How well do you know your own neighbourhood? Some of the numbers might surprise you.
The updated Ottawa Neighbourhood Study, released Tuesday by the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Population Health, examines 97 city neighbourhoods, some of which you might not recognize by name. Each is clearly defined and carefully measured in terms of health and fitness, available green space, children’s readiness for school and other markers of community well-being.
City officials and community activists alike say they’re using the wealth of information provided by the ONS, but there’s plenty for individual citizens to chew on, too. The data is explained for the most part in plain language, and neighbourhood numbers are compared to city averages.
Comparisons between neighbourhoods may inflate or deflate one’s civic pride, but bragging rights aside, the study offers a picture of what may be going right and wrong in your area.
For example, the study measures neighbourhood political engagement, as indicated by voter turnout rates. On average, about 47 per cent of eligible voters across the city voted in the last municipal election, but in politically-active Crystal Bay-Lakeview, the turnout was 60.5 per cent. In Cummings, it was 24 per cent.
Rates of relative child poverty in the city are eye-opening and more than a little discouraging.
On average, about 17 per cent of children in Ottawa live below the low-income cut-off (LICO), but that rate varies significantly by area. It’s four per cent in the South Keys-Heron Gate-Greenboro West neighbourhood, but 57 per cent in Ledbury-Heron Gate-Ridgemont-Elmwood.
The odd thing is these two neighbourhoods are next door to each other.
The ONS draws a strong correlation between neighbourhood health and what sort of food is readily available. If grocery and specialty food stores are nearby, people are more likely to eat their veggies and less likely to be obese. Metro’s own Centretown neighbourhood has a mixed record here, poorly served in terms of grocery stores, but boasting 28 specialty food stores.
Similarly, a high density of fast food outlets tends to make for unhealthier neighbourhoods. Centretown residents are awash in delicious, fattening garbage, courtesy of 23 convenience stores and 148 fast food places, or 6.1 per thousand people.
“Of some concern is the fact that all of Centretown’s seven schools are within 500 metres (or less than eight minutes walk) of a fast food outlet,” the authors warn.
It’s just as well that 43.7 per cent of the locals walk to work, compared to the city average of seven per cent.
You can crunch your own neighbourhood numbers at www.ottawaneighbourhoodstudy.ca.
– Steve Collins lives, writes and walks in Ottawa; firstname.lastname@example.org.