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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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Webinar Recap: Health Promotion Programming for Older Adults: Mental Health, Gambling, Substance and Alcohol Misuse

By Tamar Meyer, CAMH Resource Centre

Older adults (55 years and older) often experience health inequities and for this reason, have been identified as a target population within the Healthy Communities Fund Grant Program. According to a recent Statistics Canada report1, seniors (identified by Statistics Canada as 65+) are the fastest-growing age group in Canada representing 14% of the overall Canadian population in 2009 and expected to grow to between 23-25% in 2036. Between 2015-2021, and for the first time in the history of the Canadian population, a dramatic shift is expected to occur where the number of people aged 65 years of age and over is expected to surpass the number of children (14 and under). This dramatic acceleration combined with the health inequities that older adults often experience make it imperative to apply a health promotion lens to this “silver tsunami”. 

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On March 28th, the CAMH Resource Centre, in collaboration with HC Link, held a two-hour webinar called: “Health Promotion Programming for Older Adults: Mental Health, Gambling, Substance and Alcohol Misuse”.Carolynne Cooper, social worker with CAMH's Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario’s Counseling Services and Marianne Kobus-Matthews, Senior Health Promotion Consultant, provided an overview mental health promotion concepts, and gambling, substance and alcohol misuse prevention strategies and programming directed towards older adults. Webinar participants and facilitators discussed risk and protective factors impacting the health and well-being of older adults.  The importance of social and emotional support to reduce social isolation, financial security, and senior-friendly environments – that is environments that are accessible, provide a sense of community, recreational activities, and a variety of different health promoting and prevention services and supports – were identified by presenters and webinar participants as key protective factors to promote the health of older people. 

Louise Daw, Healthy Communities Consultant with the Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC), also joined Marianne and Carolynne to share some information and resources highlighting the intersections between physical activity, and the mental health and older adults.  

To access the PowerPoint slides, click hereTo watch a recording of the webinar, click here.

 

Key documents:


Statistics Canada (2010) Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories: 2009-2036.  Minister of Industry: Ottawa. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-520-x/91-520-x2010001-eng.pdf  Accessed March 29, 2012.
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Swimming Upstream: A Mental Health (Promotion!) Strategy for Canada

 By Tamar Meyer, CAMH Resource Centre

 

This week, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), chaired by CAMH’s Senior Medical Advisor, Dr. David Goldbloom, released Canada’s first National mental health strategy called Changing Directions, Changing Lives. Released during National Mental Health Week, the Strategy is the first of its kind in Canada.  Did you know that prior to the release of this Strategy, Canada was the only G7 country without a national strategy on mental health?

This 6-pronged strategy makes 106 recommendations that cover not only health care but social determinants of health and issues like affordable housing and the justice system; focuses on health equity by underscoring disparities and diversity; addresses the role of poverty and racism; and highlight priority populations like youth, minority official language communities, older adults, immigrants, refugees, ethnocultural and racialized populations, First Nations, Inuit and Métis and northern and remote populations.

“It is important that, in promoting mental well-being and reducing risk factors for every­one, we do whatever we can to reduce the gap between those who are thriving and those whose mental health is most at risk.” - p. 21

Mental health promotion figures prominently in the report and is highlighted in the forefront as Strategic Direction 1. The Strategy underscores that mental health promotion needs to occur across the lifespan and in a wide range of settings including schools, community organizations and workplaces. Mental health promotion efforts should include raising awareness on how to promote mental health, prevent mental illness and reduce stigma, and is most effective through initiatives that target specific groups and settings. 

Strategic Direction 1: "Promote mental health across the lifespan in homes, schools, and workplaces, and prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible.” - p.20

Beyond the first Strategic Direction, it is encouraging to see that mental health promotion is interwoven throughout the entire Strategy resulting in recommendations for action that directly correspond to the main determinants of mental health including: social inclusion and connectedness (see recommendations for action 1.4.2, 3.4.1); violence and discrimination (4.5.3., 5.4.3), and access to economic resources (2.2.1., 2.3.1., 3.5.3).

The CAMH Resource Centre is a great source for additional information and resources. It has hosted a series of mental health promotion webinars to better equip health promotion and public health audiences in Ontario.  These webinars include: 

- Introduction to promoting positive mental health  (slides, resources)

- Mental health promotion in action: reflections from Northern Ontario (slides, recording)

- Introduction à la promotion de la santé mentale positive (slides)

- Promoting positive mental health for immigrants and refugees (slides)

- Promoting mental health in public health (slides, recording)

- Health promotion programming for older adults: mental health, gambling, substance and alcohol misuse (slides, recording)

In addition, there are a number of different mental health promotion tools and resources.  Please visit the mental health promotion resources section of HC Link for more information. 

 

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Austerity and Innovation

 

I just returned from an exciting lunch event at MaRS in downtown Toronto (where incidentally, I had what were quite possibly the best cookies I’ve ever had in my life) that I thought might be of interest to HC Link’s clients. The speaker was Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive from the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) in the U.K. Geoff began his talk with a picture of a painting depicting a beautiful  1800s British wooden sailing ship being towed by a less-than-beautiful tugboat to the shore, where it would be destroyed. Innovation, says Geoff, can be painful as we make way for the new.  But innovation can yield exciting results, particularly in frugal times. Two examples of ‘frugal innovation’ that he used were the Aakash (a $60 tablet computer made in India) and www.couchsurfing.org. Then Geoff challenged us to think: what are the public sector equivalents? How can we mobilize the creativity often seen in the private sector and by imaginative entrepreneurs in the fields in which we work?


In the private sector, 10-15% of budgets are devoted to research and development to foster innovation and new ideas. In the sectors that we – in healthy communities and health promotion – work in, we see far less (if any). To illustrate the effect of this, Geoff showed a graph (which I was not able to find on the internet, so use your imagination) that showed a correlation between health care spending and mortality over time. The more you spend, the more people die. Though slightly tongue-in-cheek, Geoff used this example to show what can happen when we use the same old techniques to cope with ever-changing and complex situations withoutUntitled innovating.
All over the world, countries, governments, organizations and businesses are facing massive cuts in spending/funding. Those of   you working in local communities are no strangers to this reality. But we can – as others have- use this as an opportunity to do things differently. To innovate. And see what happens.


Here are some examples. In Sutton, England the public library faced massive cuts and could no longer purchase new inventory. The solution: Sutton Bookshare – where people list the books on their own bookshelves via the library website that people can pop over and borrow. Now, using the existing infrastructure of the library’s borrowing system, not only has the library solved their problem, but the solution fosters a sense of community. Another example is Big Society Capital – a new bank that lends money to those creating socially innovative projects. The new bank is funded by the millions of pounds sitting in unclaimed bank accounts. Couch Surfing, and similar concepts for car-sharing in Europe also solve the problem of needing a place to stay or a car to drive, but not having the money for a hotel/car rental.


My brain is still spinning from the session. But I think the one take-away for me (other than the cookies!) is that - when you take the ‘problem’ of funding cuts (or the resulting cuts in service due to funding cuts) to the community, the solution can often be found. Many of you are doing just that in your community work – and are finding innovative, community-based solutions that are working for you. I invite you to share those ideas using the comment box below – let’s start a conversation about innovation!

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Whistle While You Walk

 By Andrea Zeelie, HC Link

The benefits of physical activity cannot be overstated. Physical activity is more than sweat-inducing high intensity exercises. Simply walking more offers reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer as well as improved mental health. An active lifestyle combats some of the worst habits for personal health, such as inactivity and a poor diet.

The recently published Road to Health advocates for use of “active transportation,” such as walking or cycling. But, as the report suggests, active transportation can be more challenging for those living in areas affected by urban sprawl or in neighbourhoods with low walkability. Barriers to active transport include usage patterns (such as trip distances), the built environment (such as pavement quality), education (such as understanding of physical health,) and weather (such as ice or snow). Walking may not be possible as a mode of transportation, but it is still an essential physical activity. A recent study by the American College of Sports Medicine reports that children and youth should take approximately 12,000 steps per day to sustain an optimal level of physical activity.

Ontario hosts several fantastic walking focused events which encourage individuals to actively explore their surrounding environment:

- Jane’s Walk celebrates the urban ideals of Canadian activist and writer Jane Jacobs. Jane’s Walk has grown into a global event, taking place on the first weekend of May each year. Community members lead walks in their local neighbourhoods, often around a specific theme. Jane’s Walk is an enjoyable and affordable way to learn more about your community or explore a new one – on foot!

- Doors Open Ontario gives the public access to both commonplace buildings and heritage sites that are not usually open to the public. Sites are open from 10am to 4pm, all weekend (exact dates vary by location), free of charge. Plan to walk to a few sites and make a day of it. This year’s Open Doors celebrates the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

- A number of private companies offer specialized tours, ranging from culinary adventures to mystery expeditions. But plenty of options exist for walkers interested in free tours year round:

  • Some towns and cities provide historical Heritage Walks.
  • Self-guided trails, such as Discovery Walks, encourage environmental exploration.
  • Art galleries and museums offer programming, such as the Royal Ontario Museum’s ROMwalk, which include guided excursions of notable architecture.
  • Ontario Walks is an initiative to encourage physical activity amongst Ontario residents.

To learn more about how physical activity promotes healthy communities, visit HC Link's resources.

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New @ a glance resources: Working Together with Francophones in Ontario

Supporting communities in meaningfully engaging Francophones in their initiatives and activities has been a priority for HC Link for some time. Last summer, we released a very comprehensive report, Work Together With Francophones in Ontario: Understanding the context and using promising practices in French and English as a primer for those seeking to engage the Francophone community. We have also had learning opportunities on this topic first at our November conference (English) and then via webinar (French) this winter. Now, we’re excited to release two issues of @ a glance that capture the essence of the full Work Together with Francophones report .


Working Together with Francophones in Ontario @ a glance: Part 1 Understanding the context discusses the history and statistics of Ontario’s Francophone communities and some of the effects that come from living as a minority group. Part 2: Legislation and institutional support discusses the rights of Francophones in Ontario and the laws which protect them and the roles of the French Language Services Commissioner and various government agencies.


For those of who are familiar with this information and are ready to move to the next step – working and engaging with the Francophone communities in your area- check out the Promising Practices section of the full Work Together with Francophones report. Stay tuned for an English webinar on this topic and remember to contact HC Link for individualized support on Francophone engagement.

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