City’s priorities represent positive steps for public health, says Dean of Faculty of Health and Social Development
The City of Kelowna’s emphasis on clean drinking water is an important step forward for the health of the community, says Gordon Binsted, Dean of UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Health and Social Development.
Yesterday Kelowna City Council announced its six areas of focus for the next three years, with clean drinking water at the top of the list. Binsted applauds the city’s willingness to take on the issue, as Kelowna’s frequent water quality advisories present a risk to public health.
“It’s getting harder to explain to our students from Canada and around the world why a modern city like Kelowna continues to have boil water advisories because of a failure to meet federal and provincial safety standards,” says Binsted. “The city is to be commended for making clean drinking water its number one priority and addressing one of the largest public health concerns in our community.”
Binsted points out that the UBC Okanagan campus provides a clear example of the issue, as it has been on a water quality advisory since 2006 and tap water on the campus is not safe for consumption unless treated.
“Unless filtered, the drinking water on campus is unsafe for people with weakened immune systems, the elderly and children,” adds Binsted. “A world-class university campus in a thriving city like Kelowna should not have to post health warnings on the taps.”
The problem of water quality is not limited to the UBC campus or the North Glenmore neighbourhood, says Binsted. Over the past decade, nearly a third of Kelowna residents have been under ongoing water quality advisories issued predominantly by irrigation or improvement districts. Binsted notes the situation presents a significant risk, particularly when considering Kelowna’s population of people aged 65 and over exceeds the national average.
Binsted also commends the announcement of the city’s commitments to a healthy and active community, and to a balanced transportation network.
“The data is clear on the health benefits associated with active transportation choices. As an avid cyclist, it’s encouraging to see progress being made on establishing a number of safe cycling routes to UBC, as well as projects like the rail trail network, which will link other major commuter destinations,” says Binsted. “Through initiatives like the Healthy City Partnership with Interior Health and UBC, the City of Kelowna is demonstrating a willingness to make decisions based on evidence – and that’s very encouraging.”