Community & Community Health

 Group “B” Needs Assessment – #26 Downsview-Roding-CFB

Group “B” Needs Assessment –  #26 Downsview-Roding-CFB

Community & Health

Community & Community Health 

A community is a unit of living things that share or hold a common interest with each other such as, religion, political views, and social views. Communities may also share a geographical area or a virtual space. Communities tend to have similar beliefs, needs, or practices that enhance their cohesiveness. A community may grow over time or diminish (Rustad, 2020). Community health is a branch within medical sciences that focuses on maintaining, protecting, and improving the population’s health rather than the individuals (Bradley et al., 2012). Community health not only focuses on the physical wellbeing of the people but also emotional and mental wellness, as well as an individual’s ability to take care of themselves and others. 

Chosen Neighbourhood Improvement Area

Downsview-Roding-CFB is a neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The area has a population of approximately 35,000 people (City of Toronto, 2018). It is an urban neighbourhood that consists of a multitude of ethnicities. The community is listed as a Neighbourhood Improvement Area (NIA).

Healthy Aspects 

When analyzing the health of a community, we need to look at the social, physical and mental well-being of all ages and stages of life. We can do this by examining affordability, stability, diversity, accessibility, equity and safety. This can help us determine healthy and unhealthy aspects of the community, groups within the community, and the overall population. 

When examining the Downsview-Roding-CFB community, we observe socially integrated housing. Family homes and single dweller homes cover the community with a small number of high-rises. Homes in Downsview-Roding-CFB are more affordable than in Toronto, as per City of Toronto (2018). Downsview-Roding-CFB homes are below the prices of homes in Toronto, and individuals living in Downsview-Roding have a low rate of movement (8%) compared to other areas of Toronto (City of Toronto, 2018). Living longer in the same neighbourhoods gives the members of the community a sense of belonging and wellbeing. Accessible schools, parks, and amenities surround the homes in the community. This provides an opportunity to socialize while promoting positive, healthy social behaviour. The Downsview Park is host to multicultural events and activities as well as a merchant’s market, which offers something for all the diverse cultural groups within this community (Canada Lands Company, 2021). 

The community has four rail transit stops and 266 street level stops as part of the Toronto Transit Commission in the neighbourhood. The subway and the bus routes offer affordable physical transportation for all income groups in the community population. The community also has easy access to the local highways, allowing mobility to and from the community. The Downsview-Roding-CFB community has 23 public schools, nine catholic schools and three private schools in the neighbourhood, along with 22 parks and recreation facilities, supporting education and leisure possibilities equally for all (The Enginuity Group Corp, 2021). 

The community hosts 24 pharmacies, and 19 grocery stores all easily accessible. The major hospitals that cover the Downsview-Roding-CFB are the acute care Humber River Regional Hospital, and SIG Orthopaedic & Medical Services facility. Downsview-Roding-CFB hosts over 1,000 clinics spread across the community. The community has a physical environment that is clean, with access to health care and all amenities, meeting everyone’s basic needs. 

Unhealthy Aspects

Immigrants and visible minorities make up 57% of Downsview-Roding-CFB community as per City of Toronto (2018), and unfortunately they encounter inequalities producing unhealthy aspects for this aggregate. This community has most of its recent immigrants coming from the Philippines, with 55% of the community stating English as a second language (City of Toronto, 2018). World Health Organization (2015), states that language can be a barrier to accessing needed quality health information and delivering appropriate health care when needed. 

City of Toronto, (2018) states that the Downsview-Roding-CFB community has 21.2% listed at the poverty rate, while 33.5% have unaffordable housing and 19% have unsuitable housing creating a lack of stability. This aggregate of the community will likely have a difficult time affording nutritious foods, childcare and/or proper housing. City of Toronto (2018) listed that 19.8% have a university education while 28% have only high school education, which is likely why the employment rate of the community sits at 56.8%, decreasing the chance at finding a good paying job. Bowden (2020), states that neighbourhoods with a large amount of immigrants were found to have higher rates of COVID-19 cases. This could be attributed to the living arrangements, and larger family numbers per household within this population. Poverty and unsuitable living conditions also leave the individuals desperate and in need. Aonso, (2018), states that Downsview-Roding-CFB was listed in the top 10 highest rates of crime, listing vehicle theft, and assault as the prominent crimes in the area, hindering safety. In September 2019, Downsview-Roding-CFB was included in the division of Toronto that had the highest number of gun violence and included the highest number of shootings (Jaksa, 2019).

Moraleja (2015), documented high rates of chronic disease including diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the Downsview-Roding CFB community. This could be attributed to the elderly, and/or ethnic background. Coronary Heart disease, hypertension and stroke are listed as the top three diseases in the Philippines, stating unhealthy eating habits as the primary cause (Sanchez, 2020). The group of immigrants have continued their eating habits in their new community, even though healthier options are available. 

History of Downsview-Roding-CFB

This neighbourhood is named after a farm, “Downs View Farm”, which was created in 1842 (Genco, 2007). The farm belonged to John Perkins Bull and was located in one of Toronto’s highest parts, hence the name “Downs View” (Genco, 2007). On the farm, there was a house that had an office, a courtroom, and a jail; the house is now a nursing home (Neighbourhood guide n.d.). Downsview used to be an agricultural area that hosted one post office, a school, and a convenience store (Neighbourhood guide, n.d.). A pillar for the community was Downsview United Church, which was built in 1870, and named a heritage property in 2008 as per Diane (2013). Another heritage property in the neighbourhood is the George Jackson House, representing the 19th-century farmhouse and is currently used as an office space (Diane, 2013). There are two other heritage properties in the neighbourhood. Downsview airport was formerly used as a training base for Canadian forces (Genco, 2007). After the Cold War, it was converted to a park that is now known as Downsview Park (Forsyth, 2007). There are two sides to the neighborhood; the Eastside is mainly a residential area, while the west side is primarily an industrial area. Downsview Park is on the western side. Initially, it was a military base, but it slowly changed into a place with mixed uses (Diane, 2013).

Environmental Scan – Virtual Windshield Survey


          We started our survey from Downsview Park. Within the five kilometer radius around the park we observed well-developed communities with large renovated European-style houses. The park was poorly maintained, likely due to COVID-19. People from different ethnic groups were seen in the park with their kids. Downview Park displayed formerly used aircraft and tanks from Canadian forces. As we moved away from the park towards Humber heights, there were more high-rise condos and apartment buildings, many of them crowded. This could play a role in the elevated cases of COVID-19 in the GTA. Residential houses in the area appeared older and many houses were poorly maintained. Pedestrians were seen walking their dogs and some families were out with their children. Transit was easily accessible and people were seen using shopping trolleys for their groceries by bus. Closer to Jane Street, the apartment buildings appeared poorly maintained as well, and many buildings were under construction. There are several small shopping plazas with ethnic and culturally specific foods noted, however no full-service restaurants were seen in the area. Schools are located within the community and appear maintained. Many religious centers like the Korean church, Chinese church, Indian temple mosque, and Roman Catholic church were noted. There was plenty of construction throughout the community, including a Metrolinx that was underway. Overall, diversity is noted in the wealth distribution around this community. Visible crowding was seen in some areas, particularly involving those who are considered a minority. The vast land area and the parks show tremendous scope for future development, which will help the community to grow and develop better standards of living. 

General Perception 

            Downsview-Roding-CFB community is located on Keele street and Wilson Avenue, North York. It has an interesting military background. Neighbourhood population is approximately 36,000 including 52% of females and 48% of males (City of Toronto, 2018). 47% of unmarried adults live with their parents, whereas 33% of seniors aged 85 years and older live alone (City of Toronto, 2018). Most of the community is made up of one-family households (City of Toronto, 2018). Italian, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Portuguese are the top five languages spoken in the community as per City of Toronto (2018). This community demonstrates cultural diversity including 45% being European and 23% being of East and Southeast Asian descent (City of Toronto, 2018). As for income, the total individual income percentage is 39%, which is higher than Toronto’s that is 30% (City of Toronto, 2018). 

Community Services & Programs

              This community was a former military base and the Canadian Forces facility is located within it. The 2002 World Youth Day Festival and the 2003 Molson Canadian Rocks were held in the airfield (YorkRegion, 2021). Headquarters of the 4th Canadian division, Joint Task Force Central and 32 Canadian Brigade Group are all located within the Denison Armoury as per the YorkRegion, 2021. Oakdale Golf and Country Club, Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery and green spaces such as Diana Park, Roding Park and Chalkfarm are also located within the community (YorkRegion, 2021). There are several community centres in the community such as; Ancaster community centre, Chalkfarm community centre and Roding community center (YorkRegion, 2021). Catholic, public and private schools are available in addition to a variety of recreational amenities such as playgrounds, splash pads, trails, club houses, outdoor pools, tennis courts, craft rooms, lawn bowling, sports fields, and arenas are also available in the community (YorkRegion, 2021). 

Community Partners

The following partners work within the community; affordable housing partners, apartment building operators, 24-hour respite site operators, emergency shelter operators, social housing providers, early learning and childcare partners, child development agency providers, and non-profit city partners (City of Toronto, 2021). The affordable housing partners, building operators, respite site operators, emergency shelter services and social housing providers all assist in providing the community with safe and accessible housing. These services benefit this community as 21% is considered to be in poverty and 33.5% of housing is considered unaffordable (City of Toronto, 2018). Childcare services, child development agency providers, and healthy school programs contribute by making the community “family friendly.” This is beneficial as 29% of the population are children and youth (City of Toronto, 2018).Lastly, they have a variety of grocery stores, gyms and pharmacies available to assist their community partners with things such as health and food programs (City of Toronto, 2018).

Community Data Gathering 

Data Collection – Methods & Sources

Our group decided to send two individuals to the Downsview-Roding-CFB area to complete a windshield survey and gather information. A windshield survey is an informal survey that uses observation for researching and assists in understanding conditions and trends of the neighbourhood, in addition to getting a visual overview of the community (Ballantyne-Rice et al., 2016). Therefore, the method we used was an observational method. Lobiondo-Wood & Haber (1998) state that this type of method can be the best way to structure environmental characteristics, such as the community we are studying. We used an unstructured observation approach which involves collecting descriptive information about the environment rather than a structured approach which would focus on specifying in advance particular things that should be observed (Lobiondo-Wood & Haber, 1998). We used several different sources to obtain information on our community, which included observation, Google maps and documents and records such as scholarly articles and government websites. 

Method Reasoning

Conducting the windshield survey was the fundamental source we used to build the necessary foundation for our project. The main sources of gathering data were utilized through the websites and journal articles as stated before. Due to the pandemic, we were unable to use in-person interviews and forums. We figured our chosen sources would work best for our group considering the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, in addition to the fact that we are not all from the GTA. Other methods and sources would not be feasible for this type of data collection. For example, in-person interviews and questionnaires are common to use when gathering information, however these are difficult to obtain when restrictions are in place, as it would not be considered safe and/or necessary to go through with. Hence the reason we chose the sources we did. 

Authority Figures in the Community

            The key informants, stakeholders and decision makers of the Downsview-Roding-CFB community include community groups, developers, government leaders, neighbourhood leaders and commission members. The Councillor and the ward for this community is Mr. James Pasternak (City of Toronto, 2021). According to the City of Toronto (2021) community development officers are working with the meeting necessities of the community. Prior to the pandemic, there were scheduled action plans for improving the quality of the community’s life; however, now it is temporarily suspended (City of Toronto, 2021). The critical informants of this community are religious leaders, community group leaders and informal leaders. There are few community centres, community recreational centers and sick kids center for mental health in the Downsview community and are working as stakeholders. They facilitate broader support to the community and conduct surveys, collect information and meet with government leaders to make sure this community meets their needs. 


            Overall, this community has a unique history. It offers its population an accessible and variety of educational, spiritual and cultural services and opportunities. The Downsview-Roding-CFB community was likely listed as an NIA due to some of its poor socioeconomic factors such as high crime rates and high low-income rate. Extra funding could be used to assist in things such as educational programs and to help maintain an overall “cleaner” environment. 


Aonso, C. (2018, September 20). Toronto Neighbourhoods Ranked By How Dangerous They Are Right Now Based On 2018 Crime Rates. Narcity.

Ballantyne-Rice, M., Chopp, K., Evans, L., Ho, V., Hsiung, W. P., Simon, M. A., & Donnelly, T. T. (2016). A Client-Centered community Engagement Project: Improving the health and wellness of older adults in an assisted living facility. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 42(8), 44–51.

Bowden, O. (2020, August, 20). Communities hit hardest by Covid-19 need more long term support from city, advocates say. CBC News.

Bradley, P., Bradley, P. M., & Burls, A. (2012). Ethics in public and community health. Routledge.

Canada Lands Company, (2021). Downsview parks.

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Jaksa., W. (2019, September 27). Toronto neighbourhoods with the highest rates of gun violence.

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Moraleja, M. (2015, April 11). Downsview-Roding CFB. Prezi.

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The Enginuity Group Corp (2021). Welcome to Downsview-Roding-CFB neighbourhood, Toronto. SchoolQ.

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