Back to top

Resources to increase knowledge and support the development of health-enhancing municipal by-laws

Contents

I Introduction
II Overview of Resources for the Development of Municipal By-laws that Support Healthy Choices
III Conclusion
IV Resources
V References

Submitted by Kim Bergeron, Health Promotion Consultant, Health Promotion Capacity Building, Public Health Ontario

I Introduction

Land-use and transportation planning has a profound effect on all aspects of life. This type of municipal planning dictates how communities are physically and socially constructed to meet or not meet our daily needs (e.g., housing, access to food, employment, recreation, education). [1] It also promotes or limits transportation opportunities (e.g., public transit, walking, cycling, and the use of the private automobile) for people moving within and across communities.  [1] Consequently, these environmental factors influence and constrain individual choices related to physical activity and healthy eating. [1, 2] For example, planning policies can make walking or cycling easier by ensuring the provision of sidewalks and cycling lanes/pathways, or they could limit accessibility to healthy food choices. In addition to community planning, municipalities can pass by-laws.

By-laws are legislation established by a local government, such as municipal council, to resolve issues and address the needs of citizens. [3] By-laws are typically developed when there is no relevant federal or provincial legislation in place or when the municipality wants to strengthen existing legislation. [3] They are also a way to operationalize overarching municipal resolutions (a record of decisions or wishes of council) and policies (a guide on how to implement a decision or directive). [4] For instance, zoning by-laws operationalize Official Plan policy statements and provide for its day-to-day administration. An Official Plan is a statutory document which sets out long-term land-use policy for growth and development in a municipality. [3] Additionally, by-laws can increase health-enhancing environments (e.g., by-laws that support physical activity, access to healthy foods) and decrease health-threatening environments (e.g., limit exposure to second hand smoke and/or alcohol products) by creating supportive physical and social environments that enable people to have opportunities to make healthy choices.  [4]

Public health and health promotion professionals are being encouraged to work collaboratively with municipal decision makers and community stakeholders to influence the enactment of health-enhancing municipal by-laws.  [5] The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of resources developed by Public Health Ontario to increase knowledge and support for the development of municipal by-laws that support healthy choices   

II Overview of Resources for the Development of Municipal By-laws that Support Healthy Choices

Public Health Ontario has developed a number of resources [9] to support public health and health promotion professionals and others interested in influencing the development of municipal by-laws that support healthy choices. This section introduces the resources developed and provides a brief overview of their purpose. All the resources mentioned are publically available at www.publichealthontario.ca/bylaw

1.  Municipal By-law Development and Public Health: A Primer  [6]

Released this month was a primer designed to explain the process for supporting and influencing the development, adoption and implementation of municipal by-laws to support healthy choices.This resource provides a well-organized, evidence-informed process for health promotion and public health professionals to engage in municipal by-law development. The first section frames by-law development as a health promotion strategy and outlines how engaging in this type of policy development supports the Ontario Public Health Standards (e.g., to develop and implement healthy public policy to create or enhance supportive environments).  [7] The second section features Public Health Ontario’s eight steps to developing a municipal by-law [8] and provides additional tips and resources for each of the steps outlined.

2.  At a Glance: The Eight Steps for Developing a Municipal By-law8

This two-page resource provides an overview of the eight steps for developing a municipal by-law. The eight steps are as follows:

  1. Identify, describe and analyze the problem.
  2. Develop and assess by-law options.
  3. Assess readiness for by-law development.
  4. Identify and understand municipal decision makers and influencers.
  5. Build support for the by-law.
  6. Draft the by-law.
  7. Facilitate adoption and implementation of the by-law.
  8. Monitor and evaluate the by-law. Also included are the purpose for each step and ways to model and/or implement the step.

3.  Focus On: By-law Development as a Health Promotion Strategy [9]

Originally written as an OPHE bulletin article, [10] this publication provides a rationale for why by-law development can be considered a health promotion strategy. It makes the connection to the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion [11] and outlines how educating people about healthy lifestyles is, by itself, insufficient.  [12] This publication also highlighted that municipal by-laws have the potential to address policies and actions outside the health sector [13] and how by-law development is an opportunity to increase access to the key determinants of health such as income, education, housing, and employment. [14] A key feature of this resource is the inclusion of a case study for developing a municipal smoke-free outdoor spaces by-law.

4.  Defining Municipal Resolutions, Policies and By-laws [15]

The purpose of this resource is twofold:

  1. To identify the difference between the terms: municipal resolutions, municipal policies and municipal by-laws.
  2. To describe how these three terms are interconnected. The three terms are defined, their core function identified and an example provided. This resource provides evidence of the importance to understand the function of each term and ways that they canalign with each other.

5.  By-law Development Webinar Series

This webinar series ran December 2013 to March 2014 and featured three topics:

  1. by-law development as a health promotion strategy [16]
  2. by-law development at a glance [17]
  3. understanding decision makers and influencers. [18]

The format included lecture style, guest lecturers (Chris Politis, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, and Nicole Niedra, Niagara Region Public Health) and case study examples. In addition, two question and answer resources were developed related to by-law development as a health promotion strategy [19]  and understanding municipal decision makers and influencers. [20]  Both these resources and the webinar slides are publicallyavailable at the link provided above.

III Conclusion

In conclusion, it is anticipated that those who read and/or follow the information outlined in the resources have the potential to increase their policy development capacity. Moreover, given the collaborative nature of by-law development, engaging in this process provides opportunities for stronger stakeholder collaboration to create healthy, sustainable communities.

To learn more, join me on December 12, 2014, for a webinar that will provide an overview of the resources highlighted in this publication, with special emphasis on the newly released primer. To register visit http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/LearningAndDevelopment/Events/Pages....

IV Resources

V References

  1. Bergeron, K, Levesque L. Designing active communities: A coordinated action framework for planners and public health professionals. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2014; 11 1041-1051.
  2. Ries, N, Bailey, TM, Caulfield, T. Public health law and policy in Canada. 3rd ed.Markham, ON: LexisNexis Canada Inc., 2013.
  3. MacLean MV, Tomlinson, JR. A user’s guide to municipal by-laws. 2nd ed. Markham, ON: LexisNexis Canada Inc., 2008.
  4. Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). Defining Municipal resolutions, policies and by-laws. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. 2014.
  5. Gostin L. Legal foundations of public health law and meeting future challenges. Public Health 2008; 120: 8-15.
  6. Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). Municipal By-Law Development and Public Health: A Primer. Toronto, ON: Queen's Printer for Ontario; 2014.
  7. Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care [homepage on the Internet]. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario; c2013. Ontario Public Health Standards 2008. Updated 2013 January 23 [cited 2013 January 24]. Available from: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/oph_standards/d....
  8. Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). At a glance: The eight steps for developing municipal by-laws. Toronto. ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. 2013.
  9. Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). Focus on: By-law development as a health promotion strategy. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. 2014.
  10. Bergeron K. By law development as a health promotion strategy. Ontario Health Promotion E-Bulletin. March 21, 2014; 837: 1-3.
  11. World Health Organization. Ottawa charter for health promotion: An international conference on health promotion, the move towards a new public health 17–21 November. c1986. Available from: http://www.who.int/healthpromotion/conferences/previous/ottawa/en/
  12. Nykiforuk CIJ, Atkey KM, Nieuwendyk LM, Raine KD, Reed S, & Kyle S. Edmonton, AB: School of Public Health, University of Alberta; Policy readiness tool: understanding a municipality’s readiness for policy change and strategies for taking action. 2011. Available from: http://policyreadinesstool.com/wp-content/uploads/Policy-Readiness-Tool_...
  13. World Health Organization and the Government of South Australia. Adelaide statement on health in all policies: Moving towards a shared governance for health and well-being. [document on the Internet]. 2010 [last accessed 2013 Dec 9]. Available from: http://www.who.int/social_determinants/hiap_statement_who_sa_final.pdf
  14. Mikkonen J, Raphael D. Social determinants of health: The Canadian facts. Toronto: York University School of Health Policy and Management [document on the Internet]. 2010 [last accessed 2013 Dec 9]. Available from:  http://www.thecanadianfacts.org/The_Canadian_Facts.pdf
  15. Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). Defining Municipal Resolutions, Policies and By-laws. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. 2014.
  16. Bergeron K (Public Health Ontario). By-law development as a health promotion strategy [webinar]. Presented at: Public Health Ontario. [2014] Feburary 6; Toronto, ON. Available at: http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/LearningAndDevelopment/Events/Docum...
  17. Bergeron K (Public Health Ontario). By-law development at a glance[webinar]. Presented at: Public Health Ontario. [2014] Feburary 24; Toronto, ON. Available from: http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/LearningAndDevelopment/Events/Pages...
  18. Bergeron K (Public Health Ontario). Understanding decision makers and influencers[webinar]. Presented at: Public Health Ontario. [2014] Feburary 24; Toronto, ON. Available from: http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/LearningAndDevelopment/Events/Pages...
  19. Bergeron K (Public Health Ontario). Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). By-law development as a health promotion strategy webinar questions and answers. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario; 2014.
  20. Bergeron K (Public Health Ontario). Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). Understanding municipal decision makers and influencers webinar questions and answers. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario; 2014.