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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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.

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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.

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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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Coming Together for Active Living in Kirkland Lake and Area

Guest Post by Kristin Berfelz, of the Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC)


On Thursday November 26th, 2015 PARC (the Physical Activity Resource Centre) joined several community members from Kirkland Lake and surrounding area to discuss making active living the easy choice for everyone in the North end of Timiskaming district. The Timiskaming Health Unit hosted the event which was attended by community members of various ages, recreation staff, the local project manager for the Healthy Kids Community Challenge, local First Nations representatives, health unit staff, and even the mayor. Lisa Tolentino from HC Link facilitated the event using a technique called Open Space, which promotes open sharing and solution-based problem solving.


We started off the day getting to know who was there and then looked at some recent health data from the community (and surrounding area). Looking at where the community is and what they have was a great jumping off point to the discussion on where they want to go. A graphic tool used to facilitate the activity was a mural where attendees listed the assets that the community currently has (e.g. infrastructure, services, etc.), and the ones they would like to have. This ensured that everyone was on the same page for the day.

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The group began by identifying the topics of greatest interest in the community related to physical activity and then broke into small groups to discuss barriers to physical activity opportunities, engaging the community (including those who aren’t currently active), and promoting what’s already available in Kirkland Lake. Each group discussed their topic, how to measure it, what the causes are, what options are available to address it and who the potential partners could be. After this information was gathered, a high level action plan was created to determine what can be done within the next 3-6 months to move forward on the solution(s).

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Often in this field, we are encouraged to engage a variety of partners and this event was a testament to the value of doing so. Relationships were developed for future partnerships and outside of the box solutions were brainstormed by community members. For example, discussions around awareness of what is currently available sparked the idea of having a community notice board for anything from physical activity events and outings to garage sales. Having such a wide range of community members partake in the day was both motivating and enriching.


PARC was pleased to have the chance to lead this energetic and committed group in a couple of physical activity breaks to help boost creativity, and of course add a little more fun to the day!

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Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this day of solution focused sharing!

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David Courtemanche - Breathing Life into Policy Change

Keynote Address

On Day Two of our conference we will begin with a Keynote address from David Courtemanche, a consultant with many years of experience in public service and policy development. His keynote address – Breathing Life into Policy Change will energize the policy advocacy experience by exploring the political dynamics, decision-makers, leverage points and strategies for being an effective health advocate. He will discuss how to shift the health culture of your community totransform the social, economic and environmental landscape and affect sustainable change.

 

david courtemancheCourtemanche in Politics  

  • David Courtemanche served in public office for almost a decade and, in 2003 at 39 years old, became the youngest elected Mayor in the history of Sudbury.  
  • He was elected to City Council in 1997 and again in 2000.  
  • As Mayor, he served on provincial and national bodies including the Board of Health, the Economic Development Board, the Regional Planning Board, the Canadian Big City Mayors' Task Force on Immigration, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.  
  • Courtemanche has led multiple community initiatives such as the: Healthy Communities Strategy, Community Leadership Cabinet, Community Action Network, and theTask Force on Volunteerism & Citizen Involvement.

Management Consulting  

  • Courtemanche is the Founder of Leading Minds Inc., a management consultant firm specializing in leadership development for individuals, organizations and communities.
  • He has held senior management positions at several organizations and is currently the Executive Director of the City of Lakes Family Health Team.  

 

Work in Building Healthy Communities

Interested in hearing David Courtemanche speak about policy change? There is still time to register for Linking for Healthy Communities: Action for Change. Visit the conference page for more information on registration, programming and presenters.

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Racism and Health Series - Indigenous Health

By Mica Pereira Bajard

When I moved to Canada from Bolivia—where the majority of the population is indigenous, and where racism is not a taboo topic—as a child, I would not have imagined that indigeneity and racism would become central topics of discussion and reflections in my Canadian professional and personal lives. At age 11, I never imagined the horrendous effects that colonialism had (and continues to have) on the lives of Indigenous peoples in this country. Canada, with its universal health care and polite population, seemed like the gold standard of ‘great’ countries.

Today, I understand that the health of Indigenous peoples in Canada (and abroad) is inextricably linked to the respect of human rights. First Nations (status and non-status), Métis and Inuit populations—the First Peoples of this country— make up less than five percent of the population in the land we call Canada, yet the country seems to be uninterested in protecting and promoting their health and their rights (Canada is one of four countries worldwide not to have adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). Canada’s governments have been stubborn bullies toward the people on whose lands Canada was ‘created.’

The flagrant health inequities that exist between indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada today are a manifestation of the effect that social and political factors can have on the health of populations.  Exploring the impact that Canadian policies have on these populations using a social determinants of health framework brings to light the implicit racism and colonialism embedded in the status quo of our country’s functioning. For example, rather than fostering indigenous self-determination, the federal government imposes its policies on which indigenous groups have access to health care through the Non-Insured Health Benefit program (only status First Nations and Inuit). The government’s refusal to launch a national inquiry on the missing and murdered indigenous women, despite indigenous women being five times more likely to be murdered than non-indigenous women, is another example of institutional racism that hinders the health of Indigenous peoples. I argue that if the missing and murdered aboriginal women were white women, the government would have a different reaction. A third and important example is the continuous institutionalization of indigenous children.  In 2008, Prime Minister Harper formally apologized on behalf of Canadians for the residential school system—which attempted to assimilate indigenous children by removing them from their households— and recognized that this system continues to have profound social effects on survivors and their communities. Nevertheless, it is absolutely necessary to note that there are currently more children under state care today than at the peak of residential schools. Children are being removed from their homes, separated from their parents. How, and why, is Canada apologizing for something it is still committing? 

The above examples are only the tip of an iceberg of the impact that colonial, racist policies has on the lives of Indigenous peoples. Racism against Indigenous peoples underpins most, if not all, policies in Canada, resulting in poor health outcomes for First Nations, Métis and Inuit groups.  This is so much so that scholars Mikkonen and Raphael identified Aboriginal Status as one important social determinant of health in Canada. Compared to non-indigenous Canadians, Indigenous peoples have higher rates of infectious and chronic illnesses are more likely to live in crowded housing and have higher rates of food insecurity, among many other health outcomes. All of these outcomes are the result of racist, colonial tendencies in Canada’s way of governing. That the Public Health Agency of Canada does not recognize Aboriginal Status as a determinant of health is an example of institutional efforts to avoid explicitly acknowledging that we have a race problem.

The continuous dismissal and exclusion of indigenous knowledge and practices in policy and decision-making in Canada contributes to the systemic racism that harms the health of Canada’s first peoples. It is time to shift the governing power to the people whose lands we are on in order to best protect and promote their rights and health. The Canadian government’s lack of recognition that it is racist in its way of functioning is perhaps the greatest threat to the well-being of Indigenous peoples.

Despite all the challenges and issues that remain to be mitigated, there are important stakeholders and initiatives that are working towards creating a more just, inclusive, and respectful Canada. In particular, the 2015 First Peoples, Second Class Treatment Discussion Paper by Dr. Allan and Dr. Smylie offers avenues to change by recommending that the Canadian government embrace honest, transparent conversations about the implicit racism in policies across sectors (ranging from access to health care to education). They argue that better, more meaningful, data should be collected on the health status of Indigenous peoples in Canada to better explore the effects of racism, and that we invest in effective, anti-racist interventions to improve indigenous health. Additionally, the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, which seeks to redress the legacy of residential schools and work towards reconciliation, asks that all levels of government: be transparent in their child welfare policies specific to Indigenous peoples; revise educational curriculums with Indigenous peoples; protect indigenous cultures and languages; improve health care for Indigenous peoples; and work towards the reversal of the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in prisons among other efforts for reconciliation. These calls to action also demand for more professional opportunities for Indigenous peoples in all sectors. Lastly, advocates such as Michèle Audette, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, who engage with decision-makers and community members are making progress towards the recognition of racism in Canada.

Join us on October 23rd and 24th, 2015 at the Racial Justice Matters conference to dig deeper in discussion about the importance of indigenous health and rights, the necessity to change the status quo to ensure indigenous world views, rather than racism, are embedded in policy decision-making, and the role that solidarity and ally-ship can play in creating a better, more indigenous-centred Canada.

Micaela Pereira Bajard is a Master of Public Health Candidate at the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH). Follow her on Twitter at @MicaPB or on her personal blog “Mica est là”.

 

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