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.

Emerging trends in tobacco use among youth


By: Kristy Ste Marie and Vicki Poulios, Youth Advocacy Training Institute (YATI)


When you hear the phrase, “tobacco use”, what comes to mind? My guess would be “smoking” or “cigarettes”. People might assume that this is the most common form of tobacco use, and indeed, among adults it might be. Among youth, however, the landscape has shifted, and things are not what they used to be. On March 22nd, we went over this in our webinar: Vapes, Hookah, and Chew: Emerging Trends in Youth Tobacco Use. The webinar was developed by the Youth Advocacy Training Institute (YATI), and was a partnership between YATI, PAD, and HC Link.

The webinar started with an overview of Vapes (e-cigarettes), Hookah, and Chew, where we defined the products and discussed their evolution. For instance, we took a closer look at the three generations of e-cigarettes, and provided a quick overview of what we know about the health effects and their effectiveness as a cessation aid. One common element among all of these products is the flavours – did you know that there are over 7,764 flavours for e-cigarettes alone?! Chew and Shisha (which is the product that is placed in the hookah or waterpipe to be smoked) also come in an assortment of flavours, like wacky watermelon, or Sex on the Beach. Flavours are a deliberate strategy by Big Tobacco (those who produce, promote and profit from tobacco) to make their products more appealing and get youth hooked on tobacco from an early age.

flavours

The next section of the webinar provided an overview of new provincial legislation that regulates these products, and examples of municipal by laws, and local policies that fill in some gaps. As of January 2016, the provincial government has banned the sale of flavoured tobacco products (with menthol being phased in by January 2017), and has prohibited the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 19. This is very exciting, and a huge step forward for protecting youth from tobacco initiation. The government has also promised to soon introduce legislation that will regulate where e-cigarettes can be used, and how they can be displayed for sale, so stay tuned for that.

Next up, we had Tonya Hopkinson and DeiJaumar Clarke, from Toronto Public Health give us an overview of their youth-led action on Hookah Smoking. Their campaign assessed young people’s awareness of the harms associated with hookah smoking, and they then developed and disseminated various resources to address those knowledge gaps. They also advocated for a ban on hookah smoking in indoor public spaces in Toronto and were successful – it came into effect in April, 2015.

Finally, we had Jacquie Uprichard from the Central East Tobacco Control Area Network, with a presentation on their youth-led campaign, Know What’s In Your Mouth. This campaign aims to increase awareness about chew tobacco, decrease high-school aged youth’s intention to use it, and to reduce the use of chew among students.

We were so lucky to have these two examples of youth-led initiatives that aim to denormalize tobacco use among youth in Ontario – Big Tobacco’s favourite new customer is a young one, because then they get a customer for life. So it’s great to see youth involved in taking action, and saying “no” to Big Tobacco’s tricks.


Watch the webinar recording or view webinar resources for more information!

 

 

1090 Hits
0 Comments

Paving the Way: an online discussion on defining the policy problem

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This blog post is part of a series on the topic of developing health public policy written by HC Link and our partner organizations. If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


This afternoon, Kim Bergeron (Health Promotion Consultant with Health Promotion Capacity Building Services at Public Health Ontario) and I were joined by 22 people to talk policy. Kim and I normally get pretty excited about the topic of policy, and we enjoyed having others to share our enthusiasm with. The purpose of the online discussion was to explore three concepts in defining the policy problem that we will be diving into more deeply over the course of the year.


The topic of the online discussion was on defining the policy problem. This is a tricky step in policy development, where often times we jump to policy solutions (or are given policy solutions by our agency/funder) rather than taking the time to explore the nature of the problem that the policy is intended to solve. It’s important to take the time to define the nature of the problem so that a) you can articulate it b) you can get the support that you need from community and stakeholders and c) you can select the policy option that best solves the problem.


Kim began by introducing the concept of determining the type of problem we have on our hands:

  1. Tame problems: are those where stakeholders agree on the nature of the problem and on the best way to solve it;

  2. Complex problems: are those where stakeholders agree on the nature of the problem, but not on how to best solve it; and

  3. Wicked problems: stakeholders agree neither on the nature of the problem, nor on its solution. They are not evil, but are those problems that are considered highly resistant to resolve. The first action to define the problem is to recognize what type of problem it is.


We then had a conversation about wicked problems, using the example of safe injection sites. We discussed that values, personal bias, political opinion and ideology often affect how people see the problem and solutions. The public and various stakeholders often disagree about the precise nature of the problem, and whether it is a downstream, mid-stream or upstream one. We discussed the importance of developing a shared understanding amongst your stakeholders, engaging them in the conversation, on the nature of the problem and the possible policy solutions to it. We identified techniques and shared resources on how to develop that shared understanding, including:

  • Dialogue mapping

  • Collective Impact: a recent blog post from Tamarack discusses the tensions in light of a “wicked problem” in Collective Impact

  • Deliberative dialogue: the National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy has a collection of resources on Deliberative Processes

  • Finding areas of agreement and building relationships from there

  • Policy narratives: an article by Steven Ney and Marco Verweij discusses “Messy Institutions for Wicked Problems: how to Generate Clumsy Solutions”


Once you have identified the type of problem to be addressed and have developed a shared, collective understanding of the problem, there is a need to identify ways to communicate this information to others to build support and/or increase awareness. We discussed communication vehicles that we have used to communicate a shared understanding of a problem:


Kim and I are looking forward to diving into this subject more deeply at our peer sharing session on April 21. During this session, we’ll hear from 3 or 4 people about their experiences in defining the policy problem, and we’ll have the opportunity to talk more about our experiences, challenges and solutions. Registration for the peer sharing session is limited to 20 people to ensure that we can have a deep conversation. Register soon!

 

 

1606 Hits
0 Comments

Video Interview with Dave Meslin on advocacy and how to influence change

At our 2015 Conference Linking for Healthy Communities: Action for Change we were fortunate to sit down with keynote speaker Dave Meslin, community choreographer, to ask for his views on advocacy and what we can do to influence change.

“Everyone has an idea of how to make their neighborhood or their city or world a better a place, but most people have no idea how to take that idea and act on it.” In this interview, Dave shares the one thing everyone can and should do to influence change, and two things he has learned through his advocacy work.

Watch the full 2 minute video interview below!

 

 

A few key points from the interview:

  • Advocacy is the idea of people coming together and finding their voice.
  • Unfortunately, people tend to have a negative perception of what advocacy means (such as angry people marching in the streets), but there are so many fun ways to do advocacy.
  • One thing everyone can do to influence change is to start from within, and to find out what you are truly passionate about.
  • In advocacy, it is important to find a group that is totally aligned with your values. If a group does not exist that is fighting for what you think needs to be fought for – create your own! “There is nothing more fun than political entrepreneurialism.”
 

For more on our conference, please see highlights below:

confhighlightsimage
Linking for Healthy Communities 2015 Conference Highlights
offer photos and highlights from all plenary and concurrent sessions, including links to slides and additional information. It also provides ways HC Link can help build upon the connections and momentum started at the conference.

 
 
807 Hits
0 Comments

Video Interview with David Courtemanche on what makes for effective advocacy

At our 2015 Conference Linking for Healthy Communities: Action for Change we were fortunate to sit down with keynote speaker David Courtemanche, leadership consultant, to ask for his views on what makes for effective advocacy and how policy change can impact health promotion.

In this interview, David talks with us about the skills that are often neglected in advocacy and how we can better develop these to become more effective advocates. He highlights that our perspective is a very big part of influencing change and encourages us to think about policy in terms of people taking action or taking a different direction. David goes on to demonstrate through an example, “the magical power of policy.”

Watch the full 4.5 minute video interview below!

 

 

A few key points from the interview:

  • “Advocacy is a process of influence.” It requires strong leadership and relationship skills because you need to connect with people in positions of influence that can affect change.
  • Advocacy training focuses a lot on how we speak and present, but skills that are necessary and often neglected include effective listening and trust building. We need these skills to better understand the people we are trying to work with.
  • People often view policy work as dry and boring, but when you understand how policy can affect the health of a community it becomes much more powerful.
 

For more on our conference, please see highlights below:

confhighlightsimage
Linking for Healthy Communities 2015 Conference Highlights
offer photos and highlights from all plenary and concurrent sessions, including links to slides and additional information. It also provides ways HC Link can help build upon the connections and momentum started at the conference.

 
 
 
 
 
616 Hits
0 Comments

Using “Visioning” as a Facilitation Technique

By Lisa Tolentino, HC Link Community Consultant

This is the seventh blog in a series on facilitation techniques and approaches written by HC Link staff. This post focuses on using guided visualization or “Visioning” to identify Healthy Community goals.


Visioning is considered a critical step in developing healthy communities and creating change. It is a creative way to bring community members with diverse perspectives together to develop a collective vision of a Healthy Community. Used in many sectors and spheres of life, from business to mental health and sports, this tool can be very effective in assisting with problem-solving, inspiring hope and building confidence. It is also a method for generating joint ownership and commitment for taking action toward achieving change.

In a community visioning session, the vision is often “expressed in pictorial form, using images and symbols to convey [an] ideal community” (pg. 4). It allows participants to travel beyond the current political, economic, social and/or environmental challenges being experienced, to articulating what they would like to see occur in the future. The result is an idea, dream, mental image or picture that is shared by many people living, working and playing in a community. (From the Ground Up: An Organizing Handbook for Healthy Communities, Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, http://www.ohcc-ccso.ca/en/from-the-ground-up)

Visioning is different than traditional problem-solving in that it offers hope, encouragement and the possibility of fundamental change by generating a common goal. With traditional problem solving, a group can become bogged down in details and even disagree on how to define the problem. It also focuses on the negative, whereas visioning allows a group to move away from this toward something more positive. With visioning, passion and creative thinking are spawned, and people are given a greater sense of control. (The NGO Café, Global Development Resource Centre, http://www.gdrc.org/ngo/index.html)


What is needed to hold a Healthy Communities Visioning Session?

This is a list of some key elements that will help to make any visioning session a success:

  • Involvement from a large number of people from a defined geographic area, community of interest and/or affiliation.
  • A diverse cross-section of people who are able to participate in a meaningful way (such as those who are marginalized and/or representative of various ages, incomes, abilities, etc.).
  • Multi-sector participation (e.g., from education, government, business, health, media).
  • A location that is familiar, inviting and physically accessible for participants.
  • Ideally, access to transportation, refreshments and childcare should be available or provided.

How do you facilitate a Visioning process?

There are various ways that you can facilitate a visioning session, depending on who is in attendance and the circumstances involved. Regardless of the situation, each one has the same premise, which is that participants are asked to envision the kind of community that they would like to be a part of in the future. The objective is to allow people to dream and collect as many ideas as possible; no concept is too small, big, or “out there” to be included.

The first step usually involves asking participants to make themselves comfortable and close their eyes. They are then asked to spend a few minutes quietly thinking their own thoughts. Sometimes a facilitator will take them on a hot air balloon ride above their community and into the future. Or they may be asked to simply go for a walk and imagine a newspaper headline 20 years from now. In each case, the facilitator will also ask them something along the lines of: "What would your community be like if you had the power to make it the way you wanted?”

Participants are then asked to formulate pictures in their minds as they travel through the physical space. The questions a facilitator asks can be both abstract and quite detailed. For instance, “How are buildings and public spaces arranged? What do they look like?” They might also be asked where people are, what they are doing, and how they are interacting. Questions could focus on topics like workplaces, transportation or the natural environment. In every instance the goal is to help participants actually “see” what they hope for.

This technique has been used in many real-life situations with great success!

Following this exercise, the facilitator will slowly bring participants back to the present day and into the room again, asking them to keep the features that they just saw in their minds. Then, in small groups, participants will be asked to talk about what they saw using key words or phrases that capture their image of a Healthy Community. The facilitator may even provide some guides or categories like housing, health care, crime rates, and/or public engagement.

In each case, group members will be asked to make short, clear and positive statements about how the community will be in the future. The statement will be in the present tense, like a newspaper headline. Statements may include things like: “There are lots of bike trails”; “You can walk safely at night” and “Transportation is efficient and affordable”. These statements will be generated until they run out of ideas or time.

These will be read aloud as a large group and then members will be asked to highlight the major differences between the present and the future that they have created. People may express that some things are impossible to achieve. The facilitator will remind them that 50 years ago it was difficult to imagine some of the changes that have taken place today, such as the existence of the internet, and that anything could be possible.

When today's problems seem overwhelming, visioning presents an opportunity to move beyond them and focus on a positive idea of the future.

Next the facilitator will work with the group to gather elements of the vision under common themes, and find areas of consensus. These vision statements could then be made into a list of ideas or even presented in a graphic form. Some communities have had the ability to hire an illustrator to draw images as participants spoke, such as the one below from Haldimand-Norfolk. Maps, photos and other images can also be added after the fact.

 HNHCvision


Simply articulating a vision can be a powerful tool for making a Healthy Community a reality. The next step after any visioning process is to develop a plan to achieve that vision. In Healthy Communities processes, visioning is usually followed by community-wide priority-setting and decision-making.

If you would like help hosting a Healthy Communities Visioning session in your community, be sure to request a service from HC Link!

 

630 Hits
0 Comments