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Survey aims to take region’s pulse

From perceptions about crime and safety to the state of garbage collection and recycling, Waterloo Region’s Vital Signs survey solicits feedback from residents about a range of quality of life issues. This year’s iteration, the third, wraps up on Monday, so the push is on for more participants.

For Woolwich residents, there’s an extra incentive to take part: if at least 300 complete the online survey, the township can get detailed information mined from the data. That will allow the township to gauge the quality of life here, and help develop future priorities, said Laurel Davies Snyder, Woolwich’s economic development and tourism officer.

Vital Signs is an annual community checkup organized by the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation and the Cambridge & North Dumfries Community Foundation. It measures the vitality of the region by gauging development in 11 areas deemed critical to quality of life: art and culture; belonging and leadership; environment; gap between the rich and poor; getting around; getting started in our community;  health and wellness; housing; learning; safety; and work.

“It’s a way to energize the community and to get people to talk about the issues and the opportunities in the region,” KWCF spokesperson Tracy Van Kalsbeek said of the survey.

In participating, residents not only provide feedback, but also learn something about the community in which they live. While essentially a snapshot of life in the region, the Vital Signs initiative allows residents to get some idea of where the region is headed. As more surveys are done over the years, trends will emerge, proving even more helpful to governments and agencies looking to improve life here, she added.

Last year’s effort, for instance, shows some strengths and weaknesses.

There was some progress, in the form of lower unemployment rates, safer streets, more waste diversion, and higher family incomes. But there were also some areas for improvement.

“Waterloo Region’s Vital Signs also describes a community where obesity is on the rise and activity levels are dropping. Many of our residents smoke, drink, and don’t eat a well balanced diet. We also live in a place surrounded by cultural opportunities, yet we don’t regularly attend events or visit cultural establishments.”

The survey can be found at www.wrvitalsigns.ca. The organizations are accepting input until 4 p.m. Monday (Aug. 24). The full report will be released Oct. 6.

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