billion people, or 60% of the world's population will live in cities by 2030. Cities are actually the hubs for economic growth contributing to about 80% of GDP globally. However, cities can also be sites of significant inequality. In Canada, cities long standing social, racial and health inequities between different population groups have been laid bare as a result of COVID 19. In a July 2020 CBC article, Toronto Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa revealed that in Toronto, racialized people make up 83% of reported COVID 19 cases. These staggering numbers occur for reasons pertaining to structural inequities, whereby racialized people living in Canada are disproportionately impacted due to inadequate housing and precarious frontline jobs that are low paying and do not provide paid sick leave. Housing affordability in Toronto is another significant challenge, as the city consistently ranks among the top two most expensive cities in Canada and is notorious for its lack of affordable housing. Toronto also has the largest population of people experiencing homelessness, with over 8700 people in Toronto experiencing homelessness on any given day. In the context of the COVID 19 pandemic, individuals experiencing homelessness are at a greater increased risk of getting COVID 19. A recent study, actually published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that in Ontario, homeless individuals are five times more likely to die for COVID 19 compared to community dwelling people. So SDG 11 is one of the two foundational SDGs of our series alongside SDG three Good Health and Well-Being, which we discussed in our last episode. Our guests for this episode are very well versed in the ways in which upstream government and policy decision making processes can impact the health of people living in cities and the sustainability of urban planning and design decisions.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:03:10] Our first guest is Dr. Patricia O'Campo, who is the interim executive director of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, a science test at the Map Center for Urban Health Solutions and a professor at the Donna School of Public Health. She holds a Tier one Canada Research Chair in Population Health Intervention Research and has an established program of research focused on policies and health and how urban and social policies can ensure people are healthy. Well, it's a real pleasure to interview you, Pat, for this podcast on the Sustainable Development Goals. So I want to start off with a rather big question for you. How do the social structural determinants influence the health of people living and working in urban environments?
Pat O'Campo [00:03:55] Yeah. So I want to start by saying I'm so thrilled that you're working on SDG 11, the Sustainable Cities and Communities, because cities are implicated in so many of the crises that we're facing, such as global warming through carbon emissions, 70% are from cities. Cities are involved in the world's wealth generation. 80% of GDP is generated within cities. And consequently, cities are also involved in generating the large portion of the economic and social inequalities that we're all so concerned about. And so in that sense, I think a focus on cities is really important, and it's so social and structural determinants within cities that are so critical for determining each of those things. They really are the root causes of some of the problems. Let's just take that issue of wealth for a moment. You know, wealth is generated and the inequalities, therefore, are generated because of some of the tax systems that we have in place. So we have a regressive tax system in place where the rich end up paying proportionately less. There are also fewer tax breaks for those who don't have income, and so that can be a problem. There's wealth building strategies that are happening, for example, in the U.S. equivalent to about 350,000,000,053% of this is going to the richest. So some of these structures and upstream root causes are the things that we have to address if we want these things to change. You know, I also want to mention that inequality is very gendered, so men own more of the world's wealth than women. There's unpaid work done by women all over the world, and it's estimated that this is equivalent to about $11 trillion. That's three times the size of the tech industry. So women and girls tend to suffer more from these inequalities that we're experiencing globally in every city in the world. And so despite the huge contributions that women and girls make through their unpaid care work, they're among the most those who benefit the least from our global economic systems.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:06:28] Mm hmm. Yeah. So thanks for underscoring the intersection between SDGs, because SDG 5, of course, focuses on promoting gender equality, but it intersects with so many other SDGs. So, you know, of course we can't have a podcast during these times without talking a little bit about COVID. Given the determinants you've actually outlined, how do they manifest in ways in which people are experiencing them during this pandemic in cities in particular?
Pat O'Campo [00:07:00] Yeah, I would agree. We do have to talk about COVID. COVID 19 has been a catalyst on all of these issues that I just mentioned, but not necessarily in the same way. So, for example, talk about global warming. COVID 19 has resulted in a pretty big reduction in carbon emissions at the height of the COVID shutdowns. So this is a short but positive impact on global warming that we have experienced. On the other hand, wealth inequalities have grown during this time. The world's richest have gained billions of dollars in wealth. I'm not just talking about one or two billions, but hundreds of billions of dollars in wealth. And at the same time, because of these shutdowns of businesses, in order to protect population health, there have been drastic increases in unemployment and a huge reduction involuntary reduction of work hours, mostly among those with precarious labor conditions. And so those at the bottom have at the same time that the richest are getting richer, have lost incomes. Also, there's a digital divide which contributes to these gaps. Many on the low income side have not had sufficient access to the Internet and to resources that are necessary to keep functioning during these times of COVID. So we have to think about the children in those families who are having trouble accessing online schools, for example. Women are also feeling the brunt of these job losses and income losses and also career disruptions because of the disproportionate burden that women are experiencing when it comes to caregiving and household responsibilities.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:09:00] Mm hmm. And I think it helps to underscore the importance of research and the need to document what might be otherwise invisible impacts on different groups. So I know you've done a lot of research in urban environments. I was just wondering if you could speak a little bit more specifically to one or two examples from your own program of research where you've sought to better understand the racial and or gender inequities that shape the health of different people living in cities like Toronto.
Pat O'Campo [00:09:31] Sure there are many to choose from if I think about my own research. One of the areas that I have been researching and again picking up on the point about some of it being invisible is the issue of homelessness. You know, even before COVID, when we're referring to the structural and social determinants, institutional racial discrimination has led to an overrepresentation of racialized persons experiencing homelessness compared to non racialized individuals. So discrimination in housing, employment, health care, migration processes and more have led to some of this disproportionate representation of racialized individuals who are homeless. They experience institutional discrimination before and during episodes of homelessness and even after being housed. We just published a paper documenting the ongoing discrimination that happens to individuals who even receive housing after episodes of homelessness, which impacts their health and well-being. And so we continue to see inequalities in progress and recovery of those who are homeless. But getting back to the issue of intersectionality, then we certainly also with our research, documented how even though women are a smaller proportion of individuals who experience homelessness, they have a they have greater hardships when it comes to recovering from homelessness, in large part because the services for homeless individuals are largely designed for men and ignore some of the unique needs of women. So the needs of women when it comes to homelessness and recovery from homelessness are different from that of men. Women, for example, need homes to bring their families. As many of them are caregivers. Women Need Safety Incorporated all aspects of their housing. So they need safe apartments. They need apartment complexes that are safe. They need safe neighborhoods. And that's not always considered when we're designing these interventions. They also have a greater need for trauma informed care, given that they are more likely to experience homelessness due to traumatic events such as a history of partner violence. Yet services for homelessness and homeless individuals rarely take these unique needs into account. So women end up receiving insufficient and inadequate services, or might leave services and not use them altogether because they're not suited to their needs. So we see that many women experience precarious housing differently and are not necessarily on the streets and not necessarily seeking out the services that are provided. So we need to ensure that our systems of support and care meet the needs of all populations being served.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:12:40] Yeah, I think that example illustrates beautifully the importance of looking at the gender differences of our interventions and how they impact women differently and their families, but also some of the social structural determinants that you were speaking about, why women were on the street in the first place and in need of safer housing. And without attention to those things, we may be missing important considerations in intervention design. Are there any other examples you want to draw on in your from your research?
Pat O'Campo [00:13:12] Well, you know, maybe I'll say that from my research, I have discovered that we actually need better data. Public health actually needs better data. And I want to comment on this in sort of two areas. We need better data on those structural and social determinants that I mentioned. It's absence in our datasets that we rely heavily on when we do. Public health research has consequences for coming up with the right solutions. So we widely acknowledged that those structural determinants are root causes. So why don't we have more information on structural causes in our research studies? You know, public health draws heavily from biomedical sciences and uses methods appropriate for understanding biomedical issues. It's really less equipped to study root causes of health problems that we've just talked about. And so that has a couple of consequences. I mean, when we rely exclusively on individually focused data, and we do that because we're lucky enough in the health field to have a wealth of data available to us on individuals who do get sick or don't get sick or get access to. But when we only have data that's focused on individual characteristics, we might arrive upon the wrong solutions because we might think those solutions lie in individual characteristics and missed the boat altogether. When it comes to some of those structural determinants that are really the root causes, actually it's been demonstrated in other fields. For example, poverty research that they come up with the wrong answers. They again missed the boat on structural determinants and tend to come up with policies that actually don't make sense. So, for example, in the U.S., when they analyzed millions and millions of records on poverty, they found an association between not being married and poverty and came up with a policy that says, okay, when very low income individuals receive services from the government or income from the government, we're going to promote marriage in those families. And that kind of policy doesn't make sense. And that's due to the absence of those structural determinants in our data sets, and we don't want to replicate that in health, and we're at risk of doing so because we rely on data at the individual level.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:15:50] Mm hmm. I think that's a really critical point. I mean, we want data driven solutions, but if our data is driving individual level solutions that really are meant to target social, structural determinants, we're missing the boat, as you say. I think your last points really segways really nicely in thinking about what do we still need to inform policies that would actually contribute to greater urban health equity. Whereas some of the policy gaps or blind spots, in your opinion?
Pat O'Campo [00:16:24] Yeah. Well, some of them are related to the issues that I just mentioned on the lack of information on structural determinants. And don't get me wrong, I'm not somehow suggesting, well, let's throw away all the the research on individuals that we have now. But I am saying let's make sure that we incorporate data on some of those structural determinants. And I think there's some beautiful examples of doing that. For example, there's some work by Patrick Sharkey, who wrote a book called Stuck in Place Urban Neighborhoods at the End to Progress towards Racial Equality. And he analyzes 40 years of individual level data, but links it with historical policies that shows how place based policies have actually not just kept racialized individuals and black Americans in particular stuck in place in terms of their levels of wealth, but contributed to a worsening of their economic situation over time, while at the same time white Americans had access to wealth building strategies. And so the white middle class gained an income compared to the black to to black populations. And again, using both those data, individual and structural data about historical policies really helped him come to that conclusion, which is very important. So we need to have data on policies and how those policies contribute to the well-being of populations in order to inform policy at the right level for us to begin to address those root causes.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:18:11] Yeah. So it sounds like needing to redress the balance so all is needed, but right now it's a little bit too skewed to individual collection of data. Thanks so much, Pat, for taking the time today for sharing the wealth of experience you have and for all the work you do on behalf of all of us in trying to promote greater urban health equity. It was a pleasure to speak to you.
Pat O'Campo [00:18:35] Same here. Thanks a lot, Erica.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:18:44] Our next guest is Garrett Morgan. Garrett is a doctoral student in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto, working under the supervision of Dr. Blake Poland at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Dr. John Robinson at the Monk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Garrett is also a student in the collaborative specializations in Global Health and Environment and Health at the University of Toronto. He is an urban planner and sustainable development consultant with professional experience in the public, private and nonprofit sectors in rural, suburban and urban environments in Canada and the United States. His research explores the relationships between resilience, sustainability and equity in Toronto's marginalized communities in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. So thanks so much for joining me today, Garrett.
Garrett Morgan [00:19:40] Thanks, Erica. I appreciate you having me.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:19:43] Well, I have some questions for you. And so let's get started. So one of the questions I was wondering about is what are the barriers that you see that are needed to overcome to transition Toronto into a more sustainable city?
Garrett Morgan [00:20:00] Sure. So I think there is how I see this question. There's two primary barriers. The first one is equity, and the second one is tradition or kind of ingrained practices in regards to equity. One thing that we're seeing, I think no matter where we're consuming media, is there's this repeated kind of statement of we're all in this together, or but that's really not the case. And just like in COVID, there are during the pandemic, there's two different experiences. One, that one pandemic that is experienced by the wealthy and another that's experienced by the poor. When we talk about sustainability, there is that same dichotomy. So in a city like Toronto, sustainability may mean one thing to people who live in wealthy neighborhoods and have access to resources and services and potentially control access to those same things for others than it does for, say, someone who is lower income, maybe lives in a less than ideal housing situation, or doesn't have kind of reserve resources in a traditional sense to respond to kind of the crises of, of our new kind of future. Like, there are a lot of good things happening in Toronto, right? There's the city has a new kind of department or initiative called Transform Tio, which brought together a lot of really smart people at the city as well as in the private and nonprofit sectors, I believe. And with a mandate of reducing Toronto's carbon emissions to zero by 2050, this is a massive plan, as you can imagine, and it's required all sorts of coordination between, you know, even in the city alone, you know, something that's known at least locally as a bureaucratic nightmare. I think, you know, this is a great goal, but a lot of what what that would look like on the ground remains to be seen. And just finally, in terms of like equity and tradition, I think that in Toronto, it's it's frustrating because we see ourselves as a progressive city, but we're a city that's doubling down on kind of old fashioned ways of being. We're still car centric. We're very inequitable. We. You know, don't really know what to do in terms of all of our plans and studies and environmental assessments. We were a city that loves to study, but we're less and less. We're less of a city that likes to actually act on these studies. And I think that's because there's little incentive for the people in power to actually change their behavior because they benefit from a status quo that... Kind of discourages the type of revolutionary or transformative change that a sustainable Toronto would require.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:23:27] So I think you've touched nicely on some of the economic and social barriers and you started to get into some of the political ones and bureaucratic ones. So what do you think needs to be done to kind of shift gears so that we get out of this kind of trap of arrested development and design and actually implement the good ideas that those smart people you alluded to actually came up with?
Garrett Morgan [00:23:53] For sure. Yeah. You know, I'm I'm from the US, so I and my experience, I've worked in kind of U.S. cities that are seen as strong cities as basically like a lot of cities in the U.S., depending on the state, have more ability to make financial decisions or regulation or pass regulations on cities in Canada. So what you often hear is that, oh, well, Toronto can't do much because it's a creature of the province. I think this is a cop out. I think that there are I mean, I'm not a constitutional scholar of either the U.S. or Canada. But the there are ways that one can break through kind of Canadian federalism to address kind of the ongoing crises that we're facing. I think the best solution to that is to actually reclaim power at the local level. I don't think this means Toronto needs to secede from the province. I think that a lot of the challenges that we're facing now are the result of decades of kind of top down actions from, you know, provincial agencies or city officials that has paid very little interest to what community members want or need desire or as we're seeing more and more. I mean, community members know what needs to be done in their communities in a way that city staff or any elected official can really not unless they themselves also come from that community. You know, I think if we address issues of inequality, then we have a greater chance of addressing issues like sustainability and pandemic response, because Toronto is really a city of us versus them. And as long as we think in these dichotomies of downtown versus in the suburbs or condo owners versus homeowners or drivers versus users of public transit or active transportation infrastructure, or even West End versus East End, there's these kind of. I mean, Toronto is such a rich city, diverse, diversity wise. Right. And there's so many people here that come from other parts of the world but have their own unique approach to urban life and all these other things. But we can't get beyond like you're either with me or against me. And I think it undermines every decision that the city does. You know, I guess my recommendation would be to expand democracy. Like, what is needed is greater local authority in terms of making decisions about transit, about health care, about basically everything, neighborhood planning, social service provision. I don't think the answer is more top down. It's not more power in existing institutions. It's kind of diffusing that power to individuals or groups that are typically excluded because it's not. I mean, the status quo doesn't have the best track record, and that's kind of by design.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:27:24] Yeah, that's an excellent point. It sounds like we need more of a whole of government at the local level that also truly values the different knowledges of community and meaningfully sets up processes to learn from community about what's best for them. So I wanted to you and you started to actually get at this point kind of shift beyond Toronto and urban environments all together because cities don't, you know, live in a vacuum. They're part of a broader ecosystem that includes suburban and rural areas. So what can sustainability look like in suburban and rural areas?
Garrett Morgan [00:28:04] Sure. So I, I fortunately or unfortunately have I grew up in a really small town and I worked professionally and lived in both rural, suburban and super dense neighborhoods and or cities. And I think that the divides between the types are oftentimes false, especially in the sustainability field. A lot of the people that are at the forefront of sustainability here, the experts live in cities or university towns or various places that look very different from the lived and actual experience of people in rural areas or even in other cities that maybe don't have the same infrastructure or democratic institutions as they do. So I think like the divide between urban, suburban and rural can kind of be better understood as like a class divide, a class component. Whereas like one thing that's thankfully increasingly being measured or at least talked about is that wealthy, wealthy individuals or corporations are, you know, not to sound too conspiratorial, but, you know, wealthy people and wealthy countries disproportionately extract things from the earth in the global economic system. So in Canada, we're really fortunate in many ways that we many of us, not all of us, many have access to resources and services that people in. In the developing world or in even in even like certain neighborhoods and cities or regions in Canada do not. So in Toronto, we consume more than our share. And so what happens in Sustainability Scholarship, in my mind, is that you have a lot of people that are sitting in, you know, offices or at conferences that are consuming a lot of resources and telling poor people that often don't look like them what they should be doing in order to advance sustainability goals without critically engaging with their own impacts. And I think like for example, I used to work with farmers in rural Virginia and my goals as someone who moved from Toronto to rural Virginia and my worldview were very different than the people that I worked for as a public servant, as you can imagine. But yeah, I learned a lot about cows and grain, and I knew when various chicken processing plants were in operation. So it took a. But yeah, but there's also I mean, there's a connection when you work in rural areas, at least in my opinion, you meet people that are connected to a way to land in a way that is not present in urban areas. Right. Like we can love High Park, but we don't work High Park...[inaudible]. For those unfamiliar with Toronto. Hyde Park is a large public park in the city. So what I've noticed is in rural areas and suburban areas, people who live there want the same things as those who live in cities. They may just not have the ability to live in a city because of financial constraints or they like open space and these other things. And so as far as sustainability, I see that I see the primary issue being one of equity and that it's all well and good to, you know, in cities we tend to like pathologize almost individual action. Oh, you're eating me or you're driving a car like climate change is your fault. It's this focus on individuals instead of systems. And I think that's by design because people with power or across, you know, whatever spectrum don't want to give it up. And one way to kind of reinforce existing structures is by placing an emphasis on an individual. And so you have a lot of the education about sustainability. A lot of, you know, conversation is about making different choices. But for a lot of people, there's no other choice like that. I have been, you know, recently, like I'm unable to afford to make climate positive decisions. And, you know, it's kind of like that thing where, oh, it'd be great if people didn't go to big box stores. But what is missing from that is people have to go to those stores because it's the only thing they can afford. Right. And it's similar in in rural areas where like maybe a decision about planting a certain crop or installing solar panels or wind turbines, like for an outsider makes sense. But we don't understand all of the levels of dynamics that encourage those decisions. Right. And so I think that there's a there's like this in the sustainability literature policy discussions, there's there's a local level variation that is often not. Acknowledged. Like, you see, sometimes like, oh, the Paris. Paris climate agreement or something that didn't work because maybe there was a political disagreement. And this is vastly oversimplifying major international negotiations. But like, oh, there's this debate of, you know, should industrial countries subsidize or support developing countries to like skip stages and industrial development to go from coal like dirty technology to clean? But there's no finances to do that. Right. And and so I think it's like a similar thing in sustainability circles. You know, it's all well and good if a condo in downtown Toronto can have a green roofs. But. Why? What are we doing to like work on, you know, stormwater management in rural areas? Like, there's a lot of things that aren't sexy. For lack of a better term, that I think are go a long way towards meeting our sustainability goals. But just because of their nature. I It's frustrating because I don't see them getting on a common agenda.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:35:04] Well, it sounds like the more complex and context specific the interventions are, the more challenging they are to implement. And so, I mean, it's human nature and unfortunately societies are governed by the quick fixes and the bells and whistles. So we have to kind of get out or shift away from that kind of paradigm if we really want to implement meaningful change.
Garrett Morgan [00:35:28] For sure. Yeah. And maybe like that looks like. Different funding timelines or time horizons, right? At the municipal level, or if you look at procurement strategies that maybe have different components, one thing you know, as a planner, I was always so frustrated. And now as someone who occasionally drives around the city a more frustrated that that always seems like, you know, a new road is paved, for example, and then literally the next week somebody cuts an access channel across. Right. Right. So there's like developments on either side of a road. They're all maybe two or three months in different schedules. So what a city does is it paves the road at the beginning. And then five projects tear up the road and then the city pays it again. And then two other projects come on. And so there's this lack of, like, joined up thinking. And I think it's it's not only frustrating, I imagine, for the civil engineers who are in charge of managing paving contracts and everything else. But it's also frustrating for users, right? Like it's not great to always be under construction.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:36:51] There aren't any seasons, right? Yeah. We joke about that at winter and construction, so.
Garrett Morgan [00:36:57] Exactly. And it's also like a short term use of resources, like maybe instead of. So one of my first jobs is actually paving roads and I call it summer because there wasn't a lot else to do in my town and we would often paved road and then the next week tear up the brand new pavement. And a lot of it is because of the way contracts work. Like we had to do certain roads at this. Like if we didn't spend money at a certain time, we would lose it. So what you see, it's like this constant short term thinking, like you were mentioning about like that quick fix. But if all we do are quick fixes, then everything gets worse.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:37:42] Mm hmm. Well, it sounds like the incentives, as you were describing, are working in the favor of short, quick fixes and working against what we need, which has joined our policy coherence. Right. Which is harder. But we have so many reports showing to the importance of that. So. Well, I mean, it sounds like you've had a number of roles in the past and your current role is as a student at our university, which we're delighted about. So, you know, just sort of putting on your student hat, how do you think individuals like students and the public more generally can impact a transition to sustainability? You know, here in Toronto, but perhaps reflecting I had at other levels, national international levels.
Garrett Morgan [00:38:30] Yeah. Thank you. I like this question. And so I come at it kind of from a few different perspectives. One, my research right now is really as imagine many listeners. They have similar kind of stories as very bound up in COVID. Um, I'm not a I'm a social scientist working in a health field. I'm not a health scientist. As I find out every day when I work with my colleagues who are epidemiologists and nutritionists and health promotion specialists. But. One thing I think that the pandemic has shown the pandemic has shown us the way forward. Who our friends are, who's looking out for us, what we need and what may be is a luxury. When and if the pandemic goes away, we're probably going to go back to our normal before the pandemic hit. I imagine many of us have nostalgia for the normal, myself included, sometimes with money. Yeah, I think it's understandable. But what we what we can't forget is who showed up. Because I think, you know, you you read about it less so in the media now. But initially, I remember when, you know, everybody was talking about how neighbors are helping neighbors and, you know, the city or province maybe made certain funds directly available, like it was like a cash and a cash injection to two neighborhoods that they really leveraged that super quick. And like, you know, people are like, I never met my neighbors. And now I have all these connections. Like there's a, you know, being home and having to interact with each other, I think illustrated what a way of being that is very possible. Right. I mean, it didn't take an asteroid coming to the earth for us to pay attention to our neighbors and maybe realize, oh, like I don't really need to go to whatever entertainment thing all the time, like. So I think the way we can think about sustainability is that. And this is just new, a new way of thinking for me. So it's a little muddy. But if we think about what who showed up for us in our lives when the pandemic hit and as it continues. I think that's indicative of where we need to focus in order to move towards sustainability. And I mean in that. You know, a lot of the climate crisis and just general existential dread about the future, which I know many of you. I mean, I wake up with, like, and I go to bed with it. But the, you know, it tends to make you feel like you can't do anything. Just like the pandemic makes you feel like you can't do anything right unless you're a doctor. Like, what are you going to do? Even if you're a doctor, sometimes you can't do anything. So I think if we think of how did we respond to the pandemic, what many of us did was we became connected. We called people that we never call anymore. We, you know, knocked on our neighbors doors. Or maybe importantly, we also noticed other people were suffering. And I think a lot of times we just don't see that. And it also shows that we respond and we've responded. We without the government, without, you know, tax rebates or any of these other things, we stepped up and took care of our neighbors like.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:42:40] Well, it sounds like you're talking a bit about how social cohesion in communities is very much intricately related to creating a sustainable future. Kind of reminds me of that book that came out years ago, Bowling Alone by Pat McGrath, when he was talking about American society in particular. But, you know, people pursuing individual dreams and not paying attention to how those might actually impact on others within their communities. So it took a pandemic to sort of turn the gaze on how other people are living and how I can contribute to society. So thanks so much, Garrett, for joining today. Really a pleasure to chat with you.
Garrett Morgan [00:43:22] Thank you, Erica.
Erica Di Ruggiero [00:43:30] As Dr. Ocampo outlined, an essential part of designing healthier and more sustainable cities is getting better data on the people living in them in order to design more inclusive, equitable and representative social policy. This actually aligns with what so many public health experts have implored throughout the COVID 19 pandemic. Disaggregated data is needed in order to determine whether public health interventions are working, as well as who they are working for and who they are leaving behind. With disaggregated data, public health experts and policymakers will be better able to design interventions and equitably allocate social resources and hopefully improve or save more lives. From our conversation with Garrett, another essential part in designing sustainable cities entails including the voices of those who live in these cities in their planning and design. Context-specific interventions, while difficult to implement, are needed in order to develop coherent policies. Healthy cities in the city era is made with the support of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, whose mission is to bring urban focused researchers, educators, students, practitioners and the public together to explore and address complex urban challenges. You can find healthy cities in the era on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud and the Dow when a School of Public Health YouTube page. Join us for our next episode where we'll look at reducing inequalities. Thank you for tuning in and we look forward to speaking soon. Take care.