Qual­ity of life is the fo­cus of sur­vey

Truro Daily News - - OPINION - Jim Vib­ert Jim Vib­ert, a jour­nal­ist and writer for longer than he cares to ad­mit, con­sulted or worked for five Nova Sco­tia gov­ern­ments. He now keeps a close and crit­i­cal eye on provin­cial and re­gional pow­ers.

Are the things you do in your life worth­while?

Af­ter you pon­der the sheer scope and depth of that in­quiry, rate how worth­while on a scale from one to 10, where 10 is to­tally and one is the op­po­site end of the spec­trum.

That ques­tion, along with the equally soul-search­ing, “how sat­is­fied are you with your life in gen­eral?” comes to­ward the end of 85 ques­tions – many of them multi-part – on En­gage Nova Sco­tia’s sur­vey to mea­sure the qual­ity of Nova Sco­tians’ lives.

Over the past few weeks, in­vi­ta­tions to com­plete the qual­ity of life sur­vey ar­rived in more than 80,000 mail­boxes – one in five house­holds – across Nova Sco­tia. En­gage Nova Sco­tia and its part­ners in the project hope for a re­sponse rate of about 10 per cent, spread fairly evenly across the prov­ince.

The Nova Sco­tia qual­ity of life ini­tia­tive, says En­gage NS, is all about mea­sur­ing what mat­ters and us­ing the re­sults to im­prove the daily lives of Nova Sco­tians.

Suc­cess in the first part ob­vi­ously de­pends on Nova Sco­tians com­plet­ing the sur­vey, which is open un­til July 5 and re­sponses are con­fi­den­tial. Those who do re­spond have a chance to win groceries and pro­vide “fresh per­spec­tives” that will “prompt ac­tion that im­proves the well­be­ing of all Nova Sco­tians across eco­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal, and cul­tural lines.”

At the risk of un­der­state­ment, that seems am­bi­tious.

En­gage Nova Sco­tia is a tiny non-profit spon­sored by the prov­ince, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and pri­vate busi­nesses, with part­ner­ships that span the pub­lic, pri­vate, aca­demic and non-profit sec­tors. Its mis­sion is to “cultivate en­gage­ment” and “cat­alyze ac­tions” aimed at strength­en­ing so­cial co­he­sion and im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life of all Nova Sco­tians.

The Nova Sco­tia Com­mu­nity College is a part­ner in the qual­ity of life ini­tia­tive, and lead­ers from NSCC cam­puses across Nova Sco­tia have com­bined with busi­ness and com­mu­nity groups to cre­ate 10 lo­cal lead­er­ship teams, first to get the word out about the sur­vey, and later to en­sure the re­sults lead to con­crete ac­tion.

The sur­vey – the first of its kind in Canada – is be­ing ad­min­is­tered by the Cana­dian In­dex of Well­be­ing out of the Uni­ver­sity of Water­loo. It poses a broad range of ques­tions cov­er­ing eight key ar­eas re­lated to the qual­ity of life Nova Sco­tians are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

There are ques­tions about health, about po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment, the state of the en­vi­ron­ment, how folks spend their leisure time and whether they have ac­cess to cul­tural, recre­ational and ed­u­ca­tional as­sets.

The sur­vey delves into the vi­tal­ity of Nova Sco­tia com­mu­ni­ties, gaug­ing peo­ple’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in pro­fes­sional, po­lit­i­cal, labour and com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions; con­nec­tions with fam­ily, friends and neigh­bours, and lev­els of trust in lo­cal and provin­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

Danny Graham, CEO – chief en­gage­ment of­fi­cer – with En­gage Nova Sco­tia, notes that pol­i­cy­mak­ers tra­di­tion­ally have ac­cess to reams of eco­nomic data upon which to base de­ci­sions, but that pro­vides an in­com­plete pic­ture.

“We think that if we have a more com­plete pic­ture of how Nova Sco­tians are do­ing in all ar­eas that mat­ter to them, we’ll be bet­ter equipped to make de­ci­sions that help ev­ery­one live a good life.”

Asked how to mea­sure suc­cess, 68 per cent of Nova Sco­tians re­ply, “By grow­ing the econ­omy,” but 81 per cent said, “By im­prov­ing our qual­ity of life.”

“If we treasure it, we should mea­sure it,” Graham quipped.

Bryan Smale, di­rec­tor of the Cana­dian In­dex of Well­be­ing at Water­loo be­lieves the in­for­ma­tion gleaned from the sur­vey can lead to op­por­tu­ni­ties to think cre­atively and gen­er­ate in­no­va­tive ap­proaches that ad­dress the com­plex qual­ity of life is­sues peo­ple say are im­por­tant to them.

Many Nova Sco­tians will tell you there is some­thing spe­cial about the qual­ity of life in the prov­ince, but that’s cer­tainly not the case for all.

The sur­vey’s sponsors be­lieve it can im­prove un­der­stand­ing as to why some peo­ple are do­ing well and oth­ers are not.

If it can do that, and if it leads to bet­ter pol­icy, pro­grams and choices that help those who aren’t do­ing well, the qual­ity of life ini­tia­tive rates top marks on the “worth­while” scale.

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