Residents of Delta and the Fraser Health region are not as healthy as the rest of the province, prompting the health authority to reach out to local governments to try and change that.
A report from Fraser Health notes that with a median age of 43, Delta's population, which hit almost 101,000 in 2010, is older than the rest of the region at a median age of 39.
Currently, seniors aged 65 and up make up 16 per cent of the population, a number expected to rise to nearly 28 per cent by 2030. In contrast, the proportion of residents under the age of 19 is expected to drop from 23 per cent in 2010 to 20 per cent over the next 20 years.
Delta also has a higher rate of residents living with diabetes, asthma and hypertension compared to the rest of the province; and Delta has higher asthma rates than the Fraser Health average.
Cancer and heart disease were the cause of over half of all deaths in Delta in 2008, Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, medical health officer, told civic politicians last week. Many of the risk factors for these, and many other, chronic diseases are largely preventable - tobacco use, an inactive lifestyle, being overweight or obese and an unhealthy diet, she said.
In 2008, Delta recorded 666 deaths. Of those, 186 (27.9 per cent) were attributed to cancer, 176 (26.4 per cent) were caused by heart disease and 44 (6.6 per cent) were caused by cerebrovascular diseases (such as stroke).
Delta's smoking rates and rates of exposure to second-hand smoke are slightly lower than the provincial average at 16.7 per cent, but are "still of great concern," Brodkin said.
In studying Delta and the Fraser South region, Fraser Health found residents tend to eat fewer fruit and vegetables daily and are less physically active compared to the provincial average. Forty-four per cent of the population is overweight or obese.
"It is expected that if these trends continue, the rates of chronic disease in Delta will rise significantly over the next few years," the health authority's report states. "Activities that focus on chronic disease prevention, including healthy public policies such as smoking bylaws, and establishing good personal healthy living strategies, such as 30 minutes of exercise a day, healthy eating and quitting smoking, will contribute to combating these trends."
The health authority has also been evaluating local governments based on a list of "priority actions" that can lead to a healthier community, such as implementing healthy food policies, creating a "healthy food zone" around schools and adopting non-smoking bylaws.
Delta scored well in some areas but not so well in others. The municipality received recognition for its work promoting community gardens, healthy food vending machine policies, food waste management, nonsmoking bylaws and promoting cooking skills in children as well as its involvement in promoting a number of events designed to get employees and the community more active.
The health authority's report encouraged Delta to take further steps to fulfill a number of the priorities outlined, including developing bylaws or strategies to restrict new fast food outlets from opening near schools and develop community hubs to integrate programs focused on chronic disease prevention and healthy living.
"We hope through our presentation, you are inspired to engage us as a partner, that you realize that this partnership is integral to facilitating change in healthy living for residents of Delta," said Lynda Foley,
executive director of clinical programs and operations for Delta Hospital and community.
"Health is not just a personal choice, it's also about the environment you live in and municipal government has a role to play in facilitating the health of the community."
Following the presentation from Fraser Health, Delta's parks, recreation and culture department highlighted some of the initiatives the municipality is undertaking to promote and facilitate healthier living among residents.
"I don't think this scorecard has really reflected what Delta is doing," said Ken Kuntz, director of parks, recreation and culture.
"We are leaders in many, many areas."
Department staff outlined many civic programs, including the Get Fit Tips that have been appearing regularly on the municipal readerboards; events such as Move for Health Day and the annual Delta Triathlon; the healthy food policy for vending machines and concession stands; and free and reduced-cost programs to get people active.
"I think by and large Delta should be proud of what's been done so far," Kuntz said.