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Welcome to HC Link's blog! Our blog will provide you with useful information on healthy community topics, news, and resources, as well as information on HC Link’s events, activities, and resources. Our bloggers include HC Link staff and consultants, as well as our partnering organizations, clients, and experts in the health promotion field.

Please note: opinions in posts are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of HC Link or our funder.

We look forward to engaging in thought-provoking conversation with you!

To view past blogs, please click on the home icon below left.

Kyley works for Parent Action on Drugs (PAD) and is the Project Coordinator, Communications for HC Link. In 2011, she received her Masters in Public Health, Health Promotion, at the University of Alberta. She has experience with community-based research, knowledge translation, evaluation, and social media.

‘Everyday Superheroes’ recruited during Parachute Safe Kids Week to promote safe, active transportation and combat the #1 killer of Canadian children

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By Julie Taylor, Parachute

This week is Parachute Safe Kids Week, a national campaign to raise awareness about predictable and preventable childhood injuries in Canada. This year’s campaign focuses on promoting safe and active transportation, which includes walking, cycling, skateboarding, scootering and other wheeled activities.

Each year, non-motorized wheeled activities lead to approximately 4,700 child injuries. Another 2,400 children are injured as pedestrians. As jurisdictions and organizations across Canada (including Parachute) adopt the Vision Zero approach, it’s important to keep a focus on our most vulnerable road users including child pedestrians and active transportation users. One fatality or serious injury on our roads, especially regarding children and youth is unacceptable.

This year’s theme is everyday superhero, which encourages children to become leaders in road safety by learning how to stay active and keep themselves and their loved ones safe on their travels to and from school, to the bus stop, and around their neighbourhood. Parents can guide their child’s activities by modelling safe behaviour and practices on the road, and also being aware of their child’s skill level.

This Safe Kids Week, Parachute is encouraging children and parents/caregivers to leave the car at home and choose active transportation whenever possible. The fewer cars on the streets and the more people walking, biking and wheeling, the safer it is!

Keep kids safe and active on their travels with these top tips:

walkWalk: Pedestrian Safety Tips

  • Teach kids at an early age to look left, right and left again when crossing the road.

  • Adults or older children need to walk with younger children and teach them how to cross the road safely. Young children can’t properly judge safe gaps in traffic or speeds.

  • Always cross the street at corners. Use traffic signals and crosswalks. Up to 25% of pedestrian collisions occur at mid block locations.

  • Walk on sidewalks or paths. Sidewalks can reduce pedestrian collisions by 88%. No sidewalks? Walk facing traffic as far away from vehicles as possible.

  • Phones down, heads up when walking. Teach kids to put phones, headphones and other devices down when crossing the street. Child pedestrians are up to 30% more likely to be struck or nearly struck by a vehicle when distracted by a cellphone.

  • Be seen. Teach kids to be especially alert and visible to drivers when walking after dark. Brightly coloured clothing and reflective gear help increase 360- degree visibility. 55% of pedestrian deaths occur at night and/or with low- light conditions.

bike2Bike: Cycling Safety Tips

  • Protect your head, wear a helmet. A properly fitted and correctly worn helmet can cut the risk of serious head injury by up to 80%. Using the 2V1 rule for helmet fitting (two fingers above eyebrows, straps form a ‘v’ under ears, no more than one finger space between strap and chin) will ensure better safety before taking a ride.

  • Check your ride. Ensure your kids’ bikes are adjusted correctly for their height and have them do a bike check before riding to ensure tires are inflated and brakes are working properly.

  • Be prepared. Bike safety training and knowing the rules of the road are important for the safety of riders.

  • Pick family friendly routes. Protect young riders by using designated riding areas when possible. These areas (often governed by bylaws) are in place for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

  • Stay on the right side of the road. Always ride on the right side of the road in the same direction as traffic to make you more visible to drivers. Adults should lead kids by cycling single file and having them repeat hand signals. Drivers should also give cyclists space on the road and be aware of the risks when opening car doors.

  • Assess your child’s navigational skills before riding on the road. Children develop better physical and cognitive skills around age 10 – but their ability to ride on the road may depend on their experience, environment and development. Not sure if your child is ready to ride solo? Consider traffic volume, the number of intersections and your child’s level of experience before making a decision.

  • Be seen and heard. Make sure drivers can see you at all times. Wearing bright, reflective clothing and equipping your bike with flashing lights and reflectors help increase 360- degree visibility. A working bell will also alert other riders and pedestrians when you are close or passing.

wheelWheel: Other Wheeled Activity Safety Tips (skateboarding, scootering etc.)

  • Wear the right helmet for the activity. Bike helmets can be used for in-line skating and scootering, but skateboarding helmets should be used for skateboarding and longboarding; they cover the back of the head better and can protect against more than one crash (see Which Helmet for Which Activity resource).

  • Always wear the gear. Along with a helmet, wear wrist guards to help prevent broken bones, sprains and wrist and arm fractures. Elbow and knee pads should also be worn for in-line skating.

  • Be seen. Make sure drivers can see you at all times. Wear brightly coloured clothing and reflective gear to help increase 360- degree visibility.

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Improve the Built Environment to Promote Food Access in your community: Questions, Responses and Helpful Links from our online discussion

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

builtenvirofoodaccessheaderOn April 13th 2017, HC Link consultant Paul Young from Public Space Workshop joined with 50+ participants to share ideas, resources and information to help us improve the built environment to promote food access in our communities.

This online discussion focused on the physical/built environment, which is one key component of the overall food environment. Research and our experience shows us that the built environment can affect food access. There is a distinction between programming for food access in contrast to providing physical space (e.g. a municipal parking lot available for a food market) which can then support programming.

Below, we are sharing the questions that were asked, responses from Paul and participants, as well as helpful links and resources. Feel free to scroll to questions that appeal to you, and don’t forget to check out additional resource links at the bottom of the blog! If you have any remaining questions, or want clarification on the information provided, you can email Kyley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Poll 1.

The discussion began with a few poll questions to get participants thinking about how the built environment can affect food access–

How close are you to your healthy food store where you regularly shop?
Is your community designed with food disbursed throughout it or is it located in one area of town?
Some communities are disproportionately affected by lack of access to healthy food. For people in your community that may be on fixed or low income, check all that apply. (Options included healthy food stores within walking distance, having food banks, community kitchens, or food markets nearby, and having more unhealthy vs healthy places nearby).

After the poll the discussion was guided by questions submitted by participants.

Questions and Reponses

1. What is a food swamp? What is a food desert? How can we identify where there is a need in my community?

  • Food Swamp – areas with more fast food and unhealthier food options

  • Food Desert – areas with limited healthy food options

  • Taking a geographical perspective on food access – you can map out food resources (healthy and unhealthy) to see where there is a need in your community.

  • Transportation is a key issue for food desserts.

  • Working with planning departments, you can look for ways to incentivize grocery stores to come into the community.

  • Zoning – (e.g., Toronto’s Residential and Commercial or RAC zoning). Toronto has been experimenting with this and looking for ways to incorporate shops into the bottom of higher apartment residential buildings. Planning departments have started to open up this discussion – to look at introducing mixed land uses and incentives for shops to be located there (in areas where there are food desserts).

  • Toronto Public Health/ Food Share – Pop up markets and mobile food markets – having a market on a regular schedule to bring food into the community.

  • Healthy Corner Stores Initiative – Toronto Public Health has piloted a program to encourage convenience stores to sell some healthy food options.

2. What strategies can you suggest to reduce food swamps? At a policy level, when an area is zoned for commercial how do you control what types of food outlets are approved?

  • There is a chain of agreements that fall into place – planning departments can have some influence in this and can work with developers in early stages when tenants are determined.

  • Example - PAN AM games village (now the Canary District) in Toronto – they had an influence over what types of establishments could lease store front locations. There was a restriction on chains (although there could still be independent unhealthy shops), but that is example of influence.

  • Still early days on working with developers on this.

  • Montreal and NYC seem to be leading the charge on this.

Participant shared:

  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit collaborates with the planning department and we are invited to pre-cons with the planners. We attend and then try to educate the developers about the benefits of healthy foods vs. risks of unhealthy foods, or highlight they are close to a school so we don't recommend fast food/convenience store. They don’t have to listen to our advice but many of the developers are interested and do take our suggestions.

3. In rural areas, where there is limited/no public transportation, do you have any suggestions for how people can access food (whether through grocery stores, farmers markets, etc.)?

  • One strategy - Work with planning department to get food stores to locate near the downtown – where people are living and where transit may be connected.

  • There is a current trend to locate retail by highways – this makes it very difficult if you don’t have a car. Speak with your planners.

  • Strategy – connect with farmers.

    • Look for opportunities for Good Foodbox model.

    • Community shared agriculture (CSA)– where there are a series of drop spots where people can pick up produce at a location that is easy/in close proximity to where they are living.

    • Farm gate retail – where farmers can bring produce into town, such as a weekly market, or set up stand/money box at the end of their driveway (may need access to car still for this option).

    • Shuttles and Ride Sharing – organize weekly trips to grocery store and share transportation costs. Some agencies might have access to a shuttle bus – might be a way to connect pick up and drop offs to food stores.

Participants shared:

4. What resources/education documents exist to assist in enabling stakeholders and decision makers to understand the impact of transportation on food access?

  • Maps can help – you can start to see where concentrations of food stores are and see where populations of higher need are living, and calculate the distance between the two. You can layer in information about the transit system and see where they are/are not connected.

  • Food By Ward – connected to the work of Toronto Food Policy Council. They have produced a number of maps that serve as a good model for mapping out resources (including community kitchens, markets, food stores, etc.)

  • Toronto Urban Growers are also doing mapping work to show where food resources are located.

  • Mapping helps to point out needs and gaps.

  • Housing and Transportation Index – looks at cost of housing and transportation combined. We might think we have affordable housing, but do we when we consider transportation in car dependent locations?

  • Shuttles, cab sharing, changing a transit system to connect higher need communities with food stores can be explored.

  • Working with planners and developers to bring in healthier food stores – real opportunity with new developments especially.

5.How can you gain public or political support for investments in the built environment as they relate to food access?

  • Drawing on experience at the South Riverdale CHC– They started a food working group with a wide representation of stakeholders. A working group is foundational for setting up strategies to address local challenges.

  • A working group adds credibility when speaking with decision makers, local elected representatives – to advocate for change.

  • Mapping – Paul is currently making food (and recreation) maps that list food resources within a 2 km radius around schools in Toronto’s tower neighbourhoods. Maps have icons for a variety of resources, e.g. – Farmers markets, community kitchens, etc. When decision makers see there is no icon on the map for one of the resources (food markets for example) they might begin to think – we don’t have this and we should. Maps are helpful and compelling tools for pointing things out to decision makers, especially food desserts and food swamps.

Participant shared:

  • In my experience, one needs to provide clear evidence to help people understand what the problems are and, especially, what the problems are not (e.g. in Toronto "food deserts" are not a big problem, but "food swamps" are). Then being very clear on potential solutions and what you need from decision makers to realize it. Precision and clarity is not something that's been a priority among public health actors but we need to get better at it.

6. How do you evaluate success/use of map by public?

  • Just in process of doing this with the school maps - sending out survey to teachers, asking if they are aware of the map and if they are using it in the classroom, etc.

  • If maps are available online – you can look at how many people are downloading the map from your website.

7. What criteria, resources or standards could be used to establish what is deemed a healthy vs an unhealthy food outlet?

  • Dieticians can visit each store and do an analysis on what is sold there. For the school maps we are relying on their expertise and their criteria to tell us whether it is a healthy food store or not and the percentage of healthy/unhealthy food in the food outlets.

Participants shared:

  • Developing a food charter as a first step to incorporating food access and influencing the food environment could be useful. Food charters could be the basis for food strategy and food policies. Find out more about Toronto's Food Policy Council here: http://tfpc.to/

  • In Toronto we created definitions of "healthier" and "less healthy" food outlets that we applied to public health inspection data as part of food envir't mapping. It's meant for use as an analytical tool, not in any way as a public designation. Happy to share that approach with anyone.

Poll 2.

Before moving on to further questions, we asked two more poll questions to get participants thinking about how land use planning policies might be affecting the built environment and its effect on food access.

If you have any new developments where you live, does the new community have shops (including food stores) located near homes (within walking distance)?

  • Development patterns are changing. We are coming out of an era where we put all the residential areas in one part of town and all the retail in another – which made us very depending on driving.

  • More recent developments have started to incorporate retail on ground floor.

  • Still a lot of urban sprawl going on.

The Provincial “Places to Grow” plan is in place to protect farm land and natural features in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Has your municipality set out land use policies in the Official Plan to protect agricultural lands?

  • Most municipalities have an urban growth boundary – a boundary line that development is permitted to occur within to prevent sprawl and preserve farm land.


8.
What municipal policies have shown impact for improving access to healthy foods in a community and/or at the neighbourhood level?

  • Growth boundaries to prevent sprawl and preserve farm land

  • Mixed-use zoning – to encourage a retail and place to work in the community

  • Supporting existing downtowns – bring food shopping into downtown where people are living. Look for ways to support this in planning policies.

  • Story in The Star a few years ago – a couple moved to downtown Milton to be closer to shops and leave car at home. But as development unfolded, large format retailers (including food stores) were located on the outskirts of town and the downtown became more of a boutique retail area. Couple had to use the car to get their everyday shopping needs. Policies that enable new retail areas outside of existing communities can have an impact on food access.

  • Residential Commercial Zoning. Communities can introducing retail (even small scale convenience) into residential areas that don’t have any retail currently.

  • Municipalities can also introduce policies to enable community gardens at various scales. Fresh City Farms at Downsview park for example.

  • Designating areas for markets – Bellville has a formalized market downtown. Can also look at simpler models where policies allow parking lots to be used for markets at certain times.

  • By-laws such as allowing hens in the backyard for fresh eggs.

Participant shared: http://www.rentthechicken.com/


9. Erinn Salewski: Are there opportunities to insert food access language into municipal planning documents ie. City Master Plan, etc.?

  • Yes - see examples above

  • There are a number of documents that shape community planning - Official Plan, secondary plans with more detail (e.g., park space schools and lot sizes).


10. People living in poverty (whom, they themselves or people they know, also tend to experience higher levels and frequency of crisis) may not have energy or time (due to life as well as working multiple jobs) to go to a community garden/participate in a community garden - ideas for options?

  • Look for ways to overlap community gardens with other services/programs (i.e. have a garden in close proximity to other services)

  • Support people in having small scale gardens (i.e. balcony, vertical gardens). South Riverdale CHC has a demonstration rooftop garden set up.

  • Making it easier for people to garden by bringing it closer to where they are. It can be incorporated right on to the front lawn of a community organization, for example.

  • Note about Equity – food banks are a piece of the food access picture, but other models like a community kitchen or a subsidized good food market (Food Share is making it easier to get these markets set up in Toronto) are good options as well, and are often less stigmatizing.

Participants shared:

  • Connecting people to other services (i.e. social services) in the community is also important


11. Teaching children about respect for the environment is an important aspect of sustainability, and may contribute to how children make decisions about the environment as they grow older. I firmly believe that this process should start while children are young. A large number of Child Care Centres are located in strip malls, where children have limited access to gardening. What do others think about having Child Care Centres located in 'safe environments' (geographically) which provide greenspace opportunities for children to grow their little gardens, and develop physical literacy at the same time?

  • With regard to engaging students in schools, when students and teachers are involved in the garden design process first – it builds up support for the idea.

  • If space is restrictive, might need to look at vertical gardens or gardening indoors (planting seedlings in the window and taking home)

  • In terms of child care centres in strip malls (may be a health impact when located near a busy road).

12. How can schools be supported to provide healthy options for students and contribute to the food security issues in the larger community?

  • Paul is working with Toronto Public Health to show students where food is located in their neighborhood (as well as recreation resources). Teachers have a toolkit to incorporate this map into their class lessons/curriculum. Into Kids Health

  • At South Riverdale CHC Paul assisted schools in designing and planning gardens, and getting commitment from principals and teachers to support the garden (schools don’t often have resources to initiate this process).

  • Evergreen Learning Grounds – has resources and dollars for school ground greening programs (including gardens).

  • The Good Food Café (Food Share) – looks at how cafeteria food can be made healthier.

Participants shared:

  • In our community, the high school construction classes build all of the plots for the community gardens/ greenhouse. The Local Food Co-Op has a plot in their greenhouse that they provide for free to schools who do not have school gardens. Connections to other organizations can be key. www.cloverbeltlocalfoodcoop.com

  • The Ministry of Education does incorporate well-being (including physical literacy) in their How Does Learning Happen - Ontario's Pedagogy for the Early Years. NRC was involved in consulting with the Ministry of Education on how to incorporate Food literacy in to this document as well.

  • The tower garden/ vertical aeroponics approach has always looked interesting. A high school in Toronto has used them, good for areas with limited space.

  • Student Nutrition Program supports schools to provide healthy foods to students.

  • Interesting stuff happening with vertical hydroponics happening in the far north too. This is a fun story (one of many) http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/naujaat-nunavut-growing-north-project-1.3633295

13. In Canada, over 6 million tonnes of food that is perfectly good, and wholesome to eat is thrown in the garbage every single year; Yet 1 in 8 homes struggle to put enough food in the table. What models have you encountered that reduces food waste while improving food security and food access?

  • Second Harvest – Food rescue matching. Electronic app to connect consumers to food. If you’re running a business that has food that will expire, this app helps you connect.

  • South Riverdale CHC – has relationship with some bakeries – provides bread at the end of the day.

  • Important to build relationships between agencies and local food providers.

  • Urban fruit harvesting programs - Not far from the Tree

Participants shared:

For more resources on this topic, please see our Resource Sheet that was prepared for this online discussion.

 

 

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Discharge Planning in Hospitals: How can we improve?

By: Megan Ferguson BSW, RSW


social work 1

Discharge planning is a vital component of a patient’s hospital stay, it is the moment where the healthcare team connects patients and their close family members with integral resources so that they can receive follow up healthcare services in the community. However, as I am developing my career as a hospital social worker, I notice that in many hospitals social workers are tasked with both coordinating discharge planning and providing emotional support to patients and families (Mizrahi & Berger, 2001). However, within these two tasks, social workers perform multiple sub-tasks including 1) Assessing a family’s social situation, 2) Consulting with interdisciplinary team members about patient care planning, 3) Identifying the psychological, emotional, social or spiritual barriers that interfere with treatment or discharge planning, 4) Engaging in advocacy on behalf of patients and families, 5) Providing crisis and emotional counselling and/or intervention, 6) Counselling around end-of-life, grief and bereavement issues, 7) Counselling around suspected abuse, 8) Addressing substance misuse issues, as well as 10) Engaging in writing, teaching and research activities (Gregorian, 2005, p.4). Patients that are typically seen by social work are patients who lack social supports, need assistance with income, need assistance with locating accessible and stable housing and individuals who may struggle with addiction or mental health challenges. Social workers are also the core discharge planners and lead the team to transition patients back into the community with the resources and support that they require.

Although I quite enjoy my work as a hospital social worker, my experience as a frontline social worker has allowed me to understand the obstacles and limitations that social workers in health care have to face in order to advocate for their patients while following multiple policies, standards, and guidelines. Tensions exist between “advocacy and collaboration” as well as, “commitment to patients and the organization” (Mizrahi & Berger, 2001). I find it challenging at times to maintain provincial, and regional guidelines of social work, while also following the Canadian Association of Social Workers’ (CASW) Code of Ethics (2005) and Guidelines for Ethical Practice (2005). The health care system also requires social workers to abide with hospital patient flow and length of stay standards, which can also further complicate patient care when many social issues are prevalent. Within these challenges Dr. Anna Reid, Former President of Canadian Medical Association, stated that “An estimated one in every five dollars spent on health is directly attributable to the social determinants of health,” in her final address (Eggertson, 2013, p. E657). However, these social determinants of health bring forward multiple barriers. Some of the most prevalent barriers may include income, housing, and food insecurity, which is further maintained by oppression and discrimination against minority groups such as women and First Nations individuals (Raphael, Curry-Stevens, & Bryant, 2008). These barriers force social workers to advocate on behalf of patients and families in order to work towards change and make social and policy adjustments to empower patients to better their health and well-being.

Social workers have a very large role and this role may differ depending on the client, and the unit that a social worker is working on. Collaboration is also so important when working in healthcare, unlike other social services agencies where social workers may make up the majority of professionals working in that area (Gregorian, 2005). Instead, hospital social workers play a more consultative role where they aim to collaborate with many disciplines each day (Gregorian, 2005). However, more emphasis must be placed on the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary teamwork in order to initiate better patient outcomes and eliminate the power struggle between healthcare disciplines.

As social workers, we often work in collaboration with community social services agencies such as income and housing government organization as well as nonprofit organizations that assist with mental health and addiction. However, not enough of these organizations exist and we must continue to support these agencies in order to have resources that community members can draw on in times of crisis.

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Megan Ferguson is a Master’s student in the School of Social Work at the University of Calgary. Megan holds a BSW as well with a Specialization in Aging. She also sits on the Board of Directors for A & O: Support Services for Older Adults. Megan currently works as a Social Worker for the Acquired Brain Rehabilitation Program and Stroke Rehabilitation Program at a hospital in Winnipeg.

References

CASW. (2005). Social work Code of Ethics. Ottawa: CASW.
CASW. (2005). Guidelines for Ethical Practice. Ottawa: CASW.
Eggertson, L. (2013). Health equity critical to transforming system, says outgoing CMA president. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 185(14), E657-E658, DOI: 10. 1503/cmaj.109-4588.
Gregorian, C. (2005). A career in hospital social work: Do you have what it takes?. Social Work in Healthcare, 40(3), 1-14. DOI: 10.1300/J010v40n03_01
Mizrahi, T. & Berger, C.S. (2001). Effect of a changing health care environment on social work leaders: obstacles and opportunities in hospital social work. Social Work, 46(2), 170-182
Raphael, D., Curry-Stevens, A. & Bryant, T. (2008). Barriers to addressing the social determinants of health: insights from the Canadian experience. Health Policy, 88(2-3). DOI: 0.1016/j.healthpol.2008.03.015

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Considering the effect of economically mixed communities on children’s wellbeing

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

On Thursday last week, I listened to a 20 minute webcast presentation by Candice Odgers from Duke University, as part of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Researched (CIFAR) event titled “Building Neighborhoods that Thrive.” Candice shared a few study results on the impact of economically mixed communities on children with low-income, and left us with a few thoughts to consider for future work. Here were some highlights for me:

  • Using data from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, as well as community mapping, and resident surveys – they investigated the effect of living in an economically mixed community on a child’s wellbeing.

    • While there was not a statistical effect on girls, boys with low family income living in an economically mixed community (and presumably going to better schools) tended to have lower school performance and engage in more anti-social behaviour, compared to boys in a concentrated low-income neighborhood.

    • Results indicate it is not just about how much you have, but also how much you perceive you have – creating a double disadvantage for those who have less AND believe they have less in comparison to others. To this point, twins who come from the same household but perceive they have less compared to others, score lower on wellbeing than twins who perceive they have more.

    • High levels of collective efficacy in the community, as well as supportive parents, were protective factors to a child’s wellbeing (or factors that reduce disparities).

    • While this presentation did not get into details on this, factors such as perceived safety in an economically mixed community might play a role in the different effects observed between boys and girls on well-being.

Candice was very clear to say that this research does not indicate that communities should be segregated based on income, and mentioned that some efforts to create economically mixed communities have been very successful at reducing disparities. However, it is important to learn from the data and realize that if economically mixed communities are not properly supported, they may actually create more disparities.

One RECENT shocking example of the WRONG way to create such environments is a luxury residential building in Manhattan that created 55 low income units in their ritzy 33-story building. Upon moving in, residents that qualified for these low income units learned that they had a separate entrance to the building (including a separate address), were not permitted access to common areas in the building (such as the courtyard, pool, gyms, etc.) and lacked basic features to their room (such as light fixtures and a dishwasher).

snippetwebcastSnapshot taken of the live webcast.

Clearly this is no way to create a sense of belonging, or to engage with others in a safe and meaningful way. When efforts are made to create economically mixed communities (which has been one proposed way to improve the life outcomes of children growing up in poverty), or to look at reducing health disparities in existing mixed communities, we need to be very mindful of the potential consequences, and make sure that proper supports are in place to improve the well-being of all children (and adults).

For more information on this event and the presenters: https://www.cifar.ca/events/building-neighbourhoods-that-thrive/

 

 

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Just Add Bikes! How cycling can help build a healthy, vibrant community

By: Sue Shikaze, Health Promoter, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race” H.G. Wells


While it might be a stretch to claim that the bicycle can solve all the ails of the world, it can certainly be one solution to many challenges facing communities today. Making communities bicycle-friendly and getting more people on bikes can address issues of public health, safety, air quality, and traffic congestion. Cycling is a healthy, economical and sustainable transportation option as well as an attractor for tourism and economic development. It is an important quality of life feature that many people look for when choosing where to live, work or play. Not everyone can afford a car or wants to drive and a good cycling environment offers more mobility options. And let’s not forget: cycling is fun!

bikesmeanbusiness

Biking attracts people and brings business to the community


Evidence indicates that there is demand and need for improved conditions for cycling in Ontario. A 2014 poll conducted by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition indicated that 32% of Ontarians cycle at least once a month and 54% of Ontarians said they would like to cycle more often. What would most encourage people to cycle more often is better infrastructure, such as bike lanes and trails.1 The Ontario Medical Association recognizes cycling as an important solution to help address rising rates of chronic diseases associated with physical inactivity. They advocate for better and safer infrastructure in urban, suburban and rural settings, and that, “much more must be done by provincial and municipal transportation departments to make this form of exercise safer.”2

So what does a bicycle-friendly community look like? Assessment of the cycling environment is typically done around the “5 E’s”: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation and planning. These indicators address the range of needs to accommodate cycling.

Engineering refers to on-the-ground facilities and infrastructure. Good cycling facilities are carefully planned, designed and maintained to accommodate bicycles safely, conveniently and comfortably. A well-planned cycling network has good connectivity between routes and destinations, as well as things like secure bike parking and bike racks on buses to provide inter-modal connections. Facilities could include on-road accommodations such as designated bike lanes, separated cycle tracks or paved shoulders, or off-road paths and trails. There are also innovative design treatments such as bike boxes, which provide a designated space for cyclists to wait at an intersection, separated from cars.

greenbikelane
Green bike lane being installed in Thunder Bay


Education needs to address both cyclists and motorists to ensure that they know how to safely share the road. The goal of public education programs is to increase the knowledge and awareness of all road users on their rights and responsibilities, as well as to build practical skills. Education initiatives can include cycling skills workshops, share the road campaigns and tip sheets.

sharetheroad

Share the road promotion – an example of education


Encouragement initiatives are intended to get more people on bikes and to normalize cycling as a viable activity for both transportation and recreation. While it may be true that “if you build it, they will come”, many people still need encouragement to get rolling. Encouragement includes promoting the benefits of cycling, and of places and opportunities to cycle. Initiatives such as the Commuter Challenge, Active and Safe Routes to School and SMART Trips give information and incentives to support and encourage people to cycle more often. Cycling maps, signage and clubs are also ways that communities encourage cycling.

Enforcement ensures that all road users follow the rules of the road and share the road safely. In addition to traditional methods such as issuing tickets and fines, enforcement can also include education and public relations programs that remind cyclists and motorists of their responsibilities under the law. Recent updates to the Highway Traffic Act are intended to improve safety for cyclists, including the requirement for motorists to leave at least 1 metre of space when passing a cyclist, increased fines for dooring a cyclist and increased fines for cyclists who don’t use lights when needed.

Evaluation and planning refers to having systems in place to evaluate current activities and programs, and planning for the future. Becoming a more bicycle-friendly community is a process that requires ongoing measurement and monitoring in order to identify and meet future needs. The amount of cycling taking place, rate of crashes, and economic impact are all aspects of tracking progress. The development of a Cycling Master Plan is a key tool for planning, implementation and evaluation.

Plus a ‘P’: Partnerships

Cycling has multiple benefits for communities and can help address many issues including health, economic development, environment, sustainability and equity. Potential partners who have an interest in cycling include municipalities, public health, law enforcement, schools, community organizations, cycling clubs and committees, workplaces, business community, tourism and economic development, trails and environmental groups. Different partners have different skills, knowledge and resources; no one group can do it completely on its own.

If you are looking for an opportunity to learn more about making your community bicycle-friendly, meet other like-minded professionals and find out about innovative cycling initiatives, consider attending the annual Ontario Bike Summit hosted by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition. It is THE premier cycling networking and professional development event in Ontario. Whether you are an advocate or elected official, a professional in planning, transportation, health, tourism or economic development, there is something for you at OBS to get informed and inspired.

The 9th annual Ontario Bike Summit takes place on April 11 & 12 at the Eaton Chelsea in Toronto. This year’s theme is “Just Add Bikes: The role of cycling in urban mobility and community building”. The agenda features speakers from across Ontario and North America who will share successes for building bicycle-friendly communities. Presentation themes will include advocacy best practices, risk management, complete streets implementation and more. You will also hear from municipal and provincial elected officials about why cycling matters to them. Keynote and workshop sessions are carefully curated by a panel of professionals with cycling expertise from across the province, and selected to create a program that features the most innovative, current, and state-of-the-art initiatives for cycling. Sessions address issues and opportunities that are most relevant to communities, from policy to implementation to evaluation.

The Ontario Bike Summit has put cycling firmly on the radar of decision-makers at all levels of government. Find the 2017 draft agenda, registration information and more details at http://www.sharetheroad.ca/ontario-bike-summit-p157286 

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Participants in the pre-summit bike tour led by the City of Toronto.

 

------------------------------------------------

About Share the Road:
The Share the Road Cycling Coalition is Ontario’s premier cycling advocacy organization working to build a bicycle-friendly Ontario – a place where a cyclist of any age or ability can ride safely, wherever they need to go. Share the Road works with municipal, provincial and federal governments, the business community, public health practitioners, road safety and other not-for-profit organizations to enhance access, improve safety and educate the public about the value and importance of safe cycling for healthy lifestyles and healthy communities. www.sharetheroad.ca

 

1 Share the Road Cycling Coalition, (March 2014), polling conducted by Stratcom Communications
2 Ontario Medical Association, (2011), Policy Paper: Enhancing Cycling Safety in Ontario.

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Walk and Roll: Making Active Transportation Work in Small, Rural Communities

By Sue Shikaze - Health Promoter, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit

Active transportation (AT) refers to all human-powered forms of transportation, usually walking and cycling, but can also include wheelchairs, in-line skating, skateboarding, cross-country skiing, and even kayaking. It is any trip made for the purposes of getting to a particular destination - to work, to school, to the store or to visit friends.

Small, rural communities have different realities than their urban counterparts, especially when it comes to active transportation. Most have limited financial resources, but extensive road infrastructure to maintain. Rural geography generally means large distances and low density. The prevailing attitudes regarding transportation may be quite focused on cars. Finally, most evidence on AT is urban based, leaving a gap in knowledge.

But, implementation of AT initiatives is achievable in small rural communities!

In small, rural communities, AT can contribute to the community’s health by providing a way for people to build physical activity into their daily lives. But it is also an important economic development feature. Walkable and bikeable communities make great tourist destinations, and contribute to quality of life – important for attracting and retaining residents and businesses. Many studies also show that people tend to spend more money in a place that encourages walking. It’s important to also remember that many people do not or cannot drive due to age, disability, income. Therefore, making AT safe and accessible provides them with important transportation and mobility options.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening in one rural area. The County of Haliburton is located about 2 hours north of Toronto. It covers an area of approximately 4,500 sq km (it takes over an hour to drive east to west and north to south) and has a year round population of about 17,000 that more than triples in the summer. The county has a very high proportion of seniors. There are two main village hubs, Haliburton and Minden.

The Communities in Action Committee (CIA) www.communitiesinaction.ca is a community-based group that was formed in 2004, and includes representatives from public health, community economic development, community development planning, seniors, and county roads. The CIA promotes active transportation as a way to create a healthy, active community. They do this through activities that include advocacy, partnership building, planning and research, influencing policy, education and promotion, evaluation.

A primary focus of CIA has been to build partnerships with local municipalities, who play an important role in creating a healthy active community through creating supportive land use policies, implementing plans and on-the-ground changes. The CIA’s advocacy targets municipal elected officials and is intended to ‘make the case’ for and raise awareness of the benefits of investing in AT. They communicate regularly with councils through regular reports, updates and delegations, and engage them through events such as workshops and community walkabouts. The CIA has found that it has been important for them to learn about municipal priorities, and to frame their messages to address these as much as possible.

The CIA has done a great deal of community based research, with strategies that have included surveys, focus groups, observational studies and walk audits. This research has informed the development of AT plans for both Haliburton and Minden, which have been provided to municipalities as resources. These plans were developed by the CIA, rather than commissioned by the county or municipality, which is more typical. This provides a great example of how in a rural community, an external group can enhance municipal capacity.

In order to garner municipal support, it is important to build community support and awareness in order to demonstrate community interest in AT. The CIA’s promotional initiatives address AT in a rural area by focusing messaging on village ‘hubs’ rather than whole county. They developed a ‘doable’ AT message by acknowledging that people need to drive to town due to distance, but encouraging them to then park and walk once they got there. The CIA has developed maps and signs to encourage walking in town, and since 2009 has partnered with the County to promote share the road messages to motorists and cyclists.

So how has the community improved for AT?

The County and municipalities have made many infrastructure improvements that support AT. While the CIA doesn’t ‘do’ infrastructure, they do help build awareness and momentum for improvements, and sometimes help provide a vision. For example, in 2007, the CIA contracted a landscape architect to do illustrations for some key problem locations in Haliburton. The municipality later hired that same person to develop detailed plans for streetscape improvements in the Village. This work, completed in 2012, saw major improvements that were done in conjunction with Hydro One’s work to bury their lines. Two streets were entirely redone, including new curbing, sidewalks, decorative brickwork, bike racks, benches, pedestrian buildouts, tree plantings and new lighting.


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York St, Haliburton, before streetscape

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York St, Haliburton, after streetscape

In Minden, streetscape improvements included widening sidewalks, coloured concrete, and new planters. The Riverwalk trail was completed, including a new pedestrian bridge, shelters, benches and lighting. These changes have made the streets more aesthetically pleasing and safer for walking, as well as improved connectivity.

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Gull River, Minden, before Riverwalk

 

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Gull River, Minden, with Riverwalk and Logger’s Crossing pedestrian bridge

 

The County has been paving road shoulders on major road projects since 2008, with a total of about 65.5 km completed. Their 4-year Capital Works plan continues this work into the future. The CIA has strongly advocated for paved shoulders over the years.

The policy landscape has changed too. Prior to 2010 only one Official Plan (OP) referenced cycling. Now, all official plans have policies specific to cycling, active transportation, healthy communities, and walking. The CIA has provided policy recommendations during all OP reviews, which were sometimes added verbatim and other times captured ‘in spirit’.

Yes, change can happen! In 2004, active transportation was not part of anyone’s conversation, at a community or local government level. However, an evaluation conducted by the CIA in 2011 showed that there has been a cultural shift over time, and recognition of the benefits of AT, both in the community and among municipalities.

“The population is aging and so this (active transportation) has become an economic strategy for our municipality – making it a destination for retirees and creating places for walking has influenced our whole decision-making.”

“People now have a place to go to walk and they may even go further than they did before. Just having the infrastructure gets people out.”

The CIA continues to look for new ways to continue to improve conditions for active transportation. They recently did a temporary pop-up traffic calming demonstration, and are wrapping up a partnership project with Active Neighbourhoods Canada that looked at how a local road could be a more complete street.

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Traffic calming pop up Demonstration –  without

 

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Traffic calming pop up Demonstration – with

The CIA sees active transportation as a key element of a vibrant community that offers great quality of life for people of all ages and abilities, making it a great place to live, work, play, learn, visit and invest.

Some lessons learned by the CIA over the years include:

• Build partnerships with multiple sectors

• Public Health is a key partner

• Take evidence-informed action

• Relate the message to municipal priorities

• Work from the top down (e.g. influence policy) and bottom up (e.g. community awareness raising)

• Identify and promote a message realistic to rural communities

• Find opportunities to share and exchange knowledge

For more info on cycling in Haliburton County visit www.cyclehaliburton.ca

 

haliburton

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Improve the Built Environment in Your Community: Questions, Responses and Helpful Links from our online discussion

onlinediscussionfeb13If you are working to improve the built environment in your community, there’s a good chance you participated in our online discussion with consultant on tap, Paul Young, this past Monday. With a steady flow of well-thought out questions from participants, informative responses, and lots of peer sharing among the 100 attendees – it was a great learning opportunity!

To further that learning and to allow those who couldn’t join an opportunity to gain insights and connect to helpful information and resources, we are sharing the questions that were asked, responses from Paul and participants, as well as helpful links and resources shared for each question with you all! Feel free to scroll to questions that appeal to you, and don’t forget to check out additional resource links at the bottom of the blog! If you have any remaining questions, or want clarification on the information provided, you can email Kyley atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

1)During the Healthy Communities Partnership Project we worked with some of the municipalities to strengthen wording or add wording for Active Transportation and Built Environment in MOPs – now they have been done and it will be another 5 years until they start reviewing them again. What do we do in the meantime? Do we keep reviewing MOPs and see how they can be strengthened, what if the municipality doesn’t want to see us for a while? Are there other municipal documents that public health can have input into?

  •            A lot of interest from public health units in getting involved in planning

  •          The Official Plan was a big hit – enabled a high level approach to including things related to the built environment that affect health

  •         Official Plan updates are typically every 5 years, but there are other mechanisms to provide input on planning matters, such as:

    - Working on Recreation policy - access, Rec master plans, coordinating with the transportation plan (trails, for example, cross over between recreation and transportation).

    - Secondary plans (for high growth areas) – you can look at how well this plan supports walkability. Can look at age friendliness, cycling supports, food access, density, mixed use, complete streets, etc.

    - Working with schools - access to recreation, healthy food, active travel

    - Other built environment projects, like Environmental Assessments – that can shape road design

    - Can get involved in Transportation Policy (master plans) – such as paved shoulders, etc.

  • Public Health and Land Use Planning document by OPHA – has as a spectrum of great ideas that other public health units are doing on built environment: http://www.opha.on.ca/OPHA/media/Resources/Resource%20Documents/CAP_PHLUP-Report-Apr2011_1.pdf?ext=.pdf

2)What are some of the best strategies to engage Councillors or Mayors in AT planning/development - especially those Councillors/Mayors that have been huge barriers to AT.

  • It can be difficult to start with people who are not on board...try to engage a Champion amongst council and have that person serve as spokesperson

  • Fairly common way to engage a councillor would be on an active transportation committee – they can lead and be spokesperson OR have councillors sign a Walking or Active Transportation Charter, which is a public declaration of support

  • Experience in Thunderbay – Public Health organized a bus tour of dangerous intersections with councillors, municipal staff and community. We also went to places that were very supportive of active transportation, so they could see the difference – easy opportunity for a councillor to be involved

  • Health is usually an issue that council will respond to – preventing crashes and fatalities

  • Economic development is another- municipalities interested in attracting and retaining populations (i.e. age friendly communities with retirement)

  • quality of life as well – usually councils will have a strategic plan, and quality of life is usually a part of this

  • active transportation is a great way to frame and address all three of these

3) How do you sell Built Environment ideas (new trail, park, etc.) to councillors who are budget conscious? Do you have a good evidence-based resource?

  • Municipalities often conduct Recreation Needs Assessments e.g., surveys to find out what residents prefer – walking comes up usually as #1 – one reason to invest in trails

  • Walking is the easiest and least costly physical activity and so trails (walking and biking) can be a great way to support the needs of a councillors constituents

  • Economic development - having trails and access to recreation is a great way to attract and retain populations in their community

  • World Health Organization has age-friendly guidelines: Walkable communities are featured prominently http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Global_age_friendly_cities_Guide_English.pdf?ua=1

 

4) Is there a business case document that shows the return on investment for built environment (reduction of health care costs due to injury/increase in physical activity)?

  • There are resources around the economic impact of building trails from a tourism standpoint. The Waterfront Trail has resources on this: Contact Marlaine Koehler at the Waterfront Regeneration Trust. See also Ontario By Bike

  • Rails to Trails Conservancy – search in their library : http://www.railstotrails.org/

  • Economic investment in trails is pretty clear

  • Challenge - Health care costs aren’t born by municipality but most active transportation infrastructure work is undertaken by municipalities (so municipality spends and province saves) – although we are starting to connect those dots more

Participants shared:

  • Niagara developed an economic value of AT fact sheets that include one about health care. Halton replicated it:

  • City of Toronto's road safety plan targets areas with high collision and injury incidence. Used mapping to help identify areas.

  • See also Parachute Canada’s Cost of Injuries (including transport injuries)

 

5) Do you know of any community (rural or urban) that is using injury statistics as part of their infrastructure planning for roads/cycle lanes/sidewalks?

  • Thunder Bay - GIS maps of injuries/fatalities to ID problem areas (they then took councillors and stakeholders on a tour of these locations) – raise awareness among decision makers to make those places safer

  • Hamilton Walking Strategy - looks at crash data as well

  • Port Hope - looked at problem street crossings

  • Most Transportation Dep'ts are aware of where crashes are occurring and could contact them for info or ask if this data is being collected

Participant shared:

  • The Saskatoon Health Region did a report on unintentional injuries and looked at emergency room and discharge data. Transportation injuries were included and we have shared this with the municipality (they were interested as it accessed data sources that they normally do not refer to/have access to). We use the data and the recommendations from the Chief Medical Health Officer to guide our advocacy and work with the community. This is the link to the infographics and one-page summaries: http://www.communityview.ca/infographic_shr_injury.html

 

6) Do you know of any really great strategies/policies to encourage walking in small rural communities?

  • HKPR health unit - Communities in Action Haliburton (www.communitiesinaction.ca) – you can see the great work they have been doing for some examples.

  • Getting councillors to sign a Charter – so you know there is political support

  • Lots of interest in walking in rural areas but distances are quite long… not as likely to be utilitarian walking as recreational walking.

  • Great opportunities for trails on abandoned rail lines or adjacent to active rail lines, hydro corridors, river corridors, waterfronts.

  • Trails are a great strategy to connect settlement areas.

  • When there are no trails, then rural solutions along road ways like paved shoulders

  • Encourage purposeful trails that connect to practical destinations – Georgian Trail near Collingwood connects to everyday destinations like shopping – trail connects to backside of parking lot of Meaford grocery store. Makes it more part of active transportation network.

 Participant shared:

  • In Northern Ontario (Kapuskasing, Cochrane, Iroquois Falls) all have a walking map highlighting sidewalk routes which are distributed to various locations.

7) In rural communities transportation is often split between two tiers of government (Upper and Lower Tiers), with sidewalks and trails falling to the Lower government (at least this is the way it is in Peterborough County). Do you know of any upper tier ATMPs that include supportive policies/strategies for walkability?

  • Then you get down to details of how to separate the cyclists from pedestrians, which are usually covered in the master plan as well.

  • A lot of work going on in schools – unfolding at regional and municipal level

Participants shared:


8) Can anyone recommend any tools/checklists that planners can integrate into their planning process/application reviews in order to support health outcomes in approvals?

  • Peel Region - Healthy Development Index: http://www.peelregion.ca/health/urban/pdf/HDI-report.pdf

  • Checklists can be challenging to incorporate into the intricacies/nuances of planner's work

    • We can say we have a facility for cycling for example (and check the box), but it needs to be matched to the context – so if it’s a busy road way, you need a separated cycling facility and not just a bike lane.

  • City of Toronto has developed some tools as well. Example the Active City Reports

  • Most municipalities have a sustainable development or urban design checklist that incorporates sustainability – looking for things like bicycle parking, street trees, open space… (all tailored towards individual municipality)

  • This site provides a number of checklists: http://wcel.org/checklists

Particpants shared:

 

9) With respect to public spaces, aside from the requirements in the PPS, is there any research that shows how much park/green space you need in a built area (i.e., subdivision) so that this space contributes to increased physical activity and health?


10) Please share information on community health promotion initiatives that incorporate elements of Built Environment into their programming, e.g. walking groups, ‘yoga in the park’, etc., and incorporate advocacy for healthier Built Environments as part of their community development efforts.

  • Advocacy: many health units are promoting multi-stakeholder engagement processes and focusing on relationship-building and collaboration between sectors/dep'ts and in the community (health, planning, etc.) (E.g. planning, transportation, economic development, health).

  • Most departments are looking for improvements on the built environment – this is consistent with health objectives – less car dependence, compete streets, etc.

  • Niagara Region Health Unit is promoting/supporting AT committees in each municipality

  • Ultimate objective – form a Committee of council – made up of local representatives (counsellor, technical advisory people on staff, volunteers from community) – will advocate for AT-supportive planning and design

  • Policy work on a broader level – OPHA has done great work there

 

11)I am on an Accommodation Review Committee, that is going to make recommendations to the school board regarding the transition from an elementary school and high school and combining the two schools. I would very much look to gain input an insight in to some of the ways that the built environment, inside and out can help to improve health for the school and the community. One of the daycares in my community has recently done a lot of work to take out play equipment, and go with more natural setting with wood and trees. I look forward to any suggestions that you might have in to providing input in to creating a new school play yard and indoor school space.

  • Dufferin Grove - was slated to come up with a new play equipment but they looked at adding more natural alternatives (sand pit, water hoses, gardens, etc)

  • If amalgamation of schools – one thing to consider is there might be a loss of green space

  • In terms of school siting, there are advantages to siting it where most people live (rather than outskirts of town) and enabling shorter walking distances and limiting bussing needs

  • Hamilton has done some work on school siting to support AT

  • Regarding inside the school – healthy food, standing up desks, etc.

  • Naturalizing playgrounds are popular – Look at Evergreen Canada - Learning Grounds Program– they have funding and resources available on school yard greening: https://www.evergreen.ca/

  • Richard Louv's book “Last Child in the Woods” – talks about nature deficit disorder and importance of access to nature and play

 12) Have you or any others done work regarding improving health equity in/through the built environment? If so, any lessons to share?

  • People with low income rely more on active transportation and transit – ensuring these are located in close proximity to where people need it

  • Recreation fees

  • Access to food

  • Proximity to noise, unsafe areas, pollution, etc. – where you live affects your health. Some people are living with more health stressors because that is where affordable housing is – these are some things to consider.

 

Additional Resources

Paul Young’s resource listing to promote active transportation: http://www.hclinkontario.ca/images/2017/Resources_for_promoting_active_transportation_Paul_Young_2017.pdf

HC Link resource page on the Built Environment: http://www.hclinkontario.ca/resources/resources/built-environment.html

HC Link’s Digest PLUS on Community Transportation: http://www.hclinkontario.ca/images/2017/HCLinkNewsDigestPLUS1FEB2017_CommunityTransportation.pdf

 

 

 

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Tried and True Tools for Collaborative Work

By Pam Kinzie, HC Link Consultant

Those of us who have worked in partnerships, coalitions and other forms of community collaboratives, have seen many frameworks for collaborative work come and go over the years. Sometimes, I believe that the baby does truly get “thrown out with the bathwater” when excellent tools are abandoned for the next new thing. I suggest that we examine ways in which well-founded, widely used, evidence-based tools can be integrated into collaborative work. I’d like to make a case for one such tool - Results-based Accountability (RBA). No doubt many of you have other tools that have components for planning and implementation that you still find useful after many years.

hands 565602 1280Currently there is widespread use of the Collective Impact framework in Ontario amongst community groups. Developed by John Kania and Mark Kramer in 2011, it requires the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific complex social problem. Issues suited to collective impact are those that are not easy to resolve, have persisted over time, and cannot be solved in isolation.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation offers grants to support collective impact through strategy and transformative action to achieve a lasting change. It funds projects in three phases in order to assist collaboratives in defining, organizing and delivering impact initiatives.

The idea of working together to produce community “impact” is at the heart of both RBA and Collective Impact. Collective Impact literature sets out conditions for the success of community change efforts, and RBA provides specific methods to help partners meet those conditions. RBA is being used widely in North America, including by some groups in Ontario, and in more than a dozen countries around the world to create measurable change in people’s lives, communities and organizations. For complete information about RBA and how to use it I encourage you to read the book Trying Hard is Not Good Enough by Mark Friedman.

In her 2011 paper Achieving “Collective Impact” with Results-based Accountability Deitre Epps examines how application of the core RBA components enables community groups to operationalize each of the five collective impact conditions. She examines the seven population accountability questions in RBA that guide community partnerships and coalitions in their work to improve the quality of life conditions for children and families and draws parallels with how they can be used as practical tools to create common agendas, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities and continuous communication amongst partners. Mark Friedman the creator of RBA also demonstrates how RBA and Collective Impact fit together in his online article from 2014.

The strength of RBA is that it starts with ends and works backward, towards means. The “end”, “result” or difference you are trying to make looks slightly different if you are working on a broad community level or are focusing on your specific program or organization, but the two perspectives are always aligned. RBA makes the critical distinction between population and performance-level initiatives. It is what separates RBA from all other frameworks. It is a significant distinction because it determines who is responsible for what. Population accountability organizes work with co-equal partners to promote community well-being. In contrast, Performance Accountability organizes work to have the greatest impact on the customers of specific agencies – those whose lives are touched in the delivery of programs and services. What is done for customers is the contribution to the larger community impact.

Dan Duncan describes how RBA and a number of additional tools are important components of collective impact in his 2016 article The Effective Components of Collective Impact . He also describes the importance of community engagement and relationship-building, stressing that “organizations do not collaborate; people collaborate, based on common purpose and trust”. This article reinforced how many tools there are that can be employed to enhance collective impact work.

HC Link can support you to use RBA and other tools for collaborative work through workshops, webinars and customized consultations. Materials from previous workshops and webinars can be found in the “Resources” section of our website. For more information about how we can assist you in your collaborative initiatives please go to www.hclinkontario.ca or give us a call at 1-855-847-1575.

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HC Link's 2016 Top Resource Round-up

top2016

Happy New Year! We are looking forward to another exciting year of working together to create healthy communities across Ontario. In case you missed them the first time around, here is a collection of a few of our most popular resources, webinar recordings and blog posts from 2016.

 
popularresources2016
 

Here are a few of our most popular resources of 2016:

 
popularwebinars2016


Here are a few of our most popular webinars of 2016:

 
popularblogs2016
 

Here are a few of our most popular blogs of 2016:

AND our most popular guest blog was by the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH):

continue

We look forward to another great year of working together and continuing to offer our customized consulting services, resources, webinars, workshops, and other learning events! Please contact us to learn more about how we can work with you and your community to meet your specific needs for building healthy communities!

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What does the Task Force’s recommended minimum age of purchasing cannabis at 18 mean for health promoters?

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

cannabis2imageLast week, HC Link co-hosted a webinar with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) and Parent Action on Drugs (PAD) – Canadian Youth Perceptions on Cannabis: Implications for practice and policy. This webinar was part of a two-part webinar series that covered the methods, findings and implications of CCSA’s recent qualitative research study, Canadian Youth Perceptions on Cannabis. In this second webinar, presenters discussed implications of the research on prevention practice and policy, and featured a panel discussion of youth prevention practitioners – Patricia Scott-Jeoffroy, an Education Consultant with PAD and Cathy Maser, a Nurse Practitioner in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Sick Kids.

frameworkimageHours before our webinar, the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation released their highly anticipated report – A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada.

One participant asked the presenters what their thoughts were on the Task Force’s recommendation to set a national minimum age of purchase of cannabis at 18. With limited time to have even read the report, Cathy Maser provided an explanation from the report and opinion that many participants found very helpful. So, for those who have not had a chance to go into the detail of the report, but are curious about this recommendation that has gained a lot of attention – I thought I would share.

Here is a brief summary of what Cathy shared with our participants, and what is stated in the report:

While many health professionals and those in public health are concerned about how the brain is still developing until around age 25, most of those consulted felt that this age was too high to set as the minimum, as many of the issues that legalization is trying to address – such as the illicit market and criminalization, would still persist. Youth who are in the 18-24 age range are in fact the highest users of cannabis, so setting the minimum age at 25 might further criminalize youth. While age 21 was suggested by many, age 18 was decided on because it is the age of majority and provinces and territories can raise the minimum age to align it with the minimum age to purchase alcohol – which from a societal context, seems to make sense. As stressed by Cathy, a key point in this recommendation is the need to align this policy with education, prevention and treatment – with emphasis on robust preventative measures to discourage and delay cannabis use to mitigate the harms between the ages of 18-25, a critical period of brain development.

This is where many of us as health promoters can focus our attention. Given the results from CCSA’s report, and this recommendation from the Task Force, some considerations for minimizing harms to youth include:

• Providing youth with factual, accessible, and non-bias information – talking about potential benefits and real risks/harms (possibly even low-risk cannabis use guidelines)

• Focussing on tangible harms (and those they would experience in the short term versus long term) so that these harms resonate with youth

• Providing health professionals, peer mentors, parents, and others who youth believe are credible sources of information, with the right information/tools/resources to provide the information to youth

• Developing youth critical thinking/decision-making skills, so they are better equipped to make their own decisions

• Building youth resiliency through programs, support, and positive relationships so that they are more capable of avoiding/minimizing harms of cannabis use

• Clear, and consistent messaging across the board – including messaging and information around medical marijuana – as this causes youth to perceive cannabis as less harmful and also leads youth to self-diagnose and self-medicate.

While many of the ways that health promoters can help to minimize the harms to youth listed above are focused around education and skill building, we must not forget about the many other factors at play – the social determinants of health – that cause some youth to disproportionately experience more harms associated with drug use. Factors like poverty, education, social exclusion, etc., all come into play, as they do with almost any other health issue, and cannot be left out of the picture.

 

Link to the Task Force report: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/task-force-marijuana-groupe-etude/index-eng.php

Link to the webinar recording and slides: http://www.hclinkontario.ca/events/webinars1.html/#YouthPerceptionsonCannabis2 

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The Wake-up Call on Children & Youths Physical Activity Levels

By Christine Nhan, Health Nexus Summer Student

Overtime there has been a significant decrease in physical activity by children and youth. This is a statement that many of us are well aware of and educated on. Study after study have been conducted, each continuously feeding us the same dangerous results; type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, the list goes on.

participactionreportcard
Recently, participACTION has released their 2016 report card on physical activity for children and youth. Rather than delivering the same information that much of the public is already educated on, they shined a new light on a contributing factor for this health concern. What they believe will be the wakeup call for Canadians.

Instead of strictly focusing on physical activities, emerging studies have taken a step back to look at the bigger picture. Through this new lens a vicious cycle has been identified between one’s sedentary, sleep and physical behaviour. As written in the report, those who are tired out from physical activities will sleep better, and those who sleep less will be too tired for physical activities. This relationship may seem like common sense, however the report also shares some not so obvious effects of sleep deprivation in children.

Over many years now, the public has been repeatedly educated on the true dangers of low physical activity levels. To work towards a more active lifestyle, interventions varying in methods and sizes have been implemented. I recall in elementary school the “Walk across Canada” program was initiated to encourage students to walk more. It was based on a reward system, in which students were given coloured feet charms for every milestone distance achieved. This method of intervention resulted in young children having more motivation to participate in physical activity.

Although many of these interventions have had a positive impact on their communities, obstacles such as technology and restricting circumstances have made the suggested solutions much more difficult to carry out. Technology is a specific contributor that has had a large impact on physical activity. As the amount of time spent participating in physical activity decreases, the time spent using technology has increased. Much concern has been raised, and as a result participACTION has recommended no more than two hours of screen time per day.

I believe an effective approach towards this specific challenge is through the concept of integration. By placing a healthy spin on time consuming technology, physical activity can be integrated into the recommended screen time and essentially decrease one’s sedentary behaviour. A prime example of this integrated approach would be the release of Pokemon Go or Wii Fit. Pokemon Go has especially played as a game changer and unintentionally evolved into a public health service. The trending game is entirely based on people walking to different locations in order to move onto the next level, thus promoting physical activity.

Daily circumstances also give rise to obstacles when wanting to carry out the recommended solutions. The participACTION report card states that 43% of 16-17 year old Canadians are not getting enough sleep on weekdays. Speaking from my own personal experiences, countless of late nights were spent working on projects, assigned homework, or studying for a test. My workload during high school greatly contributed to my lack of sleep. I find that a common thread amongst these challenges is that many individuals disregard the long term consequences, such as being diagnosed with type two diabetes 10 plus years down the road, for the short term consequences, like receiving a bad grade, due to the immediate negative effects.

I truly believe it is important to educate and motivate children and youth to participate in physical activities. By starting healthy habits at a younger age, these habits can become ingrained into an individual’s daily routine. The Healthy Kids Community Challenge run by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care is a recent initiative to help improve children’s health and well-being. HC Link is proud to be a part of this initiative, by supporting, in collaboration with our resource centre partners, the 45 participating communities.

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Webinar Recap - Highlights from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey

By Heather Lillico, Provincial System Support Program, CAMH

CAMH's Provincial System Support Program (PSSP) and EENet co-hosted part one of a two-part webinar series on Wednesday, June 22nd sharing findings from the 2015 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS). The OSDUHS always impresses me because it's the longest running school based survey in Canada! It began in 1977, at a time when bell bottom jeans and tie dye ruled the world.

The webinar kicked off with PSSP's very own Tamar Meyer and Jason Guriel sharing some highlights from the 2015 OSDUHS Drug Use Results Report. Then CAMH expert panelists Dr. Robert Mann, Dr. Hayley Hamilton, Gloria Chaim, and Angela Boak took turns discussing what stood out for them with the results, and how the information could be used to inform policy and programming. Here are some things that stood out for me from the webinar:

  • Students reported use of prescription opioids for nonmedical use, over the counter cough/cold meds, and energy drinks declined since 2013 (great!).
  • Ecstasy increased since 2013 (up 2.1%).
  • The age of initiation for drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and using cannabis has increased over time (ie. students are starting later).
  • Abstinence from drug use including alcohol and tobacco is currently higher than about a decade ago.
  • Although tobacco smoking rates have declined, about 1 in 10 students still report smoking...that's still a big number!
  • Despite a long-term decline, binge drinking remains at an elevated level, as about one-in-six students (an estimated 168,100) report drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion once in the past month.

Have a listen to the webinar and look at the slides for more information.

OSDUHS also has a fantastic interactive website with highlights from the 2015 report which I recommend checking out. PSSP also includes the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre and the Opioid Resource Hub which help support the work of EENet, check them out as well for more resources!

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Part two of this webinar series will delve deeper into how to put all this fantastic research into action. Stay tuned for information on a date!

 

 

 

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HC Link Blog Series on Facilitation Techniques: Wrap Up

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

Good facilitation is an essential component to achieving success as a group. A facilitator helps a group to accomplish its objectives by ensuring comfort, fairness and good participation from all members, maximizing a group’s ability to come up with ideas/solutions, and keeping a group on track to move towards its goals.

At HC Link, we take pride in our staff and our ability to help groups achieve success through our facilitation skills. We have received a number of requests asking for more information on various facilitation approaches and techniques – so we decided to do a blog series to assist in your learning!


Here is a listing of all of the blogs in this series:

Introduction to Choosing a Facilitation Technique

Peer Sharing: the wise crowds technique

Breaking the Ice: putting a little fun into working with groups

Appreciative Inquiry

Facilitating a Priority Setting Exercise

1-2-4-all: Engage everyone in group conversation

Using “Visioning” as a Facilitation Technique

Using popular theatre as a facilitation technique


We hope you found this information and examples helpful!

Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have – or to request a service from us to help with facilitating your community processes, meetings or events.

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Parachute Safe Kids Week: At Home, At Play and On The Road

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By Sunitha Ravi Kumar, KT Coordinator at Parachute

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Parachute Safe Kids Week, an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness about preventable injuries in children. From May 30th – June 5th, communities across Canada will host family-friendly events to provide education about the top childhood injuries At Home, At Play and On The Road.

The number of deaths among Canadian children in the past ten years due to preventable injury has decreased by 28 percent. Think about it - that’s 2,098 children. You might be surprised to learn that even with this downward trend, in Canada today a child dies every few hours from a preventable injury...that is unacceptable.

But what does a preventable injury look like? 

At Home

safekidsweek2Children live in an environment built for adults, making children vulnerable to injury. Leading causes of injuries in the home include:

• falls down stairs or off furniture
• choking, suffocation and other breathing-related incidents
• poisoning
• burns and scalds
• drowning in the bathtub or backyard pool.

Being aware of hazards around the home and taking safety measures such as using baby gates on stairs and locking away medications, can make the home a safe place for kids to learn and grow.

At Play

Physical activity is an important part of childhood. Whether playing organized sports or participating in recreational activities, there may be some risk of injury. Assessing a child’s skill level, recognizing hazards in the physical environment, wearing the proper gear, teaching and practicing ‘fair play’ techniques can all ensure that play remains a part of healthy, active living.

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On the Road

Children are vulnerable road users. Did you know that transport-related incidents are the leading cause of death for Canadian children between the ages of 5-14? Between 2003 and 2012, almost half of all unintentional deaths for children 0-14 occurred on the road1. Regardless of whether children are pedestrians, cyclists or vehicle passengers, practicing and modeling safe behaviors while on the road can keep young ones and you safe on the road.

--

Taking Part is Easy

As a national charity, Parachute is dedicated to closing the gap on childhood injuries. But, we need your help. Together, we can save more kids lives.

As a parent, caregiver, teacher or community partner, you can help reduce preventable injuries in children. Start by taking part in Parachute Safe Kids Week. Be sure to explore our 2016 Safe Kids Week Resources to help you roll out Parachute Safe Kids Week in your community. Make a pledge to keep kids safe and post to your social media channels using the hashtag #SafeKids20. Or visit our website and make a donation to support ongoing programs that keep kids safe.

Have a Safe Kids Week!

The Parachute Team
parachutecanada.org/safekidsweek
@parachutecanada

1. Statistics Canada. No date. Table 102-0540 Deaths, by cause, Chapter XX: External causes of morbidity and mortality (V01 to V89), age group and sex, Canada (table). CANSIM (database). Last updated December 10, 2015. http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a05?lang=eng&id=1020540

 

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Working towards an alcohol control strategy for Ontario that prioritizes community safety

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link - Parent Action on Drugs

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the forum An Alcohol Strategy for Ontario: Promoting Public Health and Community Safety put on by the Working Group for Responsible Alcohol Retailing. The purpose of the forum was to bring together a variety of stakeholders to raise public awareness about the potential social and health impacts from expanding access to alcohol (i.e. alcohol being sold in grocery stores) and build political will to adopt an evidence-informed provincial alcohol control strategy that prioritizes community safety.

The forum certainly did bring together a variety of stakeholders – and while everyone there could agree on wanting safe communities, there was definitely some interesting conversations that were had.

The honourable Dipika Damerla, Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care discussed how Ontario has expanded beer sales to an additional 450 locations across the province to give Ontarians more convenience and choice while still maintaining a strong commitment to social responsibility through strict controls over how the beer is sold in these new locations (i.e. restricted hours, designated section of the store, certified and trained staff). During a Q&A period, concerns were raised about how the evidence has shown us that increased access to alcohol results in higher alcohol consumption and higher harms associated with alcohol use. Concerns around enforcement were also raised, as there are very few AGCO Inspectors assigned to large geographic areas. Damerla assured participants that the government wants to get an alcohol policy right for Ontario, and that the strategy will be robust and will require a cross-government approach.

Ann Dowsett Johnston, author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol shared why the alcohol file is so urgent. She spoke about how despite all the known harms associated with risky drinking, it is still a conversation that no one wants to have because alcohol is entrenched in our culture. We drink to relax, we drink to celebrate, we drink to de-stress, we drink to impress (i.e. if you know your vodkas you’re hip). She was passionate about her concern for how normalized drinking is in our society, and how it is slowing down progress for a successful alcohol control strategy.

Dr. Tim Stockwell, Director of the Centre for Addiction Research of British Columbia, tackled the myth that low-risk drinking can have actual health benefits (i.e. a glass of wine a day is good for your heart). Stockwell also touched upon the dimensions of a successful alcohol policy, including: price, control system, physical availability, drinking and driving, marketing and advertisement, legal drinking age, and screening and brief intervention. Increasing the minimum price of alcohol has been shown to have the greatest impact in reducing risky alcohol consumption and its associated harms.

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                                                      Dr. Tim Stockwell (Centre for Addiction Research of British Columbia)

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                                                       Pegeen Walsh (Ontario Public Health Association)


Dr. Robert Mann, shared trends in alcohol use and problems among adolescents. In Ontario, the most stunning statistic was the decreased rate of drinking and driving among grade 11 drivers (from 46% in 1977 to 3% in 2015). Since 1977, the three major drops in drinking and driving are seen when: the legal age for drinking was increased, when graduated licensing was established (where a blood alcohol level of zero is the law), and when a blood alcohol level of zero was required in all drivers under 22. While there are many programs and initiatives working towards reducing drinking and driving (and working well!), this data does show the profound effects that policies can have. While Ontario has always been the best performing province in motor vehicle fatalities involving alcohol (meaning the lowest numbers), the new data shows that Ontario has the highest rates for drug-present fatalities. There was discussion around how a zero tolerance for drugs policy for drivers under 22 years of age needs to occur.

Dr. Lisa Simon, Associate Medical Officer of Health, spoke about equity as it relates to alcohol consumption and associated harms. While those with the highest income level report the highest alcohol consumption, those with the lowest income have 2x the harms (alcohol-attributed hospitalizations). Furthermore, low income areas tend to receive disproportionate amounts of alcohol outlets. Perhaps not surprisingly, policies that increase the minimum price for standard drinks have been shown to have the most positive impact on those with a lower socio-economic status.

One participant from the audience asked the question to a few of the presenters, what ONE POLICY should be reflected in an alcohol strategy, the answers were:

  • SES should be considered when siting alcohol outlets

  • A minimum price for standard drinks should be set at $1.65

  • Guidelines for low-risk drinking should be on all drinks

  • Reduced availability of alcohol outlets


Brenda Stankiewicz, Public Health Nurse at the Sudbury & District Health Unit spoke about 3 specific challenges in the North regarding alcohol:

  1. Much higher percentage of underage youth reporting parental permission to drink (42% vs 26% in the rest of Ontario)

  2. Transportation issues. With limited or no public transit or taxis available – there are far fewer options for getting home safely after drinking... causing more drinking and driving.

  3. Very limited enforcement. There is the prevailing attitude that if you drive home on dirt roads or long stretches of deserted highways, you will not get caught. Also, because everyone tends to know each other – there is the attitude that no one will report them. Furthermore, there is only 1 AGCO in all of Sudbury, which means – enforcing and monitoring even more alcohol outlets will be even more challenging.

There were many other great attendees who presented, asked thoughtful questions, and engaged in stimulating dialogue. All in all it was a worthwhile forum, and hopefully a stepping stone in the direction of developing an alcohol control strategy for Ontario.

Although the discussion of the forum was focused on a provincial strategy, the role for local players was highlighted. To support your efforts CAMH HPRC is offering free promotional materials to public health and health promotion professionals in Ontario who are interested in supporting low risk drinking: https://www.porticonetwork.ca/web/camh-hprc/resources/substance-use.  You can also check out the Parent Action on Drugs website for information and resources on issues that impact substance use and youth geared towards youth, parents, and professionals.

 

 

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New Resource - Strategic Planning: From mundane to meaningful

By Pam Kinzie, Consultant 

Strategic planning is not a new process. In fact, the first mention of it in the literature related to military strategy in the fourth century B.C.! The Harvard Business School presented it as a new discipline in the 1960’s and by the 1970’s the elements of strategic planning commonly used today appeared.

Those who have participated in strategic planning before may be either enthusiastic about the prospect of developing one or jaded by a previous experience that did not accomplish the anticipated results. There is also a great deal of confusion about what a strategic plan is, why and how one should be developed.

StratPlanThumbTo that end, HC Link has released a new resource on strategic planning, Strategic Planning: from mundane to meaningful. This resource provides an overview of strategic planning including why, when and how to do it, who to involve, the key elements and what to consider when developing a strategic plan. It provides a simple, clear guide to strategic planning for community groups, coalitions and small non-profit organizations drawing on literature aimed at similar organizations. The resource will also provide information that will help you to develop a plan that will not sit on a shelf, but rather act as a living document to guide your program planning, budgeting and measurement of performance. “The best plan is useless unless it is acted upon.”1

Strategic planning is defined as “a process through which an organization agrees on and builds key stakeholder commitment to priorities that are essential to its mission and responsive to the organizational environment. Strategic planning guides the acquisition and allocation of resources to achieve these priorities.”2

Another way to think of a strategic plan is as a flight plan for a pilot. Without one, the pilot and crew have no direction and no specific destination to inform the ticket-sellers or the passengers. The fueling station has no idea how much fuel to provide and the meteorologist can’t anticipate the weather en route. Indeed the mission is unclear. If you don't know where you want to go, it doesn't matter which road you take (to paraphrase the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland).

Consultants may be helpful in providing objective assistance in the overall design of your planning process to involve all key stakeholders. They can obtain sensitive information through interviews and share it in a constructive way. Their key role is to focus on the process and provide relevant background information. Some organizations find it useful to have consultants facilitate planning meetings or retreats so that the stakeholders are free to participate actively. HC Link offers customized consulting services to community groups, organizations, and partnerships to support their work in building healthy communities. HC Link’s consultants can provide valuable resources, tools, problem-solving, advice and mentorship in a variety of areas. HC Link’s consulting services are funded by the Government of Ontario and are provided free of charge, when possible. Contact us to learn more!

We hope that you will find this resource useful in your strategic planning efforts. To learn more about facilitating strategic planning sessions, please read HC Link’s ongoing blog series on facilitation techniques:

 
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1 A. Suchman, P. Williamson, and D. Robbins. (2002) Strategic planning as partnership building: engaging the voice of the community a new perspective on strategic planning. AI Practitioner Newsletter
2 M. Allison and J. Kaye. (2015) Strategic Planning for Non-Profit Organizations: A Practical Guide for Dynamic Times, Third Edition, John Wiley and Sons Inc. 1.
 
 
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Video Interview with Dave Meslin on advocacy and how to influence change

At our 2015 Conference Linking for Healthy Communities: Action for Change we were fortunate to sit down with keynote speaker Dave Meslin, community choreographer, to ask for his views on advocacy and what we can do to influence change.

“Everyone has an idea of how to make their neighborhood or their city or world a better a place, but most people have no idea how to take that idea and act on it.” In this interview, Dave shares the one thing everyone can and should do to influence change, and two things he has learned through his advocacy work.

Watch the full 2 minute video interview below!

 

 

A few key points from the interview:

  • Advocacy is the idea of people coming together and finding their voice.
  • Unfortunately, people tend to have a negative perception of what advocacy means (such as angry people marching in the streets), but there are so many fun ways to do advocacy.
  • One thing everyone can do to influence change is to start from within, and to find out what you are truly passionate about.
  • In advocacy, it is important to find a group that is totally aligned with your values. If a group does not exist that is fighting for what you think needs to be fought for – create your own! “There is nothing more fun than political entrepreneurialism.”
 

For more on our conference, please see highlights below:

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Linking for Healthy Communities 2015 Conference Highlights
offer photos and highlights from all plenary and concurrent sessions, including links to slides and additional information. It also provides ways HC Link can help build upon the connections and momentum started at the conference.

 
 
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Video Interview with David Courtemanche on what makes for effective advocacy

At our 2015 Conference Linking for Healthy Communities: Action for Change we were fortunate to sit down with keynote speaker David Courtemanche, leadership consultant, to ask for his views on what makes for effective advocacy and how policy change can impact health promotion.

In this interview, David talks with us about the skills that are often neglected in advocacy and how we can better develop these to become more effective advocates. He highlights that our perspective is a very big part of influencing change and encourages us to think about policy in terms of people taking action or taking a different direction. David goes on to demonstrate through an example, “the magical power of policy.”

Watch the full 4.5 minute video interview below!

 

 

A few key points from the interview:

  • “Advocacy is a process of influence.” It requires strong leadership and relationship skills because you need to connect with people in positions of influence that can affect change.
  • Advocacy training focuses a lot on how we speak and present, but skills that are necessary and often neglected include effective listening and trust building. We need these skills to better understand the people we are trying to work with.
  • People often view policy work as dry and boring, but when you understand how policy can affect the health of a community it becomes much more powerful.
 

For more on our conference, please see highlights below:

confhighlightsimage
Linking for Healthy Communities 2015 Conference Highlights
offer photos and highlights from all plenary and concurrent sessions, including links to slides and additional information. It also provides ways HC Link can help build upon the connections and momentum started at the conference.

 
 
 
 
 
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We have refreshed our website!

We have been working hard on our website to offer you an enhanced experience, including:

An enhanced homepage

  • We have added more direct links to our top information and resources to make it easier to get to where you want to go – including all of our social media channels (icons at the top), requesting a service from us (right side bar), our most popular resources (right side bar), and joining our listservs (left side bar).

  • Our new slider is more visually appealing and functional.

  • We have added a 2-minute video to describe HC Link and our services.
homepage2
 

Improved navigation

  • The EVENTS section of our website has been re-organized to make it easier to find upcoming events and materials from past events. Rather than having all of our events lumped together, they can now be searched separately by: webinars, peer-sharing and online discussions, conferences, and regional gatherings. An EVENTS landing page has been added to help you find where you need to go.

  • We have added a landing page for the RESOURCES section of our website to help you navigate through the various resources we offer, including: resource topics (new topics have been added and new resources are now showcased), our policy learning community, community storybank, blog, twitter and our listservs.

  • We have created a separate page for our Reports and News Digests under the ABOUT section of our website to make it easier to find what you are looking for.
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In depth details and examples of the services we provide

  • The CONSULTING SERVICES section of our website has been completely re-done! When reviewing our website before the refresh, it became clear that we needed to better describe the consulting services we have to offer and provide some concrete examples of the work that we have done. Please visit the About Our Consulting Services page to learn more about our services and to read though our Q&A, which should answer any questions you have about what we can offer!

  • We have kept our Consultants page to allow you to browse through our listing of skilled consultants to learn more about their areas of expertise, and have added examples of consulting services we have recently done, and quotes from clients to share what others thought about our service. We have also taken the mystery out of how to request a consulting service from us and what to expect from us once you do request a service, by updating our Request A Service page.

  • We have added an infographic to showcase all of the ways that HC link can support community groups, organizations and partnerships to build healthy, vibrant communities across Ontario. You can check this out on the new WHAT WE DO page.
HC Link Continuum of services

 

New online platform for our Policy Learning Community

  • We recently changed platforms for our online policy learning community to provide a more interactive and user-friendly space for members to learn, share and exchange ideas related to building healthy public policy. This new platform offers a Discussion Forum to share ideas, tools, resources, research and upcoming events on variety of topics and emerging issues, a Policy Webwatch that scours the internet looking for policy-related items on news sites, social media, journals and organizations that work in policy, and offers two Think Tanks on food security & active transportation for dedicated discussion.
Learning Community

 

Visual Enhancements

  • We have a new page layout to allow more space for content (less scrolling!) and a bigger font size for easier reading.

  • We have added more images to our website - including photos, thumbnails, and infographics!

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We hope you enjoy the changes we have made to our refreshed website! Feel free to leave comments on this blog about our website, or suggestions for how we can further enhance your online experience with us!

If you have any questions about these changes, please contact Kyley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Remembering Bob Gardner: A Tireless Health Equity Advocate

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

I often set myself with impossible tasks on this blog, but today's task is herculean: trying to come up with the words to describe a colleague of HC Link's and mine, Bob Gardner. Bob, long-time Director of Policy at the Wellesley Institute and life-long health equity advocate, passed away last week.

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Image from: http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/about/staff/bob-gardner/

I was lucky enough to sit at several roundtables and working groups with Bob, and I learned something from him at every single meeting. Things like "whatever you do, don't stop", "think big, but start concrete" and to ask yourself the simple question of "what else do you think might happen?" Bob had a habit of asking the wicked questions, and of reminding us that we need to invite people from "outside of the box" to ask those questions as well.

Bob was a bit outside of the box himself, with Harry Potter glasses and an easy- yet-academic manner. One of my colleagues told me a story of Bob attending a meeting of hospital executives: he arrived on his bike wearing sandals with bike helmet in hand and talked about health equity to execs in three-piece suits, who followed his advice. Another colleague talked of Bob as a connector: someone who always knew who you should talk to about your project and someone who always talked about your project to others. It seemed like Bob knew everybody!

We at HC Link will remember Bob as someone who contributed to our workshops and conferences over the years, most recently at our 2013 provincial conference, where Bob moderated a talk-show-style panel following our keynote speaker. We recorded a video interview with him following the panel, which you can watch here.

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Bob, with Barb Willet and Noor Din at our 2013 provincial conference

I will remember Bob as a fellow lover of all things policy, a tireless advocate of the social determinants of health and social justice. Bob made a real impact on our field, and things won't quite be the same without him.

I often set myself with impossible tasks on this blog, but today’s task is herculean:  trying to come up with the words to describe a colleague of HC Link’s and mine, Bob Gardner. Bob, long-time Director of Policy at the Wellesley Institute and life-long health equity advocate, passed away last week.

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