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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New! Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Refugees


Best Practice Guideslines Refugees Cover

Canada's foreign-born population is unique and varied, with cultural groups represented from all over the world. For the majority, Canada is their choice of country for reasons that include seeking opportunities to improve the future of their families, to join friends or family living in Canada, and/or fleeing their country of origin and seeking asylum in Canada. As many health promotion initiatives do not reach this population, Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Refugees offers an opportunity to review current health promotion programs to improve their effectiveness in addressing the mental health and well-being of refugees.

As the third in a series of online guides for promoting positive mental health, this resource has been developed to support health and social service providers in incorporating best practice approaches to mental health promotion interventions focusing on refugees.

The resource includes:

  • Guidelines: 13 best practice guidelines for mental health promotion for the refugee population.

  • Background: Describes how refugees, as a heterogeneous population, are defined in this resource.

  • Exemplary programs: Describes several programs that incorporate good practice and exemplify the guidelines.

  • Outcome and process indicators: Provides examples of indicators for measuring program success.

  • Theory: Provides definitions and underlying concepts, with a focus on promoting resilience.

  • Resources: Provides a worksheet and sample to help plan and implement mental health promotion initiatives, plus a list of resources, and glossary.

  • References and Acknowledgements

The resource is available for download in PDF at:

The Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs is a joint project between the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto; and Toronto Public Health.


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A final blog post from the HC Link Team at OPHA

By the HC Link Team at OPHA

As you know from recent communications, OPHA has recently made the decision to end its formal partnership role in HC Link. This marks the end of a 19 year journey, which began in 1993 when the Ministry of Health asked the OPHA to host the Heart Health Resource Centre. Originally formed to support the ongoing implementation of the Ontario Heart Health Program, over the next 17 years the HHRC evolved from a program-support project to a capacity building resource centre. The HHRC provided expertise, resources, consultation, training and development to local community partnerships working within the Ontario Heart Health Program.

The HHRC was more than a resource centre that provided products and services. We were about relationships: creating them with those we support, building them with partners and stakeholders, and delivering excellent supports because we understood our clients. We knew their names, who they were, all about their partnerships and the contexts in which they worked locally. We understood their needs (and if we didn't, we were quick to hear about it!) and were able to pro-actively and re-actively develop tools, resources and learning opportunities to meet them. We have had a strong customer service ethic and have responded to our clients, taking their requests seriously. And we have been rewarded with respect and trust from our clients and stakeholders. They are willing and eager to pick up the phone and contact us, tell us what they need and trust that we will help them to the very best of our ability, and will often go above and beyond what they were looking for.

It is this background and expertise that provided the rationale for the Ministry to ask, in 2009, the HHRC to join with 3 other provincial resource centres to form what is now known as HC Link. Originally conceived as the resource centre to support the Healthy Communities Fund, HC Link works with community partnerships, groups and organizations working to build healthy, vibrant communities in Ontario.

The HC Link team at OPHA has been privileged to work with the organizations who make up HC Link, and their excellent staff and consultants. Everyone within HC Link shares the same commitment to relationships, client-centered service and excellence which have defined HHRC.

The most wonderful thing about this transition is that it does not mark the end of our individual involvement in HC Link. OPHA staff Andrea Bodkin, Rebecca Byers, Dianne Coppola, Kim Hodgson, Pam Kinzie and consultants Kim Bergeron and Rishia Burke will continue their involvement as staff or consultants with member organizations of HC Link. Each of us feel privileged to have been involved with HC Link, and glad that we can continue this involvement in the future. And we look forward to continuing to work with our amazing clients and stakeholders for a long time to come!

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Webinar Recap - Promoting Positive Mental Health for Immigrants and Refugees

On March 6th, approximately 35 health professionals from across Ontario joined the CAMH resource centre and HC Link for a webinar called "Promoting Positive Mental Health for Refugees and Immigrants". Participants came from a diverse range of organizations and agencies and included educators, policy makers, settlement workers, public health professionals and resource coordinators to name a few. Joanne Brown from HC Link introduced the presenters, Angela Martella, Community Engagement and System Planner at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and Marianne Kobus-Matthews, Senior Health Promotion Consultant, also from CAMH. Together, Angela and Marianne provided a review of key concepts related to mental health promotion; outlined mental health promotion best practices related to immigrants and refugees; described some exemplary programs working to promote refugee and immigrant mental health and lastly, introduced two resources to apply mental health promotion principles into practice.

These resources included the recently launched Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Refugees and the Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Immigrants (to be launched this spring). These guides are two new additions to an online series that present health and social service providers with evidence-based approaches to mental health promotion with various populations. The guides outline best practices and provide practical tools to assist service providers in integrating evidence-based approaches to mental health promotion in their work with immigrants and refugees. Each guide includes 13 best practice guidelines, outcome and process indicators, as well as a worksheet and a sample to help plan and implement mental health promotion initiatives with refugees and immigrants.

During the webinar, participants were asked to identify what the term "mental health" meant to them. Using the chat box function, participants entered words and phrases like "well-being", "trying to find a balance in life", "flourishing, living to one's full potential", "able to cope with stress", while another participant wrote: "mental health to me means fluidity, balance, connectedness, peace". This is well-aligned with Health Canada's definition of mental health as:

"... the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity."   Health Canada, 1997

Building on the importance of culture, equity, and social justice in defining mental health, Angela and Marianne discussed the impact of risk and protective factors on refugee and immigrant mental health, that is, characteristics that are associated with an individual or community that will make it more likely to either develop a problem or will reduce the likelihood that a problem will develop. Participants were asked to identify risk factors (including determinants of health) that contribute to poor mental health for refugees and immigrants and contributed the following: social isolation, language barriers, immigration status, being separated from one's family, discrimination and racism, experiences of war/torture/trauma, parenting in two cultures, and factors such as employment, housing, and access to health services.

Some of the protective factors for refugee and immigrant mental health that were identified by webinar participants included: social and community supports, culture, leaving traumatic environments, having a sense of identity, belonging to a faith community, social structures that accommodate diverse individuals, having knowledge of the system, settlement services, opportunity for civil engagement, and supportive policies. As both the participants and the webinar facilitators illustrated during the webinar, risk and protective factors for the mental health and well-being of refugees and immigrants are experienced and can be impacted at an individual, community and societal level and action needs to occur at multiple levels, using multiple strategies that are culturally appropriate.

Thank you to all participants for a dynamic webinar. For more information and to download a copy of the Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Refugees, please visit CAMH's Knowledge Exchange Portal:

Please stay tuned to HC Link for more information on the upcoming launch of the Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Immigrants.

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March 6th Webinar- The CAPTURE Platform: Communities sharing knowledge gained through local initiatives

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link


On March 6th, Dayna Albert, who works for CAPTURE as Manager of Practitioner Engagement, led a webinar hosted by HC Link on the CAPTURE Platform.

Over 45 participants who were eager to learn more about the CAPTURE platform- a freely accessible web-based repository for finding and sharing practice-based evidence in health promotion and chronic disease prevention, attended the webinar. This was the first time that I had heard of this platform, and was very impressed with this tool and the value it could bring to health promotion organizations. I thought about how this tool could be really helpful in sharing the work of healthy communities partnerships as well as local and regional groups. So, for those of you who did not attend the webinar, here is a brief summary of what was covered and how your work may benefit from this.

The CAPTURE platform allows you to find information and learn from health promotion and chronic disease prevention interventions (programs, projects, etc.) that are in the planning stage, in progress, or that have already been fully implemented. You can access information on approaches, activities, and lessons learned, and read information about the context and target populations of these interventions, to help you determine which are relevant and appropriate to your work.

Not only can you benefit from learning about other work being done in Canada (and in fact, across the globe), you can also benefit by entering interventions into the platform that you have been involved in. This tool provides the space for you to document your work, and asks you valuable questions that allow you to reflect on your learnings. Oftentimes we don't know what we know, until we start to talk about it and share our experiences and then we realize the knowledge we have actually gained. Another benefit for many groups is that this can be used as a tool in your knowledge exchange plan, often a requirement from funders.

Another neat feature of this platform, is that when you enter in an intervention, you can decide whether you want to just keep this information to yourself (and benefit from documenting and reflecting on your intervention), whether you want to share this information with colleagues and partners that you can invite to view or edit your intervention, or whether you want to share this information with everyone (which allows the most people to benefit).

One important question that came up in the webinar was, "How is this platform different than the Public Health Agency of Canada's Best Practice Portal?" With the Best Practice Portal, interventions must meet rigorous criteria and have undergone extensive evaluation, meaning that the interventions discussed have already been fully implemented. The CAPTURE platform allows information to be shared on an on-going basis so that useful information can be accessed in real-time and also allows interventions who may not have the resources to be rigorously evaluated to still share helpful information in the form of promising practices, as opposed to best practices.

This webinar concluded with information on how to participate in CAPTURE's 10-minute challenge. By contributing your program information to CAPTURE, either by filling out a 10-minute Challenge Entry Form, or by accessing the platform directly to enter an intervention, you have the opportunity to win an iPad 2. The deadline for this challenge is March 15th, 2012.

Learn more about the CAPTURE project

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French webinar - Promotion de la santé mentale positive

On February 24th, close to fifty participants from across Ontario participated in a French language webinar presented by the CAMH Resource Centre in collaboration with Réseau CS called « Promotion de la santé mentale positive« (Introduction to promoting positive mental health). Facilitated by Antoine Dérose, a bilingual program consultant from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, this webinar provided an overview of key mental health promotion concepts, strategies and best practices to promote positive mental health, and also provided examples of mental health promotion initiatives and tools. Participants included public health stakeholders, health care providers and professionals from a variety of community and social service organizations.

One of the resources that was highlighted during the webinar was the recently translated Directives sur les meilleures pratiques à appliquer pour les programmes de promotion de la santé mentale : personnes de 55 ans+. Also, available in English, the Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Older Adults 55+ is a guide that has been developed to support health and social service providers in incorporating best practice approaches to mental health promotion interventions for people 55 years and older. The resource includes 11 best practice guidelines, a list of exemplary programs, outcome and process indicators, as well as a worksheet and sample to help plan and implement mental health promotion initiatives.

During the webinar, one participant asked for more clarification on the difference between health promotion and prevention. In the context of mental health, health promotion builds from the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion as the process of enabling people to increase control over and to improve their mental health. While mental illness prevention is a complementary term alongside mental health promotion, prevention, in the context of mental health is more directed towards preventing the occurrence of poor mental health/mental illness. For more information, the World Health Organization has an excellent resource called the Health Promotion Glossary.

The CAMH Resource Centre looks forward to continuing to collaborate with Réseau CS in the development and delivery of French language webinars on the mental health promotion priority. You can look forward to future webinars in the coming fiscal year!

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