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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Using social media to promote your health campaign

By Zoë Siskos, Coordinator, Communications, Smokers' Helpline

If you work in the health care industry it's likely that your focus is trying to get people to change an unhealthy behaviour to a healthy one. For Canadian Cancer Society Smokers' Helpline, this time of year means that we are in the middle of our biggest campaign to help people try to quit smoking – The Driven to Quit Challenge.


The Challenge encourages people in Ontario to quit smoking for the month of March to win their choice of a Ford Fusion Hybrid or Ford Edge, one of two $5,000 vacation getaways, or one of seven regional $2,000 cash prizes.

You'd think with this kind of a structure it would be a breeze to get people involved.

Over the years we've inspired 165,000 quit attempts but smokers 15+ in Ontario account for 15% of the population. So, we still have a lot of people to reach.

The good news is that research shows that people want to change - In Ontario, 62% of smokers want to quit within the next six months. The concern is that most people don't have the support required to make changes. Or, worse off, the support is there but they don't know about it or can't access it.

This is why social media can be such an effective tool. It allows you to connect with people that you likely would never have connected with. Social media enables a two-way conversation; if you are listening properly you can adapt your support to your audiences' needs. And you can do it fairly quickly, too. But how do you ensure that you are maximizing the benefits of social media and not just hanging out on Facebook or Twittering all day?

What are your goals?

Smokers' Helpline has incorporated a dedicated social media plan to increase brand engagement, and traffic and registrations to Driven to Quit and Smokers' Helpline Online. Here are just a few of our goals that we've been able to accomplish:

  • Our Facebook page "Likes" grew 33% in 4 months (October to February)
  • The week of the campaign (January 3-9) we doubled the number of interactions on our Facebook page
  • Sent over 2,000 people to our Driven to Quit site in December and January
  • We've had over 400 Tweets with the #D2Q (our hashtag for The Challenge)

How do you reach your goals?


As with any other communications effort, you need a plan. In it you want to include what you want to achieve (objectives), how you are going to do it (tactics), and how you will know you've accomplished it (measurement). It's not about length or complexity; the plan will just help everyone on your team understand what is expected and what is to be put into action.

Once this has been done, create a content calendar that will outline, specifically, what is being posted and when. Your team should spend a lot of time crafting key messages that align with your organization's brand and overall objectives. Look at the months ahead and determine what activities your organization is doing that social media can help to support.

For example, January had National Non-Smoking Week. We tailored messages and links to promote that, since it ties in directly with our objectives.

The more you can plan in advance, the freer you will be to engage with other people more organically. You won't have to spend time each day thinking of what to write - instead you can spend time having real conversations and responding to comments and questions online.

Include social in non-social

Traditional means of advertising and promotion are not dead. Use them but include your social networks into them. Make sure your e-mail signature has links to your networks. Make Twitter logos more prominent on your website, not buried at the bottom.

When we notified people of The Driven to Quit Challenge in an e-mail blast, we had a prominent section directing people to our Facebook page - in one day we had 64 new likes! We also included a call to action in our press release, letting people know they could connect with us online. Because social media is gaining in popularity, many of the news sources published links to our networks.

We also get contacted by a lot of people asking for clarifications on the rules or some other aspect of The Challenge. In every reply, we always encourage people to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Focused efforts


Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to have a social network just because it exists. Social media is free but the time to manage it is not. Depending on what your knowledge base is, and what resources you have, few organizations can appropriately manage more than two social networks. Facebook and Twitter are the most common but take a look at all of them to see what most appropriately fits your objectives.

New networks, such as Google+, have different features that may be more beneficial (i.e. Hangouts, for example). Smokers' Helpline uses Facebook and Twitter to share messages but if you take a look you'll see that the content is different on each. This way, our audience has a reason to follow both accounts, rather than getting the same information on Facebook that they would get on Twitter.

Work with partners and influencers

Talk to the organizations you work with regularly to see who is online and connect with them. Make it a habit to retweet and share their messages and they will do the same. For our launch, we gave all of our partners a list of pre-written messages to announce the big event. Those that used them changed them just slightly to make it come from their own voice. Each organization was appreciative that they didn't have to do the work of thinking up what to write and we were happy that a consistent and accurate message was getting shared.


In the months prior to the campaign, we worked diligently to build online relationships with others in this industry, people we might never have worked with. When D2Q began, we started reaching out to people and asked them to help promote the campaign.

Of course, it wasn't some blanket statement and we didn't ask everyone. Each message was tailored to that organization and we ensured the messaging was relevant. We were flexible when anyone had specific asks of their own and gracious when they said "no".

We also looked for opportunities for organizations to use our hardcopy materials (posters, registration forms, etc.). Remember, just because we built these relationships online, it doesn't mean the promotions can't extend offline. Being creative and nimble in this industry will allow you to maximize your return.


If you're interested working with us in promoting The Driven to Quit Challenge or have any other questions, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or reach out to us on our Facebook page or on Twitter. Registration ends February 29!

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Fostering Resiliency in Children and Youth

Submitted by CAMH Resource Centre and Parent Action on Drugs (PAD)

Imagine two rubber balls: The first ball is properly inflated with no holes or cracks. If you throw it against a wall it makes a loud BOING!! and returns with the same force that you threw it with. Now imagine throwing a rubber ball that is partially deflated due to a small crack, allowing air to seep out of it slowly over time. If you throw that ball against the wall, it makes a dull thud and lands only a few feet from the wall. It might roll back to you but it will take much longer than the first ball. "Resilience involves being able to recover from difficulties or change – to function as well as before and then move forward. Many refer to this as "bouncing back" from difficulties or challenges" (CAMH, 2009).

When we – as parents, caregivers, service providers and communities – foster resilience in children and youth, we are helping that rubber ball stay inflated. Building protective factors makes sure those holes and cracks are fixed so that young people can face life challenges and bounce back.

Resiliency has been steadily gaining attention as an important aspect of mental health promotion/mental well-being for children and youth by health professionals, researchers, government ministries and programs (including the Healthy Communities Fund grant program). As an important aspect of mental well-being, promoting resilience in individuals and communities is an essential component for all mental health promotion programming. Although individuals across the life spectrum benefit from improved resilience, children and youth are particularly vulnerable to risk factors that may affect their ability to respond to adversity and stress.

There are a number of excellent resources on resilience that can help Healthy Communities and public health stakeholders (e.g.: health promoters, educators, programmers, planners, etc.) better understand and integrate strategies to promote resiliency in children and youth in mental health promotion programming.

Growing up Resilient: Ways to build resilience in children and youth, written by Drs. Tatyana Barankin and Nazilla Khanlou (CAMH, 2009), reviews the latest research and developments on resilience in children and youth in a way that is relevant for a diverse audience. This resource considers the development of resilience and risk and protective factors that affect young people at three levels:

  • Individual factors: temperament, learning strengths, feelings and emotions, self-concept, ways of thinking, adaptive skills, social skills and physical health
  • Family factors: attachment, communication, family structure, parent relations, parenting style, sibling relations, parents' health and support outside the family
  • Environmental factors: inclusion (gender, culture), social conditions (socio-economic situation, media influences), access (education, health) and involvement. Tips on how to build resilience in children and youth follow each section.

Building Resilient Youth: Practical Tips for Helping your Teen Make Healthy Choices (PAD, 2011), is a brochure from Parent Action on Drugs aimed at parents and other significant adults in the lives of adolescents. It also addresses the individual, family and community risk factors that challenge youth, and gives specific tips on how to increase the protective factors in these areas. The brochure addresses substance use, mental health, gambling, internet gaming and gangs specifically. It is available for public health, education and other community workers to distribute to their parent audiences.

In partnership with HC Link, PAD and the CAMH resource centre is offering these resources free of charge. (Please see details below*).

For more information on each resource please click on the links below:

Growing up Resilient: Ways to build resilience in children and youth (CAMH):

Building Resilient Youth: Practical tips for helping your teen make healthy choices (PAD):

*To receive these complimentary resources (shipping included), please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject line: "Resiliency Resources". Please note that this offer is only available to those working in Ontario. Due to limited quantities, this offer is available on a first-come-first-serve basis with a limit of one complimentary copy per organization. Please include the following information in the body of your email: 1. Your name; 2. Occupation; 3. Organization; 4. Complete mailing address, phone number and email address.

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Past webinar: Working together with Francophones in Ontario (Webinar in French)

January 26, 2012

10:00am - noon EST

This webinar is an introduction on how to engage Francophone communities. Given that our communities often contain a moderate-to-high population of Francophones, we need to engage our Francophone partners and community members in our work. In this session, we will review background information about the social, economic and political context for Franco-Ontarians and share their experiences, successes and key learnings in three areas: What are the strategies we can use to engage Francophone populations? What are the benefits to our community and our work when we do so? What practical ideas and steps should we take in order to engage Francophones?

Estelle Duchon joined the HC Link team at Health Nexus as bilingual health promotion consultant. She holds a Master's degree in project management. Her passions include engaging Francophone communities and supporting organizations in developing French language services.

Andrea Bodkin joined the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) in 2006 and currently is the manager of the OPHA HC Link team. Andrea has an extensive background in physical activity and health promotion and has worked in local recreation centres and public health units as well as provincial NGOs and agencies.

This webinar is now over. To inquire about a repeat, please email Estelle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Older Adults 55+

Submitted by CAMH Resource Centre

Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Older Adults 55+


New! Now available for download as PDF in English and French!

As the aging population in Canada grows, addressing the mental health of older people is a demographic imperative. Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Older Adults 55+ is the second in a series of online guides for promoting positive mental health across the lifespan. This resource has been developed to support health and social service providers in incorporating best practice approaches to mental health promotion interventions for people aged 55 years and older.

The resource includes:

  • Guidelines: 11 best practice guidelines for mental health promotion with older people.
  • Background: Describes how older adults 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 web 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.


For further information about this resource, please contact:
Tamar Meyer

Health Promotion Consultant

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.





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Highlights and Interpretation of the Resource - Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts

By Kyley Alderson

Resource- Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts (Mikkonen, J. & Raphael, D., 2010)

Overview of this document:

This document promotes awareness about the health inequities that exist here, in Canada. It explains various factors present in our society, and how exactly they contribute to poor health (i.e. the Social Determinants of Health). For each of these determinants, statistics are given to compare how Canada is doing compared to the rest of the developed Nations. As well, public policies are suggested for how we can begin to improve our health. These policies focus on the source of the problems (such as living conditions) rather than just dealing with the symptoms, which is where we usually tend to focus (such as diet and exercise, or chronic disease management). This document not only shows how important policy decisions are for our heath, it also emphases that it is up to us, as Canadian citizens, to remain informed on how these policies affect our health, and how to support candidates of political parties that are receptive to this.

As such, this resource is intended to act as an agent for political change, by informing and encouraging the general public to act on the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). If you have time to read the full document, I highly recommend it, especially if you are not familiar with the SDOH. However, if you are like most people and don’t have time, here is a brief summary I have pulled together.

Also, here is a diagram I created on the major policy implications suggested in this document as ways to improve the impact of the SDOH. Increasing minimum wage and social assistance programs affect all of the SDOH, but there are also policy implications more related to specific determinants:




In this document, I was surprised to read that:

  • While Canada is one of the biggest spenders in health care, we have one of the worst records in providing an effective social safety net. How much sense does it make to spend all of our money on treating illnesses, when we send people back to the same conditions that made them sick? Furthermore, why not spend more money on trying to prevent illness in the first place?
  • Canada is even worse than the United States on supporting childcare and early childhood education. On a list of the 25 wealthiest developed Nations, Canada ranks 24th out of 25 Nations on public expenditures on Childcare and Early Educational Services, whereas the US ranks 16th. There is a strong relationship between a parents socioeconomic status and their children’s developmental outcomes, and one way to weaken this relationship would be to provide high quality early childhood education regardless of a parents wealth.

I think most Canadians are not aware that:

  • Social exclusion (specific groups being denied the opportunity to participate in Canadian life) is a big reality in our society today. Excluded groups in Canada (listed by Mikkonen and Raphael) include Aboriginal Canadians, Canadians of colour, recent immigrants, women, and people with disabilities. We can see social exclusion in our society by the segregation of these groups into certain neighborhoods, as well as disproportionate unemployment rates, and employment in lower-income sectors and occupations for these populations. This document contains shocking statistics on the importance of gender, race, and Aboriginal Status on average income:
    • Women tend to earn less than man regardless of occupation. Men working in management earn an average of $1261 per week and women $956.

    • The average income for all Canadian men is $36,800, compared to the average income for men in the Haitian community is $21,595.

    • The average income of an Aboriginal man is only 58% of the average income of a non-Aboriginal man.

An important consideration this document highlights:

  • The manner by which some social determinants influence the population’s health is shaped by our current public policies, and therefore the SDOH are not going to be the same for all countries. For example, if adequate income and necessary services, such as childcare, were provided to all in Canada, the health threatening effects of education would be much less.

Now what?

Unfortunately, the people most affected by the SDOH, generally, have the least amount of power in society, and their voice is not the one being heard by most political leaders. It is up to all of us to put health on the political agenda. One can’t simply blame political parties for their decisions when these decisions are based on the values of Canadians who elected them in the first place. We must demand that elected representatives commit themselves to address these issues, and that we elect those who will promote the health of Canadians through Healthy Public Policy. After all, it is not just the health of those with the least amount of resources that will be improved; everyone’s health improves when the gap in health disparities is reduced.

However, the people who hold the majority of power in society and who may not understand the social determinants of health, most likely are not reading this document. I only heard about this document through a health promotion listserv that I am on. So, the question remains, how do we get this information out to those who currently don’t understand the impact of the SDOH, and how do we convey to certain populations (who may not be adversely affected by the SDOH) to still get involved in these discussions? Furthermore, how do we get those who may not currently be holding the power in society to get involved in these discussions? How do we switch the thinking of the greater population from an ideology of individualism to one of cohesion and solidarity?

Lastly, I would like to mention that this document shed light on many of the things Canada is doing wrong, however, I hope there are some indicators related to the SDOH that Canada is not ranking so poorly on compared to other developed Nations. While sharing the negative may get some people heated and ready to act, we must make sure to focus on the strengths of Canada’s heath and public policies as well, so that we have a good place to begin working from, and can leverage support that way.

I welcome any comments and would love to discuss this further with you!

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