Out of Toronto’s 140 listed neighbourhoods, 23 have a very high premature death rate affected in part by other factors within their immediate community, according to research from St. Michael’s hospital.

Urban HEART @ Toronto is a tool to examine neighbourhoods and diagnose key problems in specific areas that affect the health and well being of the local population.

The tool measures Toronto’s neighbourhoods according to five categories: economic opportunities, social and human development, governance and civic engagement and physical environment and infrastructure and and population health.

“A quick look at the dashboard tells us that every neighbourhood in Toronto has strengths and assets to build on, but there is also troubling inequity in our city,” said Dr. O’Campo, an epidemiologist.

“Too many neighbourhoods are vulnerable and falling behind. In fact, almost half of all of Toronto’s neighbourhoods are experiencing yellow caution indicators across all domains. This doesn’t necessarily mean these neighbourhoods are at risk — but they are areas that are experiencing some issues of concern, and need a closer look to find out why.”

Premature mortality rates represent the number of deaths among people under the age of 75.  Approximately 72 per cent of deaths of people under age 75 are avoidable and 65 per cent preventable, according to the research.

The project, released online, rates each neighbourhood with a green, yellow or red marker,

Green, as you’d expect, means the area is doing quite well, yellow has room for improvement in many areas and red reveals there are a lot of problems in the neighbourhood contributing to the health of the residents.

While many cities have a high rate of poverty in their urban core, Toronto’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods mainly surround the more affluent downtown.  

It’s a “U-shaped” distribution of poverty, according to the report.

In Toronto, like most places in the world, the areas with the lowest income and higher rates of unemployment suffer the most in terms of health and well-being.

The study adds that the challenges for many neighbourhoods are cyclical.

“Our chances of encountering diseases such as tuberculosis, or developing chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease increase when we don’t have the resources necessary to foster  well-being,” it suggests.

“These resources can include stable housing, safe streets, economic security, and healthy food. Moreover, these challenges are cyclical: poor health can, in turn, lead to lost wages, isolation, and increased difficulty taking care of ourselves and our families.”

The tool was developed by a United Nations agency and modelled on a similar one made by the World Health Organization. According to O’Campo this will benefit Toronto, as the city will be able to draw on the experience of other cities and consistent methods.