“At every stage of life, health is determined by complex interactions between social and economic factors, the physical environment and individual behavior. These factors are referred to as ‘determinants of health’. They do not exist in isolation from each other. It is the combined influence of the determinants of health that determines health status.” -The Earth Charter
Status of the Community
In 2006 Social Planning Cowichan published the first Status of the Community report. This report built on the six sector specific statements of the Visions 2020 process by adding four additional sectors and 65 indicators of social health. The report was aimed at giving Cowichan citizens a better understanding of the current social issues by measuring how the Region was performing in terms of meeting its goals.
At the time we wrote this report our world was – and is - facing enormous global shifts and changes. This includes climate change, the social impact that comes with massive migration patterns, a steadily ageing population and unemployment trends that are disturbing.
Here in the Cowichan Region, we are experiencing our own challenges. For example, growth and land development continues without a strategy to address such things as transportation, fresh water sustainability and land use. While we know that social, economic and environmental influences are intricately linked, much of our planning at local and provincial levels happens without this understanding.
As is happening throughout Canada, changes to our economy translates to insufficient government funding for such things as affordable housing, public day care and non-profit community service agencies. Indeed, Provincial plans for health care, education and social services lag behind the needs of the Cowichan Region.
Another complicating issue is the structure of our local government. Four municipalities and nine electoral districts makes collaboration and planning - in the best interests of Cowichan Region residents - challenging.
In compiling this report we have interviewed a wide swath of people representing the broadest cross section of the community. This includes students, volunteers, seniors, government representatives, firefighters, RCMP, child care workers, economic development workers, provincial government representatives, employees, recent immigrants, First Nations community leaders, health care workers and parents.
As a result of this report we are aware of how fortunate we are to live in the Cowichan Region. We are living in communities filled with interested and involved people. We believe there is a significant Cowichan collective social conscience. While the talent and commitment is certainly evident, the challenge is to work collaboratively so we are working together pooling our energy and resources – particularly in these challenging economic times.
Our Cowichan Region communities are blessed with such diversity. We can learn so much from our First Nations neighbours, particularly about the importance of valuing relationships and working together in the spirit of companionship and support.
People continue to move to the Cowichan Region from all over Canada and from other countries as well. They bring with them different perspectives and experience – a rich forum for learning. Indeed, we have much to learn from the descendants of our pioneer families, First Nations communities and the men and women who work in our resource based industries – fishing, agriculture and forestry. We are all living together in one of the most beautiful places in the world. By understanding each other and working together we can forge a strong, resilient community. And in doing so, we are better able to face the shifts and changes of time.