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!

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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”.

 
waterdoeswonders


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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Make a New (school) Year’s Resolution to Promote Active Transportation in Your Community

By Christine Morrison, HC Link

A new school year offers a new beginning; a chance to make changes.

While tackling the growing challenge of childhood obesity is complex, many communities are working together to promote active transportation options for school children.

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(Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkmaxwell/4958612436/in/photostream/)

According to the 2012 Public Health Agency of Canada report, Curbing Childhood Obesity; A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights, between 1978 and 2004 the combined prevalence of overweight and obese children aged 2 to 17 years nearly doubled, from 15% to 26%.

This trend is not surprising when you consider that physical activity levels in children start to decline as early as age 3. In fact, by the time they start school, less than 20% of children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

Not only are children not getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity, sedentary behaviours are increasing. A University of Toronto study, based on the Transportation for Tomorrow Survey, found that between 1986 and 2011, the number of 11- to 17-year-olds who walked or rode a bike to school decreased by 12.9%. Over the same period of time, the percentage of children who rode to school in a car more than doubled, from 14% to 33%.

The reliance on inactive and sedentary modes of transportation has earned Canada a D grade on active transportation, according to the latest participACTION report card.

Communities across the country and around the world have been working together to turn the trip to school into an opportunity to boost physical activity among children. As communities, we can work together to create more walkable neighbourhoods that are designed to encourage kids to move and be physically active.

Trottibus Walking School Bus
In April 2016, the Commission scolaire de Montréal adopted a charter to promote active transportation. Small wonder then, that they also introduced the Trottibus in May of 2016. The Trottibus Walking School Bus, developed by the Canadian Cancer Society, is a pedestrian bus that allows elementary school kids to walk to school safely. Trained volunteers accompany children along a planned route with scheduled stops. Various schools across Quebec are participating in the program and parents can register their children online.

Travelwise schools
Since 2005 Travelwise has been working with schools in New Zealand to create individualized Safe School Travel Plans. Plans are multifaceted and typically include road safety education, traffic calming, promotional activities that encourage walking and cycling, walking school buses and parking restrictions. Today, more than 250,000 students are involved in the program and 12,736 car trips are taken off the road during peak morning traffic.

Active & Safe Routes to School
The Walk/Wheel on Wednesdays program offers families the opportunity to slowly break the driving habit by providing a designated day (either once a week or once a month) to explore active alternatives for getting to school.

With the new school year just days away, there is still time to make a change and develop active, healthy habits to last a lifetime.

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Water Does Wonders in Humber-Downsview

HC Link is proud to be a part of the Healthy Kids Community Challenge (HKCC) by supporting the 45 participating communities across Ontario. The current theme that HKCC communities are supporting right now is “Water Does Wonders”, which emphasizes choosing water over sugar sweetened beverages. Many of the communities are involved in activities that promote water consumption, such as providing refillable water bottles, community swims, and refill stations. In this post, Myriam Castilla, Local Project Manager for Toronto-Humber-Downsview, shares how they are incorporating Water Does Wonders into their local work.

I am eager to share with all of you one of the exciting Water does Wonders activities that is happening here in the Humber-Downsview community.

Annually, from the first week of July to the third week of August, the Youth Association for Academics Athletics and Character Education (YAAACE), runs a Summer Institute camp for 400 children from the Humber-Downsview community. Most of these children belong to the City of Toronto Neighborhood Investment Areas where a large amount of the population experiences high levels of inequity and poor health.

This year, in partnership with HKCC, YAAACE decided to adopt HKCC’s theme "Water does Wonders" as a main subject for their Summer Institute. The curriculum for this camp was developed to promote Water does Wonders message; 25 teachers were trained on HKCC’s objectives, principles, and strategies to promote water intake; and 50 youth staff were trained on water facts and strategies to promote healthy drink choices among children.

In addition, YAAACE adopted a Healthy Eating policy; which includes having servings of fruits and vegetables in their lunches and snacks, and that only tap water is available during camp’s activities. To re-enforce this message, all sugary drinks were removed from vending machines in their premises.

What is unique about YAAACE’s initiatives is that this community organization uses an innovative social inclusion model to support children and youth from low income communities to grow, learn and play in an environment that is responsive and supportive of their needs, interests, expectations, and aspirations. It offers access to programs that integrate academic, athletic, social and artistic activities through school, after school programs, weekend programs, and camps. 

YAAACE’s academic activities target students who fall below the provincial standards in literacy and in numeracy due to multiple factors, including exposure to violence or trauma. To ensure child success, with the support of mentors, YAAACE’s programs coordinate with children’s schools and caregivers.

We are thrilled because of the impact of the Summer Institute in this community; the key messages of Water does Wonders has been widely disseminated, and 400 children are receiving the messages in a culturally relevant form, and clearly changing their behavior towards enjoying drinking tap water and eating more fruits and vegetables.

WDW 1

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