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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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Mental Health Week Gets Loud!

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

This week Canada is celebrating both Mental Health Week and Children’s Mental Health Week using the hashtag #GETLOUD to raise awareness about mental health and mental illness. Mental Health Week celebrations have traditionally been an opportunity to impact stigma by talking candidly about mental illness. These same celebrations are now evolving beyond conversations of illness to also consider the role of mental health and well-being in our lives. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented that Mental Health Week is an opportunity to not only support those struggling with mental illness but also encourage conversations “...about what mental health is and what we can do to increase our collective well-being”.

Recognizing mental health as a positive concept and a resource for living creates space for promoting behaviours, activities, programs and strategies meant to improve resilience and well-being. This is a sentiment that is growing in Ontario. For instance, Phase 2 of Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy includes an area of focus on mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention.

CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre has also created a video called Finding a Shared Language (ENG)/(FR) that reflects the growing importance of mental health promotion in our communities. The video outlines simple strategies for promoting mental health individually and in our communities by:

• Knowing and accepting that everyone in faces daily challenges
• Getting involved in your community and giving back
• Supporting and including different types of people in your community

Promoting Mental Health: Finding a Shared Language from CAMH HPRC on Vimeo.


These tips are just one way to #GETLOUD about mental health. How do you plan to join the conversation this week? Check out the events on the websites below to get you started!

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental Health Commission of Canada

For mental health promotion resources, check out the CAMH HPRC website!

 

 

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Moving Ahead on Rural and Community Transportation: March 29th, 2016 Forum

By Lisa Tolentino, HC Link Community Consultant

On March 29th, 2016 HC Link partnered with the Rural Ontario Institute (ROI), Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC) and Routes Connecting Communities to organize and host a forum for rural and community transportation stakeholders. Moving Ahead on Rural and Community Transportation was held to enable participants to share experiences and lessons learned, and help support peer-to-peer networking. Significant steps are being taken by many municipalities and other stakeholders to improve community transportation in rural areas around Ontario. Representatives from diverse organizations that are implementing community transportation initiatives were in attendance as over 100 people from across the province attended both in-person and online, via live-streaming/webinar.

RuralTransportationForum
Things kicked off with an exercise to provide opportunities for networking and to get to know who was in the room, and online. The majority of participants represented municipal and regional government, followed by the non-profit sector. Others working within the private and education sectors were also in attendance. Representatives attended from the following regions and districts:

•Grey-Bruce                      

• Haliburton

• Hastings

• Kawartha Lakes

• Kenora (Dryden)

• Lambton (Sarnia)

• Lanark

• Leeds and Grenville (Brockville)

• Lennox-Addington

• Muskoka 

• Niagara

• Norfolk

• Nipissing

• Northumberland

• Perth County (Stratford)

• Peterborough

• Simcoe

• Timiskaming

• Wellington/Waterloo

• York (Georgina)

A presentation was then given by Cathy Wilkinson from Routes Connecting Communities, which is a transportation provider serving the northern part of York Region. Their volunteer drivers use their own vehicles to provide available, accessible and affordable transportation to people who are restricted due to life circumstances such as financial hardship, health issues, and geographic, social or cultural isolation.

Cathy’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion with three other transportation service providers in the province, including: 1) Brad Smith from Ride Norfolk, 2) Heather Inwood-Montrose from The Rural Overland Utility Transit (TROUT), and 3) Rick Williams from Muskoka Extended Transit (MET). The panelists focused on sharing the challenges and successes that they have experienced in delivering public transit in their respective areas.

Next the Ministry of Transportation offered an overview of what Community Transportation (CT) is to them, and highlighted a few examples of initiatives that they are currently funding across the province. This is a $2 million, 2-year pilot grant program to provide financial assistance to Ontario municipalities for the development and implementation of community transportation initiatives. As part of the CT Program, 22 municipalities have undertaken projects to either start or expand collaborative projects in their regions. MTO representatives also announced that they will soon be supporting communities around the province with increased networking and engagement opportunities with respect to Community Transportation.

 Following lunch, participants broke into small groups to discuss five topics:

  1. Building Community Support - demonstrating the need and/or making the case for community transportation

  2. Collaboration & Partnership Building - managing different organizational mandates and moving forward

  3. Revenue Generation & Funding - using both traditional and innovative or creative approaches to generating funds

  4. Marketing & Promotion - of new and/or existing transportation services

  5. Technology - procuring vehicles, using integrated software, and other forms of technology

The day ended with a live streaming presentation by Caryn Souza from the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA). The CTAA consists of organizations and individuals who support mobility for all Americans regardless of where they live or work. Their membership includes community transit providers, public transit agencies, organizations providing health care and/or employment services, government, college and university planners, private bus companies, taxi operators, people concerned with the special mobility needs of those with disabilities, manufacturers and many other organizations who share a commitment to mobility. Caryn explained that there are many different programs that the CTAA is currently involved in, from mobility management to transit planning and ridesharing across the nation.

Overall, the day was full of information about Community Transportation in both Ontario and across the USA. Participants said that it was great to be in a room with others who have the same struggles as they do, and that they had the opportunity to learn from one another and as well as brainstorm solutions. Many said that they were able to foster connections with other people working on-the-ground and that they learned something that they will be able to apply in their own communities. HC Link was also pleased to have had the chance to help facilitate this group of passionate and committed people!

If you would like more information about this event, please contact Lisa Tolentino, Community Transportation Network Coordinator, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

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Paving the Way: A peer sharing session 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 staff 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.

Today I hosted a peer sharing session, along with Kim Bergeron from Health Promotion Capacity Building at Public Health Ontario. Called “Paving the Way”, today’s peer sharing session built on last month’s online discussion (of the same name) on defining the policy problem. Using a teleconference line and webinar platform, we had an interesting discussion about some of the approaches to and challenges with defining the policy problem. Our discussion focused around four main themes:

Language

Developing a shared and common language is important, particularly when working with a variety of stakeholders on policy development. One of our participants is working with community members, the police, landlords and service provides to develop a policy. I can imagine that such a diverse group would not only use different language, but might even use the same words to mean different things. Kim suggested drafting a glossary to create and define common terms to use throughout the policy development process. Developing a common agenda, part of the collective impact process, has useful tips for this step.

Evidence

A participant shared their experience of using evidence in the problem definition stage, by collecting data such as literature reviews, rapid reviews, community assessments etc and analyzing these data sources to identify the nature of the problem and identify potential policy solutions. This gave rise to an excellent question from another participant: Do you collect all of the evidence and then consult with stakeholders and the community, or do consult with stakeholders and the community and then collect the evidence that you need to support it?

I suggested trying to find the “sweet spot” between collecting evidence and working with the community. At HC Link, our definition of evidence includes not only published literature and population health data, it also includes lived experience and cultural knowledge. We view the experiences and input of the community and stakeholders as one source of evidence, rather than separate from it.

Another participant who does international development work in the area of maternal and child health shared that their organization does data collection and community engagement concurrently through two different departments.

Timing

Developing health public policy is one of those health promotion strategies where time seems to operate differently from the rest of our work! By that I mean the sheer length of time that it can take to develop, implement and evaluate a policy (often having to go back and repeat a step, or jump ahead when there is sudden media support around the issue, and go back again). Kim reminded us that we may have to work with the election cycle, and sometimes at different levels of government (each running on their own election cycle). And of course, carving out the time to work with partners and do policy work!

Knowledge Exchange Strategy

Kim’s takeaway from today’s peer sharing session was on the important of developing a knowledge exchange (KE) strategy that runs the entire length of the policy development process: planning, implementation and evaluation. We often stop to develop a KE strategy at certain points of the policy development process, when actually KE should be continued at each and every stage, in particular when the community and stakeholders are involved.

Resources mentioned during today’s peer sharing session

FOCUS ON: Relevance of the stages heuristic model for developing health public policies http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/eRepository/Focus_On_Stages_Model_and_Policies.pdf

Are We Ready to Address Policy? Assessing and building readiness for policy work http://www.hclinkontario.ca/images/Are_We_Ready_To_Address_Policy.pdf

Tools from Healthy Living Niagara to track municipal decisions

http://healthylivingniagara.com/active-transportation/understanding-municipal-decision-makers/

Recent comment in this post
Kim Bergeron
Great summary of the discussion Andrea. It was helpful to have a focused conversation on defining the policy problem. Often there ... Read More
Friday, 22 April 2016 12:50
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Policy Talk: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

By: Seher Shafiq, Parent Action on Drugs

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.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse recently released a free online learning module to help better understand the Portfolio of Canadian Standards for Youth Substance Abuse Prevention — a resource that guides teams on how they can improve their prevention work in the area of substance abuse.

I had the opportunity to go through the online learning module, and found it concise, informative, evidence-based, and interactive.

The module provides tools to help professionals in various sectors prevent youth substance abuse. It encourages the user to recognize that regardless of what sector they are working in, the work we all do as community service providers plays a role in substance abuse prevention. The module recognizes the importance of setting a strong foundation in the “youth years”.

The module also explains risk factors that youth are exposed to when growing up (ex. Conflict with the law, relationship issues, mental illness, etc.), as well as protective factors, noting the importance of minimizing the former and promoting the latter. CCSA also notes that substance abuse prevention does both of these things.

I have to admit, the discussion about risk and protective factors reminded me of Parent Action on Drugs’ Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth program, which is an evidence-based, preventative program that promotes youth resiliency.

What interested me the most in the module was the data on costs associated with substance abuse. In 2006, Canada spent almost $40 billion on substance abuse. These costs were often associated with healthcare, law enforcement, and the court system. I also found it interesting that 30% of charges in violent crimes are associated with alcohol abuse use.

However, the most surprising data for me was that for every dollar spent on substance use prevention, the government saves $15-$18 dollars. This data should be eye-opening for policymakers. Two years ago, I did a project for the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and similarly found that reducing recidivism rates (i.e. people going back into jail after they’ve been released) through promoting preventative interventions like mental health counselling, affordable housing, and employment skills workshops can also produce similar cost savings for the government.

I can’t help but think of the billions of dollars the government could save if it prioritized prevention initiatives. Policymakers need to recognize that prevention initiatives work and show results – not just in dollar terms, but also through the positive impact on society.

As the saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

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New Resource - Strategic Planning: From mundane to meaningful

By Pam Kinzie, Consultant 

Strategic planning is not a new process. In fact, the first mention of it in the literature related to military strategy in the fourth century B.C.! The Harvard Business School presented it as a new discipline in the 1960’s and by the 1970’s the elements of strategic planning commonly used today appeared.

Those who have participated in strategic planning before may be either enthusiastic about the prospect of developing one or jaded by a previous experience that did not accomplish the anticipated results. There is also a great deal of confusion about what a strategic plan is, why and how one should be developed.

StratPlanThumbTo that end, HC Link has released a new resource on strategic planning, Strategic Planning: from mundane to meaningful. This resource provides an overview of strategic planning including why, when and how to do it, who to involve, the key elements and what to consider when developing a strategic plan. It provides a simple, clear guide to strategic planning for community groups, coalitions and small non-profit organizations drawing on literature aimed at similar organizations. The resource will also provide information that will help you to develop a plan that will not sit on a shelf, but rather act as a living document to guide your program planning, budgeting and measurement of performance. “The best plan is useless unless it is acted upon.”1

Strategic planning is defined as “a process through which an organization agrees on and builds key stakeholder commitment to priorities that are essential to its mission and responsive to the organizational environment. Strategic planning guides the acquisition and allocation of resources to achieve these priorities.”2

Another way to think of a strategic plan is as a flight plan for a pilot. Without one, the pilot and crew have no direction and no specific destination to inform the ticket-sellers or the passengers. The fueling station has no idea how much fuel to provide and the meteorologist can’t anticipate the weather en route. Indeed the mission is unclear. If you don't know where you want to go, it doesn't matter which road you take (to paraphrase the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland).

Consultants may be helpful in providing objective assistance in the overall design of your planning process to involve all key stakeholders. They can obtain sensitive information through interviews and share it in a constructive way. Their key role is to focus on the process and provide relevant background information. Some organizations find it useful to have consultants facilitate planning meetings or retreats so that the stakeholders are free to participate actively. HC Link offers customized consulting services to community groups, organizations, and partnerships to support their work in building healthy communities. HC Link’s consultants can provide valuable resources, tools, problem-solving, advice and mentorship in a variety of areas. HC Link’s consulting services are funded by the Government of Ontario and are provided free of charge, when possible. Contact us to learn more!

We hope that you will find this resource useful in your strategic planning efforts. To learn more about facilitating strategic planning sessions, please read HC Link’s ongoing blog series on facilitation techniques:

 
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1 A. Suchman, P. Williamson, and D. Robbins. (2002) Strategic planning as partnership building: engaging the voice of the community a new perspective on strategic planning. AI Practitioner Newsletter
2 M. Allison and J. Kaye. (2015) Strategic Planning for Non-Profit Organizations: A Practical Guide for Dynamic Times, Third Edition, John Wiley and Sons Inc. 1.
 
 
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