A library—one of our most familiar civil institutions introduced to most of us at a very early age—is enjoying a revolution.
No more a place to simply browse paper-bound titles in silence, they are being redefined in major cities everywhere as a community hub and resource destination where you not only find knowledge and entertainment, but meet members of your community, engage with like-minded individuals and learn in a multitude of ways.
These are necessary factors for our health and well-being as individuals and as an urban population. André Picard, health reporter for The Globe and Mail, will speak about this contemporary issue when he delivers “Hello, How Are You?”: Combatting Urban Isolation as part of the Edmonton Public Library’s Forward Thinking Speaker Series on Monday.
Picard, who just celebrated his 30th anniversary with The Globe and Mail, lives a very urban life in the heart of Montréal. He’s walking distance from work and surrounded by a plethora of community resources and centres, including a massive new library that stretches an entire city block.
“It’s really a hub where there’s a subway station there, and people go there to watch videos and use books and do research,” he explains. “And, to me, I think that’s the modern library. It’s very different, it’s not a place where they tell you to hush up anymore.”
While research has shown that urban people are healthier than their rural counterparts, it’s the problem of increasing disparity that really determines our overall health. Through his years of reporting, Picard has focused less on medicine and more on public policy—something most people miss as having an essential impact on our overall health.
“When you write about policy, you very soon realize that what matters to people’s health is not medicine, it’s what they call the social determinants,” says Picard. “So, their income, their education, their housing situation, their natural environment, their ability to have friends and a sense of belonging.”
As the name of the EPL’s series implies, forward thinking includes solutions to combat and overcome these social ills and understand the changes needed to have a healthier population as a whole. One thing Picard takes comfort in is the fact Canada’s current Minister of Health, Jane Philpott, has embraced these factors as a reality of our collective wellness.
“This was an issue that was kind of on the margins until a few years ago, and now, it’s sort of entering the mainstream conversation and that I find really uplifting,” says Picard.
While inclusive community hubs like libraries are working in that direction, larger ideas like minimizing marginalized groups are proven solutions.
“The Nordic countries, they have the least disparity and they are by far the healthiest countries on earth,” says Picard. “We have these token measures to make us and the majority feel better, but they’re not really about inclusion, and if you’re not included in society, and you don’t have a voice. It’s not really a democracy because we’re leaving an important chunk of people out.”
As with past speakers of the EPL’s Forward Thinking series, such as Dr. Gabor Maté, author Sir Salman Rushdie, olympic soccer star Karina LeBlanc and Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire, Picard is working ahead of the curve with bright insights and deeply informed ideas that can be learned and benefitted from.
Mon., May 15 (7 pm)
“Hello, How Are You?”:
Combatting Urban Isolation
Chateau Lacombe Hotel, 10111 Bellamy Hill, $10