Three Hamilton medical doctors have written a letter of support for the West Harbour Pan Am Stadium location on the basis of public health. The following letter, written by Dr Dimitre Ranev, Dr Puneet Seth, and Dr Alain-Rémi Lajeunesse, is reprinted here with permission.
From a public health point of view, the west harbour is the healthier choice as a site for the future Pan Am Stadium. In April 2009, the city of Hamilton's Medical Officer of Health, stated that the city "should advocate for social determinants of health" (Social Determinants of Health Position Statement, Report to Mayor and Members of Board of Health, Elizabeth Richardson, Medical Officer of Health, Public Health Services).
Social determinants of health include employment, the environment and health services. We strongly advocate for the proposed West harbour development plan as it would directly benefit the health of our urban community through these determinants of health. As the 'Code Red' series for the Spectator stresses, 'band-aid solutions' for the health of the city's poor are ineffective.
We have before us an incredible opportunity to bring unprecedented capital to our city to foster positive change for the downtown core, its residents, and ultimately the health of the city as a whole.
The Ottawa Charter was published as a result of the first UN conference on health promotion. It concludes that, amongst others, environment, housing and employment opportunities are fundamental for the health of a population. (Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, First International Conference on Health Promotion. Ottawa, 21 November 1986)
North Hamilton is the unhealthiest district in the city, paralyzed by pollution, high rates of unemployment and substandard housing. North Hamiltonians bear the majority of the burden of pollution in the city.
Baltimore, which has similar post-industrial challenges, faced important health consequences in neighbourhoods surrounding brownfields (abandoned industrial lands) with elevated mortality from respiratory illness and cancer. (Litt et al. Examining Urban Brownfields through the Public Health “Macroscope”. Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.)
Cleaning the North Hamilton lands for redevelopment will be a costly undertaking likely only possible in the short term with the proposed Pan Am Games funding. The health of our urban community is dependent on this investment.
Social housing in Hamilton is inadequate, with record high waiting lists. (Wetselaar et al. Adequate, Suitable and Affordable? A Report on Housing in Hamilton. June 2010. Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton.) Further, Statistics Canada found that unemployment is rising in the city.
Pittsburgh, often used as an example for brownfield redevelopment, alleviated both these problems through urban renewal. Frick Park, a community that emerged from the redevelopment of the Pittsburgh steel lands, boasts recreational facilities, a commercial district and mixed-income housing. (Hirschhorn, J. Brownfields Projects to Improve Public Health, National Governors Association)
A Centrepiece of Pittsburgh's urban renewal projects was Heinz field, the new home of the Steelers. Choosing to place Heinz field on the waterfront led to redevelopment of brownfields and a community that "is slowly being filled with new mixed-use facilities", employment opportunities and affordable housing.
As medical professionals, we urge our city's council members to support the stadium site location that would most greatly benefit the health of our population.
Dr Dimitre Ranev
Dr Puneet Seth
Dr Alain-Rémi Lajeunesse