Blog

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.

A few words in favour of Pokémon Go

By Robyn Kalda, HC Link Consultant

pokemongo
As health promoters, we frequently can be heard disparaging video games. All that screen time! Why don't people go outside? Well, Pokémon Go is getting people outside -- albeit with screens still firmly in hands. What can we do to emphasize the health-promoting aspects of the game? Here are a few ideas.

Encourage inter-generational activity

Kids, parents, and grandparents can all play. Age gives no advantage, so it's a fair game for all. Parents may find kids who play Pokémon Go are more willing to walk around their neighbourhoods, to take on chores such as dog-walking, and to tag along on dull errands such as grocery shopping, as they have to walk several kilometres to hatch Pokémon eggs. Time to encourage family Pokémon-hunting walks after dinner, perhaps?

Encourage exploration

Different Pokémon are found in different kinds of environments, so those found near water are different than those found on busy streets or near forests. Pokémon collectors need to venture beyond their usual haunts if they want to complete their collection. Health promoters can encourage people to use this opportunity to find and appreciate new features of their community. I'd like to see community walking tours that encompass local spots of interest both real and Pokémon-related.

Encourge the social elements

You can't trade Pokémon (yet), but if you want to learn some of the finer points of playing or if you want to know where you can catch a particular kind of Pokémon, you're going to need to go out and walk around, and you're also going to have to talk to other players. It's too soon for proper research, but anecdotal evidence suggests some people with autism or depression have been deriving benefits from walking and from Pokémon-related socializing. (You can go to spots called "gyms" to battle other players' Pokémons as well, which might be considered another social element of the game, but that part is less potentially health-promoting!)

It's easy for health promoters to disparage screens and video games, and sometimes we do so out of habit. I'd suggest we take a closer look at the assets Pokémon Go gives us to work with and see where it takes us.

Besides, it's kind of fun.

550 Hits
0 Comments

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.

522 Hits
0 Comments

New CAMH Survey Results Show 10 Per Cent Increase in Psychological Distress among Ontario Students

By Monica Nunes, CAMH HPRC

 

OSDUHS changesThe Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has just released its biannual report on student mental health and well-being in Ontario. The data derives from the 2015 edition of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), the longest running school survey of adolescents in Canada, and one of the longest-running surveys in the world.

The 2015 results show that more than one in three – an estimated 328,000 Ontario students in grades 7 to 12 report moderate-to-serious psychological distress, a 10 per cent jump since 2013. Girls are twice as likely as boys to experience psychological distress.

Other striking trends include:


Mental health

  • Seventeen per cent of students rate their mental health as fair or poor, a 6 per cent increase since 2013
  • The number of students prescribed medication for anxiety , depression or both in the previous year doubled since 2001
  • View an infographic on mental health trends 


Screen time and social media use

  • Overall, screen time and social media use is high. More than half (63 per cent) of students spend 3 or more hours per day in front of TV or tablet/computer in their free time.
  • Eighty-six per cent of students visit social media sites daily and 16 per cent spend five or more hours on social media per day
  • View an infographic on screen time and social media use trends


Video gaming

  • An estimated 122,600 (13 per cent) of students in Ontario report symptoms of a video gaming problem which includes associated preoccupation, loss of control, withdrawal and disregard for consequences
  • The percentage of students indicating a video gaming problem in 2015 (13 per cent) is significantly higher than the percentage in 2007 (9 per cent), the first year of monitoring
  • Problem video gaming is especially prevalent among boys (20 per cent) rather than girls (5 per cent)


The Provincial System Support Program and the Evidence Exchange Network (EENet) at CAMH have been maintaining a strong knowledge exchange partnership with the OSDUHS research team to share this evidence widely. Most recently, PSSP hosted the first webinar in a two part-series sharing the OSDUHS results on drug use among students which you can check out on EENet’s website. Part two of the webinar series is scheduled for October 5th from 11:00am-12:30pm and will focus on how program planners and policy makers use the OSDUHS data. Stay tuned for registration information! In the New Year, PSSP and EENet will also host webinars focusing on the mental health and well-being results.

Access the full OSDUHS mental health and well-being report: http://www.camh.ca/en/research/news_and_publications/ontario-student-drug-use-and-health-survey/Documents/2015%20OSDUHS%20Documents/2015OSDUHS_Detailed%20MentalHealthReport.pdf

753 Hits
0 Comments

Webinar Recap: How to Engage Francophones- when you don’t speak French!

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

A few years ago, prior to the creation of HC Link, I had the opportunity to work with a group of health promotion resource centres whose intent was to provide services in French. At that time, though I had grown up in Quebec and even attended French Immersion school, I wasn’t able to speak much French. That led to a pretty commonly held belief: if you can’t speak French, you can’t work with Francophones and you can’t work towards offering services in French.

Fortunately for me, I was with a group of very passionate health promoters- Anglophones and Francophones- who helped me to see that non-French speakers have a critical role to play when it comes to engaging Francophone communities and planning French language services. It was that group of people that inspired me to try to regain the French skills I had as a child. Thanks to a number of courses, terrific tutors and a lot of perseverance, I am making progress. I have also experienced the sheer frustration of knowing what I want to say, but not having the words to express myself. I can easily imagine what it is like for people who are sick, need medical attention, or are trying to improve their health or life circumstance and can’t receive services in their own language.

There are of course a wide variety of languages spoken in Ontario. French is unique in that there is political and legislative recognition of the rights of Franco-Ontarians to receive services in French. These are the factors which led me, along with former HC Link staff Estelle Duchon, to create the webinar and accompanying resource: How to Engage Francophones- when you don’t speak French! My HC Link colleague Patrick Delorme and I have recently updated the original resource, and today we offered a webinar on the topic.

In the webinar and resource, we identify three important steps to take when engaging Francophone communities in your region (whether you speak French or not):

  1. Clearly define your motives and purpose for engaging Francophones;

  2. Understand the context and history of  Francophone in your region, in Ontario and in Canada

  3. Partner with organizations and networks in your region who work with Francophones

We also talked about common pitfalls and challenges in engaging Francophones, and what strategies you can use to avoid them. One excellent question from our webinar participants:

Q: How do we ensure that, when we are translating resources into French, we don’t lose the context?

A:Translation is a tricky (and also time consuming and resource intensive) process. We recommend several steps to ensure that the translated materials are high quality, useful and relevant for the Francophone community:

  • At the risk of listing something quite obvious, use a professional translator and avoid Google Translator at all costs!

  • Put together a “lexicon” of words and their translations related to the resource/program. Add to the lexicon over time and provide it to your translators.

  • Ask Francophone colleagues, partners and/or community members to review the translated document. Try to find Francophones from your region and from your sector who are familiar with the local/contextual vernacular.

  • For a longer resource, manual or a program that you are translating in French, we recommend adapting it for your Francophone audience. If possible, establish an advisory committee (again, Francophone colleagues, partners and/or community members from your region and from your sector) and work with them to identify the components of the resource/materials that need to be adapted to fit the needs and realities of the Francophones you are trying to reach. Once the materials are translated and adapted, pilot test them with the target audience and ask for feedback on them.  

 

You can watch a recording of the webinar or view the webinar slides on our website.

 

493 Hits
0 Comments

OHCC and Developmental Evaluation

Lorna McCue, Executive Director, Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC)

The Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, a member organization of HC Link, recently sent three OHCC Board members and the Executive Director to a workshop on Developmental Evaluation (DE), provided by Innoweave, to learn more about this approach and its suitability for their Healthy Food Program.

This workshop was facilitated by Jamie Gamble of Imprint Consulting, who has designed and delivered consulting projects in evaluation, strategy, and organizational change over the past decade. He has written a Developmental Evaluation Primer for this series of workshops.

The workshop was designed for teams of 3-4 leaders of an organization to learn together about developmental evaluation and work together to develop a plan to undertake a developmental evaluation for a specific program.

Prior to attending the workshop, participants were invited to view a pre-recorded webinar online, and were given a link to view or download the slides.

DEimage

Developmental Evaluation is an evaluation approach that supports innovation by providing close to real time feedback on activities, which facilitates continuous development. It is particularly useful in guiding adaptation within complex environments, and is a useful approach to evaluating Collective Impact initiatives. The evaluation methods and tools aren’t necessarily different than those used in a more traditional evaluation, but how they are used is quite different. The evaluation activities are undertaken in a more flexible, team-oriented, user-friendly way, and are geared to on-going learning and development. Data is collected more frequently, the process of interpretation and generating recommendations is timely, new issues are explored as they are identified, and the program design and the evaluation measure may be altered during the evaluation time frame.

The OHCC team decided to plan for a DE of its Healthy Food program. Since 2003 OHCC has worked with partners to support the development of sustainable local food systems and increase community food security within Ontario communities. Recent planning sessions have led to the alignment of OHCC’s food-related resources and activities under one Healthy Food program. The goal of this program is to engage communities in assessing and developing their local food system and build capacity for local solutions to hunger, including emergency services, capacity building programs, access to land and facilities for gardening and food re-distribution and system change initiatives. Our current work in this area includes providing consultation and learning activities through HC Link, to build the capacity of community food programs, and supporting FoodNet Ontario, a provincial network of individuals and organizations working towards sustainable local food systems and community food security.

During this workshop, the OHCC team focussed on exploring the scope of the evaluation process, the risks entailed in undertaking a DE instead of a more traditional evaluation approach and the evaluation methods that would be appropriate for this program. All team members agreed that DE was a good fit for this program, but that further work was needed in program design before a DE could be undertaken. They also expressed their appreciation for the training they received in DE and may have opportunities to apply the concepts to other programs in which they are involved.

479 Hits
0 Comments