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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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Improving Primary Health Care by Reducing Stigma – Webinar Summary

By Jewel Bailey, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre


The stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness and substances use challenges experience on a daily basis can lead them to avoid seeking help. When it occurs in a primary healthcare setting it can be felt even more deeply, and can have especially negative effects.

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Primary healthcare providers can play a key role—they can cause stigma or be powerful agents against stigmatization.

In 2010, the CAMH Office of Transformative Global Health (OTGH) partnered with three Toronto-based Community Health Centres to develop and implement an anti-stigma, pro-recovery intervention among primary healthcare providers. On September 29, 2016, the CAMH Provincial System Support Program and OTGH hosted a webinar: “Improving Primary Health Care by Reducing Stigma.”

This webinar explored:

  • the development of the anti-stigma, pro-recovery project

  • the components of the intervention;

  • changes in attitudes and behaviours of the providers who took part in the pilot project.

The presenters were:

  • Akwatu Khenti, Director, OTGH, CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research

  • Jaime Sapag, Project Scientist, OTGH, CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research

  • Sireesha Bobbili, Special Advisor/Project Coordinator, CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research


Watch the webinar and see the presentation slides

 

 

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Q: What do SFPY Program Families and the Toronto Blue Jays have in common?

By Jane McCarthy, Parent Action on Drugs

 

A: RESILIENCY!

Photo credit: Mark Blinch/Canadian Press

bluejaysAs the Toronto Blue Jays recently headed into the post-season with a series of phenomenal wins on the heels of a dreadful September performance, we heard the word, “resilient,” used to describe them. The media used it, colour commentators used it and even the players, when interviewed after the big Wild Card Game win attributed their come-back to being a “resilient” team. We heard it again after taking down the favoured Texas Rangers in three straight, high-drama games. You can knock’em down and just before you count them out, they bounce back better than before! That... is resiliency... in elite sports.

Resiliency to bounce back from adversity of a far more “real word” and uninvited nature, is something we all need to acquire to reach our peak potential. Youth in particular need to be equipped with the ability to cope with less than ideal situations, problem solve and learn from experiences to successfully and safely navigate their way through the ups and downs of life. Research shows that a resilient youth is less likely to become involved in problems such as substance use, gambling or other anti-social behaviours. But, like the Blue Jays, they can’t do it alone. Developing skills from within to build self-esteem, to be your best self, and to stay positive, all components of resiliency, must be paired with external support.

I believe the fact that the Blue Jays had an entire country rallying around them, not something experienced by any other team, gave them an extra boost in their confidence and will to persevere despite the odds, injuries and seemingly insurmountable September slump. For youth, their families, peers, schools and communities are highly influential in helping them become resilient, believing in themselves and making healthier choices regardless of what life throws at them.

sfpy logo 2Parent Action on Drug’s Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth (SPFY) program is an excellent opportunity for both parents and their teens to become resilient as a team and as individuals. While there are external forces beyond the family, the program focuses on strengthening the most direct relationship, that of parent and child. SFPY is a nine-week skill-building program for families to raise resilient youth. The program takes a ‘whole family’ approach that helps parents and teens (12-16 years) to develop trust and mutual respect. It is a shortened, adapted version of the 14-week Strengthening Families Program (SFP) developed by Dr. Karol Kumpfer of the University of Utah.

If you are with an organization that works with youth and families interested in promoting healthy outcomes, consider implementing the SFPY program now. Through the SFPY curriculum (and optional support package) your organization will provide families with a complete research-based approach to improving parent-teen relationships, and to helping youth build resilience that will support good decision making and mental health.

Resiliency just may lead the Blue Jays to championship success this year, but it will certainly lead parents and youth to realizing peak performance in family functioning and pursuing lifetime success in whatever is meaningful to them!

For more information on programs and resources for parents and youth on substance misuse prevention visit www.parentactionondrugs.org and www.parentactionpack.ca

 

 

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Healthy Kids Community Challenge: “Water Does Wonders”

By Robyn Kalda, HC Link

As a member of the Healthy Kids Resource Centre, HC Link is proud to support the Healthy Kids Community Challenge program. This program promotes children’s health by focusing on a healthy start in life, healthy food, and healthy active communities. After nearly a year on the first theme of the program “Run. Jump. Play. Every Day.”, in July the 45 participating communities launched into the second theme, “Water Does Wonders”.

 
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The principal message of this theme is to encourage kids to drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages when they are thirsty. Sugar-sweetened beverages are completely unnecessary as part of a healthy diet. The Heart and Stroke Foundation says:

“Consuming too much sugar is associated with heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancer and cavities.”

How can we encourage children (and their families) to drink more water, and to drink water instead of sugary drinks? The 45 participating communities have lots of ideas.

A popular idea is distributing reusable water bottles to kids. A number of communities encouraged families to photograph themselves with their reusable water bottles while engaging in various physical activities, and to share their photos on social media.

When one has a reusable water bottle, it’s important to be able to refill it. To fill this need, various communities are installing refill stations.

As another idea to illustrate “Water Does Wonders” for health, in the summer various communities sponsored free swims – water in enormous quantity!

For other participating communities, clean, drinkable, safe water is not easily available. In these communities, participants are working to improve access to clean water as a necessary co-requisite to encouraging children to drink more water.

Follow the participating communities on Twitter in English #HealthyKidsON and #IChooseTapWater and in French #enfantsensanteON.

 

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Happiness Matters

By Rebecca Byers, HC Link

It’s about this time of year that we at HC Link start thinking about plans for our next conference. So when I received an invitation to attend an event hosted by the National Speakers Bureau, I decided that listening to six inspiring people over breakfast refreshments would be a great way to spend the morning (and the refreshments were delicious!).

JenMoss2One of the speakers was Jennifer Moss. Jennifer is the Cofounder and Chief Communications Officer of Plasticity Labs, a Waterloo-based research and technology company that is on a mission to give 1 billion people the tools to live a happier, higher-performing life. The company’s software measures employee’s social/emotional intelligence and harnesses this valuable data to improve psychological fitness. Jennifer speaks and writes in the areas of positive psychology, psychological fitness, emotional intelligence and positive habit building.

I’ve been reading a lot about positive psychology and gratitude lately and so was keen to hear what Jennifer had to say. She spoke about the impact of happiness in our world and workplaces and presented a number of thought-provoking trends, stats and stories to illustrate her message. Here a few of the interesting perspectives I took away from her talk:

  • There is some confusion and debate over the meaning and importance of happiness in our lives. The problem is that people don’t know what happiness means to them. Happiness is not the absence of suffering but the ability to bounce back from it. As we improve our psychological fitness and emotional intelligence, we are better able to recognize happiness when it is in front of us.

  • Millennials are the largest generation in history and are driving change to societal and workforce culture and norms. They are making employers pay closer attention to things like work-life balance, workplace happiness and our work-life continuum.

  • A number of successful organizations have identified a clear connection between employee (and organizational) productivity and their workplace culture and perks to support employee well-being and happiness. In fact, after a 4-year study, Google found that their innovation can be attributed to these “nice” things.

  • Over-stimulation from constant digital connection leads to stress and affects our mental health. This can be countered by building up our psychological fitness and emotional intelligence (through things like mindfulness and practicing gratitude) which help protect us from these stressors in the workplace and in life.

  • Having stuff can make us feel comforted and happy but we are starting to see “enoughism” (love this term and have ordered the book from the library!). Acquiring things (like cars and homes) is not part of the new generation’s desires. But when they do make purchases, young people want to connect with a brand that has social consciousness and is doing good things (think: TOM shoes, Lululemon, Whole Foods).

JenMoss
 

In her wrap-up, Jennifer shared a moving personal story of the power of positivity, gratitude and happiness which was the beginning of her journey in this work. In closing, she told us that “Happiness is a choice and is fundamental in how we think about or lives. I choose happiness.”

The other five speakers were equally engaging and while I’m not sure I made any headway in conference planning, I definitely left with my mind abuzz with ideas and a list of further reading!

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Investigating Youth Sport as a Place to Promote Youth Substance Use Prevention


By Jane McCarthy, Parent Action on Drugs (PAD)

kidsandsports
It would seem keeping kids busy in youth sport would lead to healthier outcomes including lowering the risk for youth substance use. But...that may or may not be the case...

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) recently concluded in their report, Youth Sport Programs that Address Substance Use—An Environmental Scan, there is very little evidence, particularly in Canada, as to the whether or not participation in sport is an effective tool in fostering youth substance use prevention. This is not to say youth sport doesn’t promote positive behaviour, it’s just that we can’t say for sure one way or the other.

So, in terms of published research, we can say that the jury is out on how effective youth participation in sport is in preventing or at least reducing substance use. Time to move on from organized sports as a promotion and messaging tool, right? Not so fast. There are two major reasons why exploring organized sports as a conduit to youth substance use prevention and harm reduction seems to be a no-brainer:

1.) More than 80% of youth ages 3-17 participate in some form of sport – an incredibly high participation rate and thus, an incredibly large audience.

2.) The sport team environment could be an excellent place to normalize positive attitudes and behaviour toward delayed substance use, especially during adolescence, when peer influence is high.

I agree with CCSA’s recommendation to rally together practitioners working in a youth- or sport-based field in Canada and researchers who study youth substance use prevention, youth development and sport to “play ball.” Incorporate prevention programs within sport organizations and study their impact.

In their North American environmental scan, CCSA did find some positive evaluation results of a small number of programs predominantly incorporated into school-based sport team environments, many of which were implemented in the United States. Some programs were aimed at reducing performance enhancing drugs and steroid use while others aimed to delay or reduce use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. Most of the programs in the emerging peer reviewed literature were based on Theory of Planned Behaviour and Social Learning Theory. Although findings are preliminary, based on the evidence that does exist, CCSA says that anyone interested in developing or adopting a sport-based drug prevention program would be wise to include:

• A peer-to-peer component (a component upon which many of PADs educational programs is based) http://parentactionondrugs.org/program-resources/

• A team component (e.g., use part of a team practice)

• Incorporating respected coaches as program facilitators

• Involving parents as participant influencers to reinforce messages at home

• Including campaigns, posters and advertisements to correct youth perceptions and social norms (including famous athletes negatively affected and those who are positive role models)

• Offering tangible and achievable alternative behaviours to substance use to promote healthy development and performance

• Program goals that are attainable by the target audience (e.g., don’t ask them to do something they are unwilling or able to do)

• Multipronged approaches to include education, health screening, feedback and counselling if necessary to change behaviour that is already occurring

• Age appropriate, relevant materials

Incorporating substance prevention programming by community-based recreational and competitive youth sport organizations, in addition to school-based team programs would be advantageous seeing as many youth register for sports outside the school environment as well.

If you work with youth in sport or are involved in youth substance abuse prevention research, get into the game of harnessing all that sport has to offer as a place to promote a multitude of healthy behaviours and reduce risky ones...it could be a big win!

Sincerely,

Jane McCarthy, MSc, MPH
Manager, Program Development
Parent Action on Drugs
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To access more information and downloads from our Programs and Resources page go to: http://parentactionondrugs.org/program-resources/

To learn more about the full CCSA environmental scan a report go to http://www.ccsa.ca

To join the Canadian Sport Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Network send your request by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Image courtesy of fundraiserhelp.com

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