Doctors: West Harbour the Healthier Choice

By RTH Staff
Published July 28, 2010

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


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By JimmyS (registered) | Posted July 28, 2010 at 08:11:52

It's common sense across the board. Will common sense prevail at council though?

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted July 28, 2010 at 09:25:04

The messaging that has gone out that the poor want to be poor is so wrong, it is an injustice to those who struggle and who do not want to be there.

There has been a couple of groups out there, who organizing focus has been teaching people how to get up to a mic and tell their stories, it is not an easy thing to do and it is very emotional for some people. I applaud all those people who have had the courage to come forward.

But I have learned of something very disturbing and I must tell this, in placing people into jobs, it must be mandatory that all EMPLOYMENT SERVICE CENTERS, ensure that the employer clients they work with are checked out to ensure that they are following the labour laws under both Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. I have heard the words from one Executive Director of one of these so called Employment Centers who stated that ensuring the workers they are placing are in safe working conditions and that the employer is following all the labour laws, is not their responsibility.

I was equally disturbed that a person who sits as Chair on the Board of Directors, was a person and their company that I spoke about when I presented to the Standing Committee of Bill 139, The Temp Workers Bill, since my rights under both Employment Standards and the Occuaptioanl Health and Safety Act were violated.

The workers before us fought hard, some even died so that all workers can have rights and that those rights would be upheld. We need to cleanse all these not for profits of their inept people, who are part of process that is denying the working people their rights.

So if in placing a worker into a job, then if the worker either get injuried or god forbid dies because of their total lack of moral and ethics, then maybe people should start suing these places, until reform is complete.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted July 28, 2010 at 11:42:33

Interesting, I would have thought that any stadium below the mountain would be more hazardous to one's health due to the greenhouse effect the escarpment provides thereby trapping the air from the steel factories and other industry below the escarpment causing, potentially, more respiratory problems from soot etc.

And this from a medical journal:

"Hamilton's distinct topography (especially the Niagara Escarpment), downtown industrial core, and prevailing wind direction contribute to a consistent spatial pattern of pollution that has long been known to decrease from the industrial core outwards to the rest of Hamilton [86]."

Source: Sahsuvaroglu T, Jerrett M, Sears MR, McConnell R, Finkelstein N, Arain A, Newbold B, Burnett R.

Spatial analysis of air pollution and childhood asthma in Hamilton, Canada: comparing exposure methods in sensitive subgroups.

Environ Health. 2009 Apr 1;8:14. PubMed PMID: 19338672

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 28, 2010 at 13:14:21

HamiltonFan, McMaster did a comprehensive study of Hamilton's air quality a couple of years ago with a mobile air monitoring vehicle and found the highest rates of pollution to be along our highways. Burlington St, QEW, 403 and Linc all had the worst readings. In fact, one of the highest readings was near the Meadowlands. Years ago the air quality was much worse in the lower city, but those days are behind us.

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By TD (registered) | Posted July 28, 2010 at 13:46:26

Anyone who has cycled from downtown to Upper James, Meadowlands, etc. knows this by taste alone. When it comes to air pollution in Hamilton, traffic has surpassed industry.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted July 28, 2010 at 14:21:33

jason, you may be referring to the article below. Not sure, I would have to read it to see the particulars and I'm not an expert in the field. Now of course there would need to be some evidence that the type of pollution above the mountain was of a nature more detrimental to health than that of the industrial core indicated in the article I posted above. And what is the quality of any such comparative evidence, if it exists. Also one article such as this isn't usually enough to base firm conclusions on, one way or another.

Good work on this, you made me look further and that's what finding evidence and research is all about. (Thumbs up)

J Environ Monit. 2009 May;11(5):998-1003. Epub 2009 Mar 17.

Mobile monitoring of air pollution in cities: the case of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Wallace J, Corr D, Deluca P, Kanaroglou P, McCarry B.

Centre for Spatial Analysis, School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, CanadaL8S 4L8.

Air pollution in urban centres is increasing, with burgeoning population and increased traffic and industry. The detrimental impact on population health has been the focus of many epidemiological studies. Some cities are fortunate to have one, or at most a few, sparsely spaced fixed air quality monitors, which provide much needed daily data. However, fixed monitors do not accurately depict the spatial distribution of air pollution over the extent of an urban area nor can they target areas for focused surveys. We have used mobile monitoring to improve spatial coverage of pollution concentrations over the city of Hamilton, Ontario and to enhance our knowledge of the short-term bursts of pollution to which the population is exposed. Mobile surveys have been carried out in the city of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada since 2005. Results for two pollutants, oxides of nitrogen (NO(x)) representing traffic sources, and sulfur dioxide (SO2) representing industry sources, are presented. The data demonstrate very high levels of NO(x) exceeding 600 ppb, near major highways with SO2 levels up to 249 ppb near industrial sources. Both values significantly exceed the hourly maxima recorded by fixed monitors. The results also highlight the effect of wind direction on SO2 and NO(x) levels, and the affected population in each scenario.

PMID: 19436857 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Comment edited by HamiltonFan on 2010-07-28 13:24:45

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By puneetseth (registered) | Posted July 28, 2010 at 17:18:33


Appreciate the feedback and discussion. Air quality does represent a factor affecting the health of a population, and would come under the larger umbrella of 'environment' as a social determinant of health. I too am not an expert in the field of air quality measurement, but the overall consensus has been that Hamilton's air quality has substantially improved from the era of peak industry it the East end of the city. Furthermore, air quality alone does not equate to the quality of an environment by any means - it represents a single factor which in this case is debatable as to be a pro or con for West Harbour.

Capital investment into the West Harbour and downtown regions for clean up, infrastructure, fostering of direct employment opportunities and well as the net push to make services and facilities more accessible by public transit and walking/cycling have profound ramifications on the future population health of the area, and will reflect a forward-thinking stance on the part of the city to move away from suburban sprawl before intensifying the otherwise lacking core of the city. As mentioned before numerous times, a healthy city requires a healthy core. We need to get people out of their cars and walking/cycling/using public transit, not relying on backward concepts such as 'driveway to driveway' venues.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted July 28, 2010 at 17:40:23

puneetseth, I can appreciate what you are saying. As a sports fan who also happens to be a bit of a "tree hugger" and quasi environmentalist, I can't argue with anything in your second paragraph. If I had my way, I'd ban the automobile altogether to be honest. But society is what it is, the car does play a big role especially for those that can afford it and like using their cars. Going to TigerCats games, I use what I might call a blended approach, we take the car but park about 20 minutes or so from the stadium, for free (I'm cheap) and walk the rest. It works. I'll be honest, I don't like taking buses anymore, I like driving my vehicle and make no apologies at all for this feeling I get being in my vehicle. I like it and when we get our new 2011 Mustang in a week or so (wife wanted it bad and with the house paid for now, time to splurge a bit as they say, you only live once) , I'll like it even more than in our clunker Venture van that is 10 years old and leaks.

Let's face it, a stadium on the EM doesn't contribute to what people refer to as "urban sprawl" or suburbanization. That's there now and everywhere, stadium or no stadium and will continue stadium or no stadium in Hamilton and just about every other city on this planet. Yes, people should not use their cars as much, I walk to work 99 percent of the time, it takes about 22 minutes each way. I enjoy the walk. I also enjoy, as I say, getting in the car and going for drives on the weekend now and again and putting the music on in the car driving. Again, no apologies for this.

Hopefully the city and Bob can find investors for the WH to truly make it the site for the stadium for everyone. If investors can't be found, Bob will stick to the EM site where he has some investors. The city has every right to say no money for the EM site from the FF, I'm fine with that. And Bob can say no money from the TiCats for the WH unless the right deal is struck because he can't find investors for the site.

We just have to see how it works out.

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted July 28, 2010 at 23:07:32

From the article, social determinants of health include:

1. Employment -
How is the new stadium going to be used differently than Ivor Wynne? If its use will remain the same, it will not generate more jobs as the article suggests.

2. Environment -
If the proposed site for the stadium is environmentally unsound, it will have to be cleaned up. Otherwise, I don't see the connection with a stadium and the environment.

3. Health Services -
Hamilton is already an industry leader in the health sector. I don't see a connection with a stadium, however.

The article also states that social services are inadequate in Hamilton. This problem will disappear if gentrification due to downtown revitalization really gets going. Poor families will no longer be able to afford to live downtown and so they will move to more affordable housing elsewhere. This is a side-effect that nobody wants to talk about, but maybe it should be mentioned?

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted July 29, 2010 at 11:54:26

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted July 29, 2010 at 11:58:13

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