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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!

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Sustainability Planning Part Two: the Components of Community work

This post is part of a series of blogs on program sustainability and sustainability planning. Read the first blog in the series, Sustainability Planning Part one: What is sustainability?

 

As I often do when learning about something- in this case- sustainability- I turned first to HC Link’s resources. In this case, I turned waaaaaay back

sustain 4 componentsbeyond the 2009 inciption of HC Link, to a resource written by one of HC Link’s founding partners, the Heart Health Resource Centre. Written in 1999, the resource Health Heart Sustainability (available only as a scanned copy), was designed to support community partnerships participating in the Ontario Heart Health Program develop sustainability plans. While created specifically for the Ontario Heart Health Program, the ultimate goal of which was the reduction of behaviours that lead to cardiovascular disease (physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, smoking and stress), I think that this model is applicable to many other programs that focus on behaviour change, and in particular, involve multi-dimensional community partnerships.

This table suggests results for each component of sustainability, and gives a sense of various options within each category:

sustain table 3

What I really like about this model is that it goes beyond thinking how to replace expired program funding: it encourages us to think about what it is we are trying to change (the issue) the change we actually want to see (the behaviours), and the partnerships we’ve established to do the work.  Consider how to address sustainability of each of these components not only in your sustainability planning, but as you are designing your program.  

Read the third post in this blog series, Developing a Sustainbility Plan

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Sustainability Planning Part one: What is sustainability?

This post is the first in a series of blogs on program sustainability and sustainability planning. Stay tuned for the next posts: Sustainability Components of Community Work and Developing a Sustainability Plan.

Lately we’ve been getting service requests from organizations and partnerships who are interested in sustaining their programs beyond the end of their funding period. “Sustainability” is one of those mysterious terms that is used a lot, though we don’t always know what we mean when we say it! I decided that I needed to find out more about what sustainability is and how to plan for it.

There are many different definitions of sustainability. Sustainability can be defined simply as a continuation1: the ability to carry on program services through funding and resource shifts or losses2. In other cases, sustainability can be about institutionalizing services; creating a legacy; upholding existing relationships and maintaining consistent outcomes2. Often we think of sustainability meaning about funding3:  however sustainability planning should focus on community needs, which shift and change over time2.  Sustainability is not a single event or a linear process: like many things in healthy communities and health promotion, sustainability planning is a continuous process that may involve one-step-forward-two-steps-back and multiple components happening at the same time2.

The Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) in the U.S. has several excellent resources on sustainability. In particular, their 2012 Tip Sheet titled Built to Last3 provides an excellent, 5 page primer to sustainability planning. In the tip sheet, the OAH lists four common challenges to sustainability of programs and services:

  • Organizations have difficulty in planning far enough ahead to secure necessary resources
  • There is a lack of well-documented successes to share with the community and funders, despite the quality of the program
  • There is a lack of stakeholder ownership of the program
  • Funding streams are finite and there is competition from similar organizations

Sustainability planning should not be automatic: in other words we should ask ourselves if the program should be sustained rather than simply assume that it should. I've adapted the below questions from the OAH tip sheet and a guidebook of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the U.S.4:

  1. Does your program or service address a need in the community?
  2. Do your evaluation results demonstrate that you are making a difference?
  3. Do you need to sustain the entire program? What parts of the program are the most effective and needed?

What I’m taking away from this wee bit of reading that I’ve done on sustainability, is that we often focus our sustainability efforts on replacing program funding, with the assumption that our programs should continue.  Sustainability is not about replacing expiring funding- though obviously that’s a part of sustainability planning. Rather, sustainability planning should be a fluid, ongoing process that is specifically tailored to local needs and the environment in which the organization operates. We need to ask ourselves the hard questions (as per above) to make sure that our program should continue. Then, we can begin sustainability planning. 

Read the next post in this series, Sustainability Planning Part Two: the Components of Community work.

References

1Heart Health Resource Centre, 1999. @heart: Heart Health Sustainability. Toronto, Ontario

2Office of Adolescent Health, 2014. Building Sustainable Programs: The Framework.

3Office of Adolescent Health, 2012. Build to Last: Planning Programmatic Sustainability.

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Join our “what successful partnerships do” series this September!

t HC Link we do a LOT of work supporting community partnerships. We’re finding that, more and more, people are working in partnership. That’s why we’ve developed this free series of webinars, consultations, workshops and resources to help you work more effectively in partnership.

Gillian and I began the series in June through a webinar in which we touched on key issues and strategies for building & maintaining successful partnerships. We then offered individual coaching sessions to help webinar participants apply their learning and identify next steps to strengthen their partnership skills.

This fall we will build upon our June webinar by moving into a more interactive stage. First, participants can use an online bulletin board to share what challenges or questions they currently face when dealing with partnerships. Then on Sept 26th, Gillian & I will host an interactive learning exchange that is completely customized to address the questions and concerns registrants sent in earlier in September. 

 

To sign up & ask your questions, click here.

 

What you can expect from this learning exchange:

  • Structured conversation lead by HC Link staff
  • Expert advice and opinion by contributors
  • A chance to build upon the ideas and challenges you face
  • Discussion on how to apply the 6 Key Activities for dynamic and effective partnerships.

 

Following the learning exchange, you can sign up for coaching sessions with HC Link consultants. Your partnership can also request consultations and workshops to help you move forward and accomplish your goals.

 

Missed part 1 in June? No problem! Get up to by speed by watching the recording or by reading this handy 2-page recap in FR and EN, which covers the topics we touched upon in webinar such as:

 

  1. Challenges organizations face to maintain strong partnerships
  2. Insight on how to define and achieve common goals 
  3. Our 6 key activities on how to achieve dynamic and effective partnerships

 

Not sure how HC Link can help? Contact us to start a conversation and see where it leads. 

 

partnership serie logo M 2017

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It takes a village: Social connections for health and well-being

By Rebecca Byers, HC Link

“Social isolation is the biggest health concern of our day,” said psychologist and best-selling author Susan Pinker during her closing keynote address at the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) Shift the Conversation conference I attended last week. She was referring to the science that shows social isolation harms peoples' health and shortens lifespans – material she covers in her latest book, The Village Effect, that explores how face-to-face contact is crucial for learning, happiness, resilience and longevity. Over the course of her talk, Susan shared the benefits of social connections and made the case for creating more inclusive communities where people know, and talk to each other, face to face.

Susan

Susan told us about her visit to a mountain village in Sardinia, Italy – one of the world’s “Blue Zone” areas as it is home to one of the highest proportion of super-centenarians. Her research of the over-100 club in Sardinia revealed that these centenarians typically had frequent and close connections with family and friends.

There is support for this observation; one study showed that social integration (loose in-person connections to many others) and close relationships (those tight bonds of friendship) are the strongest predictors of longevity – greater than perhaps more obvious things such as smoking, alcohol-use, diet, exercise, weight, hypertension.

chart

According to Susan, having loose in-person bonds, together with close relationships, creates a personal “village” around us, one that exerts unique effects. She went on to say that social contact (the face-to-face variety), like a vaccine, has a protective effect on our health, and it seems our bodies know it as it is a biological drive much like food and sleep. From birth to death, we are hard-wired to connect to other human beings and this connection gives us a sense of belonging.

“It’s a biological imperative to know we belong.” – Susan Pinker

Simply put, belonging matters. As mentioned by another presenter earlier at the conference, it’s the “secret sauce” to well-being. This is a belief supported by the Canadian Index of Well-being (CIW), which measures eight quality of life domains to provide a greater understanding of wellbeing and support evidence-based and community-focused decision-making. “Social relationships” is one of the categories of well-being indicators within the CIW’s Community Vitality domain - which looks at quality of life with regard to the communities we live in, how safe we feel, and whether or not we are engaged in community activities or socially isolated.

AOHC has been one of the pioneers to adopt the CIW. Over recent years, the association and its member organizations have worked to apply the CIW in a variety of innovative ways. One of the ways that community health centres are applying the CIW is by incorporating a “Be Well Survey” to collect information about the health and wellbeing of the people and communities they serve. The survey contains standardized questions that cover all eight CIW domains with a particular focus on Community Vitality and its components such as belonging, social connection, and inclusion.

Susan closed with the following recommendations for the audience of AOHC members, which I think hold true for all organizations, communities and people alike:

  • Build “third spaces” – social hubs that are neither work nor home. It doesn’t have to be fancy – can be as simple as providing tables and chairs. What’s important is that it draws people.

  • Build “villages”. Relationships help people thrive. Social contact should be built into all prevention and treatment plans.

You might also be interested in one of HC Link’s past webinars: Stress, Determinants of Health and Connectedness: Impacts on well-being 

 

 

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

safekidsweekbanner

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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