201610.06
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As seen on the Comox Valley Echo website, by Spencer Anderson.

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— Image Credit: Spencer Anderson / Echo Staff

The first-ever Vital Signs report for the Comox Valley was released this week, offering residents a data-focused portrait of the community.

The report, the result of a partnership between several community organizations, compiles federal provincial and local data on the region, touching on health, housing, homelessness, household income and a myriad of other topics.

But the report also draws on direct feedback from 1,024 Valley residents who were asked to give their views during a community survey over the summer, lending the report local resonance.

For example, when asked: ‘Do you generally have enough money to buy the things you need to live well?’, three per cent of respondents replied ‘never,’ while 32 per cent said ‘sometimes’ and 65 per cent replied ‘always.’

When asked if the majority of their family income came from working within the Comox Valley, 50 per cent replied ‘yes,’ while 19 per cent answered ‘no’ and 29 per cent answered they were retired.

The survey also listed respondents’ top three priorities for what factors make up a ‘good’ community, with 44 per cent indicating the environment and 42 per cent listing health and wellness. Thirty-seven per cent listed arts, culture and recreation.

Conversely, only 15 per cent listed ‘getting around and transportation’ as a priority, and just 16 per cent listed opportunities for youth, and 18 per cent said education and lifelong learning. One per cent said ‘none of the above.’

Respondents were also asked to rank healthcare delivery, local services and access to jobs among the multiple pages of questions published Tuesday.

“We really heard from the residents of this community,” said Jody Macdonald, project manager of the report.

Macdonald, who introduced the report alongside 2016 Vital Signs chair Harry Panjer, also praised local officials for their cooperation in compiling and reviewing data for the document.

The Comox Valley Community Foundation took the lead on the project in partnership with the United Way of Central and Northern Vancouver Island and the Comox Valley Social Planning Society and its supporters.

In an introduction to the report, Panjer said the hope is that the data collected in the document will be used businesses, governments and other organizations to inform and take action to improve the quality of life for residents.

Having the document is important for policy-makers to make informed decisions – something that can prove difficult without enough information, said Bill Anglin, a former Courtenay city councillor and United Way board director.

“It’s important to get that local data,” he said.

Norman Carruthers, president of the Comox Valley Community Foundation, agreed, adding the additional data can lead to tangible benefits.

Carruthers referred to Port Alberni as an example, stating that organizations in that community, which completed its own Vital Signs report last year, used the information to apply for and receive $1 million in grants for projects and programs.

“So Vital Signs can be a game-changer, it really can,” he said.

Pam Munroe, secretary for the Comox Valley Social Planning Society, lauded the document. Her organization was directly involved in forming the questions that went out to residents in the formal survey earlier in the year.

“It’s a very readable document, and you can see at a glance the things that interest you,” Munroe said.

Although the report is available in the short, visually-pleasing format referred to by Munroe, reams of more detailed data is also available online at the Comox Valley Community Foundation website.

Members of the public can download and view the quality of life survey report, which includes detailed survey responses. Also available is the detailed data and source report, which includes data compiled by local, regional, provincial and federal sources.