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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Q: What do SFPY Program Families and the Toronto Blue Jays have in common?

By Jane McCarthy, Parent Action on Drugs



Photo credit: Mark Blinch/Canadian Press

bluejaysAs the Toronto Blue Jays recently headed into the post-season with a series of phenomenal wins on the heels of a dreadful September performance, we heard the word, “resilient,” used to describe them. The media used it, colour commentators used it and even the players, when interviewed after the big Wild Card Game win attributed their come-back to being a “resilient” team. We heard it again after taking down the favoured Texas Rangers in three straight, high-drama games. You can knock’em down and just before you count them out, they bounce back better than before! That... is resiliency... in elite sports.

Resiliency to bounce back from adversity of a far more “real word” and uninvited nature, is something we all need to acquire to reach our peak potential. Youth in particular need to be equipped with the ability to cope with less than ideal situations, problem solve and learn from experiences to successfully and safely navigate their way through the ups and downs of life. Research shows that a resilient youth is less likely to become involved in problems such as substance use, gambling or other anti-social behaviours. But, like the Blue Jays, they can’t do it alone. Developing skills from within to build self-esteem, to be your best self, and to stay positive, all components of resiliency, must be paired with external support.

I believe the fact that the Blue Jays had an entire country rallying around them, not something experienced by any other team, gave them an extra boost in their confidence and will to persevere despite the odds, injuries and seemingly insurmountable September slump. For youth, their families, peers, schools and communities are highly influential in helping them become resilient, believing in themselves and making healthier choices regardless of what life throws at them.

sfpy logo 2Parent Action on Drug’s Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth (SPFY) program is an excellent opportunity for both parents and their teens to become resilient as a team and as individuals. While there are external forces beyond the family, the program focuses on strengthening the most direct relationship, that of parent and child. SFPY is a nine-week skill-building program for families to raise resilient youth. The program takes a ‘whole family’ approach that helps parents and teens (12-16 years) to develop trust and mutual respect. It is a shortened, adapted version of the 14-week Strengthening Families Program (SFP) developed by Dr. Karol Kumpfer of the University of Utah.

If you are with an organization that works with youth and families interested in promoting healthy outcomes, consider implementing the SFPY program now. Through the SFPY curriculum (and optional support package) your organization will provide families with a complete research-based approach to improving parent-teen relationships, and to helping youth build resilience that will support good decision making and mental health.

Resiliency just may lead the Blue Jays to championship success this year, but it will certainly lead parents and youth to realizing peak performance in family functioning and pursuing lifetime success in whatever is meaningful to them!

For more information on programs and resources for parents and youth on substance misuse prevention visit and



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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”.


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).


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)

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)

• 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 could be a big win!


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:

To learn more about the full CCSA environmental scan a report go to

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

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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.



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.


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A few words in favour of Pokémon Go

By Robyn Kalda, HC Link Consultant

As health promoters, we frequently can be heard disparaging video games. All that screen time! Why don't people go outside? Well, Pokémon Go is getting people outside -- albeit with screens still firmly in hands. What can we do to emphasize the health-promoting aspects of the game? Here are a few ideas.

Encourage inter-generational activity

Kids, parents, and grandparents can all play. Age gives no advantage, so it's a fair game for all. Parents may find kids who play Pokémon Go are more willing to walk around their neighbourhoods, to take on chores such as dog-walking, and to tag along on dull errands such as grocery shopping, as they have to walk several kilometres to hatch Pokémon eggs. Time to encourage family Pokémon-hunting walks after dinner, perhaps?

Encourage exploration

Different Pokémon are found in different kinds of environments, so those found near water are different than those found on busy streets or near forests. Pokémon collectors need to venture beyond their usual haunts if they want to complete their collection. Health promoters can encourage people to use this opportunity to find and appreciate new features of their community. I'd like to see community walking tours that encompass local spots of interest both real and Pokémon-related.

Encourge the social elements

You can't trade Pokémon (yet), but if you want to learn some of the finer points of playing or if you want to know where you can catch a particular kind of Pokémon, you're going to need to go out and walk around, and you're also going to have to talk to other players. It's too soon for proper research, but anecdotal evidence suggests some people with autism or depression have been deriving benefits from walking and from Pokémon-related socializing. (You can go to spots called "gyms" to battle other players' Pokémons as well, which might be considered another social element of the game, but that part is less potentially health-promoting!)

It's easy for health promoters to disparage screens and video games, and sometimes we do so out of habit. I'd suggest we take a closer look at the assets Pokémon Go gives us to work with and see where it takes us.

Besides, it's kind of fun.

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The Wake-up Call on Children & Youths Physical Activity Levels

By Christine Nhan, Health Nexus Summer Student

Overtime there has been a significant decrease in physical activity by children and youth. This is a statement that many of us are well aware of and educated on. Study after study have been conducted, each continuously feeding us the same dangerous results; type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, the list goes on.

Recently, participACTION has released their 2016 report card on physical activity for children and youth. Rather than delivering the same information that much of the public is already educated on, they shined a new light on a contributing factor for this health concern. What they believe will be the wakeup call for Canadians.

Instead of strictly focusing on physical activities, emerging studies have taken a step back to look at the bigger picture. Through this new lens a vicious cycle has been identified between one’s sedentary, sleep and physical behaviour. As written in the report, those who are tired out from physical activities will sleep better, and those who sleep less will be too tired for physical activities. This relationship may seem like common sense, however the report also shares some not so obvious effects of sleep deprivation in children.

Over many years now, the public has been repeatedly educated on the true dangers of low physical activity levels. To work towards a more active lifestyle, interventions varying in methods and sizes have been implemented. I recall in elementary school the “Walk across Canada” program was initiated to encourage students to walk more. It was based on a reward system, in which students were given coloured feet charms for every milestone distance achieved. This method of intervention resulted in young children having more motivation to participate in physical activity.

Although many of these interventions have had a positive impact on their communities, obstacles such as technology and restricting circumstances have made the suggested solutions much more difficult to carry out. Technology is a specific contributor that has had a large impact on physical activity. As the amount of time spent participating in physical activity decreases, the time spent using technology has increased. Much concern has been raised, and as a result participACTION has recommended no more than two hours of screen time per day.

I believe an effective approach towards this specific challenge is through the concept of integration. By placing a healthy spin on time consuming technology, physical activity can be integrated into the recommended screen time and essentially decrease one’s sedentary behaviour. A prime example of this integrated approach would be the release of Pokemon Go or Wii Fit. Pokemon Go has especially played as a game changer and unintentionally evolved into a public health service. The trending game is entirely based on people walking to different locations in order to move onto the next level, thus promoting physical activity.

Daily circumstances also give rise to obstacles when wanting to carry out the recommended solutions. The participACTION report card states that 43% of 16-17 year old Canadians are not getting enough sleep on weekdays. Speaking from my own personal experiences, countless of late nights were spent working on projects, assigned homework, or studying for a test. My workload during high school greatly contributed to my lack of sleep. I find that a common thread amongst these challenges is that many individuals disregard the long term consequences, such as being diagnosed with type two diabetes 10 plus years down the road, for the short term consequences, like receiving a bad grade, due to the immediate negative effects.

I truly believe it is important to educate and motivate children and youth to participate in physical activities. By starting healthy habits at a younger age, these habits can become ingrained into an individual’s daily routine. The Healthy Kids Community Challenge run by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care is a recent initiative to help improve children’s health and well-being. HC Link is proud to be a part of this initiative, by supporting, in collaboration with our resource centre partners, the 45 participating communities.

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New CAMH Survey Results Show 10 Per Cent Increase in Psychological Distress among Ontario Students

By Monica Nunes, CAMH HPRC


OSDUHS changesThe Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has just released its biannual report on student mental health and well-being in Ontario. The data derives from the 2015 edition of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), the longest running school survey of adolescents in Canada, and one of the longest-running surveys in the world.

The 2015 results show that more than one in three – an estimated 328,000 Ontario students in grades 7 to 12 report moderate-to-serious psychological distress, a 10 per cent jump since 2013. Girls are twice as likely as boys to experience psychological distress.

Other striking trends include:

Mental health

  • Seventeen per cent of students rate their mental health as fair or poor, a 6 per cent increase since 2013
  • The number of students prescribed medication for anxiety , depression or both in the previous year doubled since 2001
  • View an infographic on mental health trends 

Screen time and social media use

  • Overall, screen time and social media use is high. More than half (63 per cent) of students spend 3 or more hours per day in front of TV or tablet/computer in their free time.
  • Eighty-six per cent of students visit social media sites daily and 16 per cent spend five or more hours on social media per day
  • View an infographic on screen time and social media use trends

Video gaming

  • An estimated 122,600 (13 per cent) of students in Ontario report symptoms of a video gaming problem which includes associated preoccupation, loss of control, withdrawal and disregard for consequences
  • The percentage of students indicating a video gaming problem in 2015 (13 per cent) is significantly higher than the percentage in 2007 (9 per cent), the first year of monitoring
  • Problem video gaming is especially prevalent among boys (20 per cent) rather than girls (5 per cent)

The Provincial System Support Program and the Evidence Exchange Network (EENet) at CAMH have been maintaining a strong knowledge exchange partnership with the OSDUHS research team to share this evidence widely. Most recently, PSSP hosted the first webinar in a two part-series sharing the OSDUHS results on drug use among students which you can check out on EENet’s website. Part two of the webinar series is scheduled for October 5th from 11:00am-12:30pm and will focus on how program planners and policy makers use the OSDUHS data. Stay tuned for registration information! In the New Year, PSSP and EENet will also host webinars focusing on the mental health and well-being results.

Access the full OSDUHS mental health and well-being report:

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Webinar Recap: How to Engage Francophones- when you don’t speak French!

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

A few years ago, prior to the creation of HC Link, I had the opportunity to work with a group of health promotion resource centres whose intent was to provide services in French. At that time, though I had grown up in Quebec and even attended French Immersion school, I wasn’t able to speak much French. That led to a pretty commonly held belief: if you can’t speak French, you can’t work with Francophones and you can’t work towards offering services in French.

Fortunately for me, I was with a group of very passionate health promoters- Anglophones and Francophones- who helped me to see that non-French speakers have a critical role to play when it comes to engaging Francophone communities and planning French language services. It was that group of people that inspired me to try to regain the French skills I had as a child. Thanks to a number of courses, terrific tutors and a lot of perseverance, I am making progress. I have also experienced the sheer frustration of knowing what I want to say, but not having the words to express myself. I can easily imagine what it is like for people who are sick, need medical attention, or are trying to improve their health or life circumstance and can’t receive services in their own language.

There are of course a wide variety of languages spoken in Ontario. French is unique in that there is political and legislative recognition of the rights of Franco-Ontarians to receive services in French. These are the factors which led me, along with former HC Link staff Estelle Duchon, to create the webinar and accompanying resource: How to Engage Francophones- when you don’t speak French! My HC Link colleague Patrick Delorme and I have recently updated the original resource, and today we offered a webinar on the topic.

In the webinar and resource, we identify three important steps to take when engaging Francophone communities in your region (whether you speak French or not):

  1. Clearly define your motives and purpose for engaging Francophones;

  2. Understand the context and history of  Francophone in your region, in Ontario and in Canada

  3. Partner with organizations and networks in your region who work with Francophones

We also talked about common pitfalls and challenges in engaging Francophones, and what strategies you can use to avoid them. One excellent question from our webinar participants:

Q: How do we ensure that, when we are translating resources into French, we don’t lose the context?

A:Translation is a tricky (and also time consuming and resource intensive) process. We recommend several steps to ensure that the translated materials are high quality, useful and relevant for the Francophone community:

  • At the risk of listing something quite obvious, use a professional translator and avoid Google Translator at all costs!

  • Put together a “lexicon” of words and their translations related to the resource/program. Add to the lexicon over time and provide it to your translators.

  • Ask Francophone colleagues, partners and/or community members to review the translated document. Try to find Francophones from your region and from your sector who are familiar with the local/contextual vernacular.

  • For a longer resource, manual or a program that you are translating in French, we recommend adapting it for your Francophone audience. If possible, establish an advisory committee (again, Francophone colleagues, partners and/or community members from your region and from your sector) and work with them to identify the components of the resource/materials that need to be adapted to fit the needs and realities of the Francophones you are trying to reach. Once the materials are translated and adapted, pilot test them with the target audience and ask for feedback on them.  


You can watch a recording of the webinar or view the webinar slides on our website.


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OHCC and Developmental Evaluation

Lorna McCue, Executive Director, Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC)

The Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, a member organization of HC Link, recently sent three OHCC Board members and the Executive Director to a workshop on Developmental Evaluation (DE), provided by Innoweave, to learn more about this approach and its suitability for their Healthy Food Program.

This workshop was facilitated by Jamie Gamble of Imprint Consulting, who has designed and delivered consulting projects in evaluation, strategy, and organizational change over the past decade. He has written a Developmental Evaluation Primer for this series of workshops.

The workshop was designed for teams of 3-4 leaders of an organization to learn together about developmental evaluation and work together to develop a plan to undertake a developmental evaluation for a specific program.

Prior to attending the workshop, participants were invited to view a pre-recorded webinar online, and were given a link to view or download the slides.


Developmental Evaluation is an evaluation approach that supports innovation by providing close to real time feedback on activities, which facilitates continuous development. It is particularly useful in guiding adaptation within complex environments, and is a useful approach to evaluating Collective Impact initiatives. The evaluation methods and tools aren’t necessarily different than those used in a more traditional evaluation, but how they are used is quite different. The evaluation activities are undertaken in a more flexible, team-oriented, user-friendly way, and are geared to on-going learning and development. Data is collected more frequently, the process of interpretation and generating recommendations is timely, new issues are explored as they are identified, and the program design and the evaluation measure may be altered during the evaluation time frame.

The OHCC team decided to plan for a DE of its Healthy Food program. Since 2003 OHCC has worked with partners to support the development of sustainable local food systems and increase community food security within Ontario communities. Recent planning sessions have led to the alignment of OHCC’s food-related resources and activities under one Healthy Food program. The goal of this program is to engage communities in assessing and developing their local food system and build capacity for local solutions to hunger, including emergency services, capacity building programs, access to land and facilities for gardening and food re-distribution and system change initiatives. Our current work in this area includes providing consultation and learning activities through HC Link, to build the capacity of community food programs, and supporting FoodNet Ontario, a provincial network of individuals and organizations working towards sustainable local food systems and community food security.

During this workshop, the OHCC team focussed on exploring the scope of the evaluation process, the risks entailed in undertaking a DE instead of a more traditional evaluation approach and the evaluation methods that would be appropriate for this program. All team members agreed that DE was a good fit for this program, but that further work was needed in program design before a DE could be undertaken. They also expressed their appreciation for the training they received in DE and may have opportunities to apply the concepts to other programs in which they are involved.

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Webinar Recap - Highlights from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey

By Heather Lillico, Provincial System Support Program, CAMH

CAMH's Provincial System Support Program (PSSP) and EENet co-hosted part one of a two-part webinar series on Wednesday, June 22nd sharing findings from the 2015 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS). The OSDUHS always impresses me because it's the longest running school based survey in Canada! It began in 1977, at a time when bell bottom jeans and tie dye ruled the world.

The webinar kicked off with PSSP's very own Tamar Meyer and Jason Guriel sharing some highlights from the 2015 OSDUHS Drug Use Results Report. Then CAMH expert panelists Dr. Robert Mann, Dr. Hayley Hamilton, Gloria Chaim, and Angela Boak took turns discussing what stood out for them with the results, and how the information could be used to inform policy and programming. Here are some things that stood out for me from the webinar:

  • Students reported use of prescription opioids for nonmedical use, over the counter cough/cold meds, and energy drinks declined since 2013 (great!).
  • Ecstasy increased since 2013 (up 2.1%).
  • The age of initiation for drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and using cannabis has increased over time (ie. students are starting later).
  • Abstinence from drug use including alcohol and tobacco is currently higher than about a decade ago.
  • Although tobacco smoking rates have declined, about 1 in 10 students still report smoking...that's still a big number!
  • Despite a long-term decline, binge drinking remains at an elevated level, as about one-in-six students (an estimated 168,100) report drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion once in the past month.

Have a listen to the webinar and look at the slides for more information.

OSDUHS also has a fantastic interactive website with highlights from the 2015 report which I recommend checking out. PSSP also includes the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre and the Opioid Resource Hub which help support the work of EENet, check them out as well for more resources!



Part two of this webinar series will delve deeper into how to put all this fantastic research into action. Stay tuned for information on a date!




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Public Health Ethics Part 3 of 3: Applying Public Health Ethics at Your Work

By Stephanie Massot, Public Health Practicum Student at Health Nexus

This is the third blog post in a series on public health ethics. This post focuses on how to apply public health ethics to your work.

I am starting to feel as though public health ethics is like a good sandwich you have made yourself. If you have been following my last two blog posts in this series, you will be more familiar with your philosophical orientation and differentiating between bioethics, public health ethics, and health promotion ethics. These make up the main protein and key ingredients to a good public health ethics sandwich. If you have made a sandwich before, you are going to know what your favourite ingredients are – mine is always cheese and Dijon mustard! If it is your first time making a sandwich or you have been given new ingredients, there will be a new process and new discoveries. Guidance on making a sandwich is important. You need to know how to bring your ingredients together.

In public health ethics, frameworks have been developed to provide assistance to practitioners who are deliberating an ethical issue in different contexts. Strengths of frameworks include making values explicit and thinking through potential unintended consequences of proposed interventions, from policies to programs. The National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy (NCCHPP) has an extensive list of ethics frameworks for public health. Going back to the sandwich analogy, what you use to ‘frame’ your ingredients, from a challah bun to rye bread, will change your eating experience. For instance, Nancy Kass provides a list of questions in her framework (great summary from NCCHPP) and Andrew Tannahill focuses on a list of principles or ‘principlism’ to guide his framework.

Principlism is a ‘broad approach of identifying a set of principles to be considered and specified when facing a decision that may contain ethical issues1 and a practical tool for practitioners who are not familiar with public health ethics. Principles can be separated into substantive and procedural categories:


I was recently reading Unison Health and Community Services’ workbook (jam-packed with tasty ingredients) for community based evidence-informed practice. What I noticed was that an ethical framework(s) was not provided, even for the evaluative learning tools. Referring to another tool such as the Community Ethics Toolkit, could support you to consider and dialogue about public health ethics.


Just like you might not enjoy the idea of combining certain ingredients on your sandwich (pickles and peanut butter anyone?), there will be conflicts between principles that will require deliberation. Frameworks for public health ethics will need refinement, perhaps they will even need to be combined, for your context – only through practice will you find out how to best apply them. For an excellent case study check out: ‘Getting Through Together: Ethical Values for a Pandemic’. The Ministry of Health in New Zealand worked closely with Māori communities because ‘shared values give us a shared basis for decisions.’ Now how about that sandwich?



1 MacDonald, M. (2015). Introduction to Public Health Ethics 3: Frameworks for Public Health Ethics. National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy. Montréal, Québec.



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HC Link Blog Series on Facilitation Techniques: Wrap Up

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

Good facilitation is an essential component to achieving success as a group. A facilitator helps a group to accomplish its objectives by ensuring comfort, fairness and good participation from all members, maximizing a group’s ability to come up with ideas/solutions, and keeping a group on track to move towards its goals.

At HC Link, we take pride in our staff and our ability to help groups achieve success through our facilitation skills. We have received a number of requests asking for more information on various facilitation approaches and techniques – so we decided to do a blog series to assist in your learning!

Here is a listing of all of the blogs in this series:

Introduction to Choosing a Facilitation Technique

Peer Sharing: the wise crowds technique

Breaking the Ice: putting a little fun into working with groups

Appreciative Inquiry

Facilitating a Priority Setting Exercise

1-2-4-all: Engage everyone in group conversation

Using “Visioning” as a Facilitation Technique

Using popular theatre as a facilitation technique

We hope you found this information and examples helpful!

Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have – or to request a service from us to help with facilitating your community processes, meetings or events.

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Public Health Ethics Part 2 of 3: Distinguishing between different types of health-related ethics

By Stephanie Massot, Health Nexus

This is the second blog post in a series on public health ethics. This post focuses on differentiating between bioethics, public health ethics, and health promotion ethics.

Perhaps you have been entering in some Socrates-type conversations since reading ‘Public Health Ethics Part 1 of 3: Does Your Philosophical Orientation Matter?’ and now you are feeling ready for some practical ethical frameworks to work through some health-related ethical questions, such as ‘do I prioritize autonomy or community for my program?’ or ‘is my policy paternalistic?’ Just before we start driving down the road of applying ethical frameworks, we need to take a quick pit stop and make sure we are all on the same map and heading in a similar direction as far as how we define different health-related ethics.

Not only are there many definitions for public health and health promotion, but now you may feel as though you are in the weeds trying to differentiate between bioethics, public health ethics, and health promotion ethics. You may not emerge from your rabbit hole of research for days. So why might it be important to spend the time getting to know the difference between these three types of ethics?

Unearthing the origins of words or concepts helps us to appreciate their impact on the present context. For instance, the word ‘gypped’ (often spelled incorrectly as jipped) is still used by folk to refer to instances where they have felt cheated out of something because they do not know that it has a negative connation. It is derived from the word ‘gypsy’ and portrays Romani people in an offensive manner. As a student, I wish I had spent more time tracing the roots of some of my most often referenced journal articles – what was the background of the author? Did their country’s politics impact their writing? Was the methodology of the study strong? Was the sample size robust?

Through the guidance of Dr. Ross Upshur, I did get an opportunity to delve into why there are differences between bioethics, public health ethics, and health promotion ethics. What I came away with is that it really comes down to values.


Public health ethics only became a distinct area in the late 1990s. Prior to this time, Bioethics (considered synonymous with health care ethics) was considered an acceptable theoretical base for ethical issues faced by public health practitioners. Why as members of a public health network (mentioned in Part 1 of this blog series) would it matter what base you are using to discern ethical issues in your field? This table will help you distinguish between different types of health-related ethics:

* Reference: MacDonald, M. (2014). Introduction to Public Health Ethics: Background. Montréal, Québec: National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy.
** Carter, S., Cribb, A. & Allegrante, J. (2012). How to think about health promotion ethics. Public Health Reviews, 34(1), 1-24.

Check out this short public service announcement on obesity and use each of the different ethical approaches above to see what you perceive as an issue or non-issue. Which of the three health-related ethics comes closest to serving as the basis for the video you just watched? If you are thinking health care ethics, than we are heading in the same direction.

A campaign by the Covenant House called ‘why can’t street kids just get a life?’ takes a more public health ethics approach because it informs the general population in a public spaces, such as the subway, and includes values such as social justice and solidarity in the questions being asked. How could this campaign be changed if a health promotion ethics lens were applied in its creation? It is important to understand the ethical approach that you and your organization take, because whether you know it or not, your approach drives everything you do (e.g. policies, programs, marketing messages), much like your philosophical orientation. ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Health Promotion Practice’ can help you dive deeper into analyzing issues you may be observing in your work.

Although ethical questions such as ‘what is a good society?’ or ‘what should health promotion contribute to a good society?’ can seem daunting, engaging in ethical reflexivity to question our own assumptions can help us to uncover unintended consequences from well-intended health practices. Stay tuned for practical ethical frameworks to apply to your work in health!



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Parachute Safe Kids Week: At Home, At Play and On The Road



By Sunitha Ravi Kumar, KT Coordinator at Parachute

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Parachute Safe Kids Week, an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness about preventable injuries in children. From May 30th – June 5th, communities across Canada will host family-friendly events to provide education about the top childhood injuries At Home, At Play and On The Road.

The number of deaths among Canadian children in the past ten years due to preventable injury has decreased by 28 percent. Think about it - that’s 2,098 children. You might be surprised to learn that even with this downward trend, in Canada today a child dies every few hours from a preventable injury...that is unacceptable.

But what does a preventable injury look like? 

At Home

safekidsweek2Children live in an environment built for adults, making children vulnerable to injury. Leading causes of injuries in the home include:

• falls down stairs or off furniture
• choking, suffocation and other breathing-related incidents
• poisoning
• burns and scalds
• drowning in the bathtub or backyard pool.

Being aware of hazards around the home and taking safety measures such as using baby gates on stairs and locking away medications, can make the home a safe place for kids to learn and grow.

At Play

Physical activity is an important part of childhood. Whether playing organized sports or participating in recreational activities, there may be some risk of injury. Assessing a child’s skill level, recognizing hazards in the physical environment, wearing the proper gear, teaching and practicing ‘fair play’ techniques can all ensure that play remains a part of healthy, active living.


On the Road

Children are vulnerable road users. Did you know that transport-related incidents are the leading cause of death for Canadian children between the ages of 5-14? Between 2003 and 2012, almost half of all unintentional deaths for children 0-14 occurred on the road1. Regardless of whether children are pedestrians, cyclists or vehicle passengers, practicing and modeling safe behaviors while on the road can keep young ones and you safe on the road.


Taking Part is Easy

As a national charity, Parachute is dedicated to closing the gap on childhood injuries. But, we need your help. Together, we can save more kids lives.

As a parent, caregiver, teacher or community partner, you can help reduce preventable injuries in children. Start by taking part in Parachute Safe Kids Week. Be sure to explore our 2016 Safe Kids Week Resources to help you roll out Parachute Safe Kids Week in your community. Make a pledge to keep kids safe and post to your social media channels using the hashtag #SafeKids20. Or visit our website and make a donation to support ongoing programs that keep kids safe.

Have a Safe Kids Week!

The Parachute Team

1. Statistics Canada. No date. Table 102-0540 Deaths, by cause, Chapter XX: External causes of morbidity and mortality (V01 to V89), age group and sex, Canada (table). CANSIM (database). Last updated December 10, 2015.


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Working towards an alcohol control strategy for Ontario that prioritizes community safety

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link - Parent Action on Drugs

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the forum An Alcohol Strategy for Ontario: Promoting Public Health and Community Safety put on by the Working Group for Responsible Alcohol Retailing. The purpose of the forum was to bring together a variety of stakeholders to raise public awareness about the potential social and health impacts from expanding access to alcohol (i.e. alcohol being sold in grocery stores) and build political will to adopt an evidence-informed provincial alcohol control strategy that prioritizes community safety.

The forum certainly did bring together a variety of stakeholders – and while everyone there could agree on wanting safe communities, there was definitely some interesting conversations that were had.

The honourable Dipika Damerla, Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care discussed how Ontario has expanded beer sales to an additional 450 locations across the province to give Ontarians more convenience and choice while still maintaining a strong commitment to social responsibility through strict controls over how the beer is sold in these new locations (i.e. restricted hours, designated section of the store, certified and trained staff). During a Q&A period, concerns were raised about how the evidence has shown us that increased access to alcohol results in higher alcohol consumption and higher harms associated with alcohol use. Concerns around enforcement were also raised, as there are very few AGCO Inspectors assigned to large geographic areas. Damerla assured participants that the government wants to get an alcohol policy right for Ontario, and that the strategy will be robust and will require a cross-government approach.

Ann Dowsett Johnston, author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol shared why the alcohol file is so urgent. She spoke about how despite all the known harms associated with risky drinking, it is still a conversation that no one wants to have because alcohol is entrenched in our culture. We drink to relax, we drink to celebrate, we drink to de-stress, we drink to impress (i.e. if you know your vodkas you’re hip). She was passionate about her concern for how normalized drinking is in our society, and how it is slowing down progress for a successful alcohol control strategy.

Dr. Tim Stockwell, Director of the Centre for Addiction Research of British Columbia, tackled the myth that low-risk drinking can have actual health benefits (i.e. a glass of wine a day is good for your heart). Stockwell also touched upon the dimensions of a successful alcohol policy, including: price, control system, physical availability, drinking and driving, marketing and advertisement, legal drinking age, and screening and brief intervention. Increasing the minimum price of alcohol has been shown to have the greatest impact in reducing risky alcohol consumption and its associated harms.


                                                      Dr. Tim Stockwell (Centre for Addiction Research of British Columbia)


                                                       Pegeen Walsh (Ontario Public Health Association)

Dr. Robert Mann, shared trends in alcohol use and problems among adolescents. In Ontario, the most stunning statistic was the decreased rate of drinking and driving among grade 11 drivers (from 46% in 1977 to 3% in 2015). Since 1977, the three major drops in drinking and driving are seen when: the legal age for drinking was increased, when graduated licensing was established (where a blood alcohol level of zero is the law), and when a blood alcohol level of zero was required in all drivers under 22. While there are many programs and initiatives working towards reducing drinking and driving (and working well!), this data does show the profound effects that policies can have. While Ontario has always been the best performing province in motor vehicle fatalities involving alcohol (meaning the lowest numbers), the new data shows that Ontario has the highest rates for drug-present fatalities. There was discussion around how a zero tolerance for drugs policy for drivers under 22 years of age needs to occur.

Dr. Lisa Simon, Associate Medical Officer of Health, spoke about equity as it relates to alcohol consumption and associated harms. While those with the highest income level report the highest alcohol consumption, those with the lowest income have 2x the harms (alcohol-attributed hospitalizations). Furthermore, low income areas tend to receive disproportionate amounts of alcohol outlets. Perhaps not surprisingly, policies that increase the minimum price for standard drinks have been shown to have the most positive impact on those with a lower socio-economic status.

One participant from the audience asked the question to a few of the presenters, what ONE POLICY should be reflected in an alcohol strategy, the answers were:

  • SES should be considered when siting alcohol outlets

  • A minimum price for standard drinks should be set at $1.65

  • Guidelines for low-risk drinking should be on all drinks

  • Reduced availability of alcohol outlets

Brenda Stankiewicz, Public Health Nurse at the Sudbury & District Health Unit spoke about 3 specific challenges in the North regarding alcohol:

  1. Much higher percentage of underage youth reporting parental permission to drink (42% vs 26% in the rest of Ontario)

  2. Transportation issues. With limited or no public transit or taxis available – there are far fewer options for getting home safely after drinking... causing more drinking and driving.

  3. Very limited enforcement. There is the prevailing attitude that if you drive home on dirt roads or long stretches of deserted highways, you will not get caught. Also, because everyone tends to know each other – there is the attitude that no one will report them. Furthermore, there is only 1 AGCO in all of Sudbury, which means – enforcing and monitoring even more alcohol outlets will be even more challenging.

There were many other great attendees who presented, asked thoughtful questions, and engaged in stimulating dialogue. All in all it was a worthwhile forum, and hopefully a stepping stone in the direction of developing an alcohol control strategy for Ontario.

Although the discussion of the forum was focused on a provincial strategy, the role for local players was highlighted. To support your efforts CAMH HPRC is offering free promotional materials to public health and health promotion professionals in Ontario who are interested in supporting low risk drinking:  You can also check out the Parent Action on Drugs website for information and resources on issues that impact substance use and youth geared towards youth, parents, and professionals.



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Public Health Ethics Part 1 of 3: Does Your Philosophical Orientation Matter?


By Stephanie Massot, Public Health Practicum Student at Health Nexus

This is the first blog post in a series on public health ethics. This post focuses on the importance of understanding your/your organization’s philosophical orientation.

One of my first year-long courses during my undergraduate degree in Health Education at the University of Victoria was Philosophy 100. I know I spent many hours poring over the writings of well-known philosophers but what seems to have stayed with me are disordered images of Waking Life, a film that captures a range of philosophical issues, and an overall feeling that philosophy was a ‘nice to know’ but not a ‘need to have’.

Fast forward 11 years later to the final academic term of my Master of Public Health at the University of Toronto and I am creating a course in Public Health Ethics, which has strong roots in philosophy. Since I worked in the nonprofit sector, I know that many decisions have ethical implications, such as resource allocation or selecting which organizations to collaborate with. You have an impact on the public health system if you or your organization puts any energy towards keeping people healthy and preventing injury, disease and premature death. For many of us this occurs by taking action on the living conditions that affect our community members. As members of a public health network, having an understanding of public health ethics and tools available will result in better decisions and improvements in the health and satisfaction of the people we serve.

Now how to take on ethical decisions in public health?

Whenever you have to make decisions, whether you are aware or not (typically therein lies the problem) you always come from a particular philosophical orientation. Since you may not be cognizant of your philosophical orientation, as a public health practitioner it is important to develop reflexivity and understanding of your orientation because if tough, moral decisions occur in your public health work (which they will) and especially if the decisions have to be made quickly, you want to be aware of where you and your colleagues stand.

Population and Public Health Ethics: Cases from research, policy, and practice is a useful resource for familiarizing yourself with philosophies that are particularly influential in the public health arena and to use case studies to expand your understanding. A quick summary is below and you can ask yourself, ‘in Canada, our governmental system is most aligned with which philosophy? Our neighbours down south?’



The answer for Canada is liberalism and for the United States it is libertarianism. Although these philosophical orientations sound similar, libertarianism is about having individual freedom through as little government involvement as possible whereas liberalism is basically about having individual freedom guaranteed by governments (see bolded text in the above chart). The context of your work (country, specific organization) should always be a consideration when you are thinking about ethics because context will influence your decisions.

I may not be able to quote you passages from Socrates and Plato, but I will aim to create a space for discussion where colleagues can co-inquire about values, assumptions and concepts that build a foundation for equitable decision-making and of course, ask more questions.


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Using Popular Theatre as a Facilitation Technique

By Gillian Kranias, HC Link Consultant

This is the eight blog post in a series on facilitation techniques and approaches written by HC Link staff. This post focuses on using popular theatre for warmup/centering activities and even as a learning tool.

Without being an actor or director in any way whatsoever, I have pursued a lifelong passion for using popular theatre activities in community learning, community development and social change settings. These activities all value equity and inclusion, as well as a holism that engages creativity, non-verbal communications and full body awareness in our analysis, learning and organizing efforts.

Some techniques take a significant amount of time and are difficult to explain in writing. For this blog post, I am sharing few warmup/centering activities and the technique of image theatre, which can take anywhere from 5-90 minutes.

For more reading on popular theatre and theatre of the oppressed, try these titles:

Practical Books

Games for Actors and Non-Actors
By Augusto Boal. (New York: Routledge, 1992)

Educating for a Change
By Rick Arnold, Bev Burke, Carl James, D'Arcy Martin, Barb Thomas
(Toronto: Doris Marshal Institute for Education and Action & Between the Lines, 1991)


Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism
Edited by Mady Schutzman and Jan Cohen-Cruz (London: Routledge, 1994)

In the right group, your courage to do things differently will pay off in surprising ways!

Centering Activities (5 minutes)

Source Augusto Boal’s book: Games for Actors and Non Actors

DSC 0507There are hundreds of theatre and improv games that can help “center” members of a group together, build listening skills, and exercise people’s timing in response. Here are two fun ones that I learned from Augusto Boal’s book. To choose games appropriately for your group, consider the lightness or seriousness of the gathering, how well people know each other already, as well as physical ability and language differences among group members.




“Name & Motion”

* Engages group members to listen, observe, and move

* Requires only limited “theatrical risk-taking”

* Generates lots of smiles and breaks down inhibitions


- Have everyone stand up in a circle. As the facilitator, explain and demonstrate how this introduction game works:

- Each individual, when they are willing, takes one step towards the center of the circle and makes a motion (preferably large) while calling out their first name. Everyone else must then together repeat the person’s “name and motion” two times (like an echo response).

- Allow time for each person to introduce their “name and motion” and be welcomed by the group through their “name and motion”.

“Pass the Clap”

* Engages group members to listen, observe, and move

* Focuses group members attention to one collaborative challenge

* Encourages a lighthearted approach to mistakes


- Seated or standing in a circle, the facilitator claps in the direction of someone next to them. This person is asked to pass the clap to the next person in the circle, and so on the clap will pass from person to person around the circle.

- Do this a few times around, so that the clap passes around the circle and past the facilitator several times. Then, while the clap is passing on the opposite side of the circle, the facilitator can begin a second (and later a third) clap that will travel in its own timing around the circle (so several claps will be circling at once).

- The facilitator can keep passing the clap through the circle for a while, and then eventually gather the claps (by not passing them past the facilitator) to close the activity.

- Variation: It is also possible to shift from sending the clap around the circle, and send it instead to someone across the circle.


Personal Style Reflection - What animal am I most like in a group? (5 – 20 minutes)

Typecasting by others can heighten conflict. Allowing each individual in a group to share their uniqueness and offer insight into the qualities of their “animal” creates an appreciative and collaborative dynamic. I learned and used this activity from colleagues at the Self Help Resource Centre.

* Engages group members to reflect on what they bring personally to the group

* Uses metaphor to convey complex ideas in a non-restrictive way

* Provokes laughter – being lighthearted about the strengths and challenges of our unique personalities


- Post pictures, or a list, of 6-8 different types of animals.

- Ask people to reflect on which animal they most behave like, when working in a group setting.

- Invite each participant to share which animal they identified with most, and why.

- With larger groups, the same question can be explored more dramatically/playfully by asking people to act out their animal, find others acting like them, and then sit together in their animal group to create a list of what they see as the significant qualities of their animal in groups.


Image theatre (10 - 90 minutes)

(Source: Headlines Theatre, Vancouver & Mixed Company, Toronto)

Image theatre is a wonderful technique! It is less intimidating than roleplay, and can be used on its own or as a warm-up activity before roleplaying. This technique is also known within popular education groups as “human sculptures”.

* Engages group members in holistic thinking and analysis, and learning

* Works equally well for multi-lingual groups

* Helps groups analyze patterns within shared issues or experiences

* Great for experiential learners


- Begin with people’s experience. In small groups, on a given theme, share stories or jump right into identifying patterns or key elements of a problem. Ask the group to create a frozen image (no words) to convey their perspectives. For example: How does inclusive leadership work? Or What keeps you [parent] from getting more involved in your child’s school?

- Each group takes turns “exhibiting” and “viewing” the sculpture of other groups. Encourage people to explore all sides of the sculpture by touring around it. If the image includes people playing specific roles, after the sculpture has been viewed, the facilitator can point to the people one at a time and ask each of them to say a few words about “what is your character thinking/feeling?”

- Another variation is to ask people to return to their groups and develop a series of 3-5 images – evolving from the first – that bring about a positive change. When these image series are being shared, the facilitator claps her/his hands to signal the group to change from one image to the next.

Augusto Boal’s book: Games for Actors and Non Actors has an entire chapter on different image theatre techniques and describes dozens and dozens of such games.

SPOTLIGHT –Organizations are using popular theatre as a learning tool!

Popular theater uses theatre as a tool for social transformation. It typically involves the “audience” as participants and invites groups to explore attitudes and social problems and imagine a range of potential solutions.

Reflet Salveo, an organization that promotes access of Francophones to quality health services in French, used the popular theater approach as a learning tool within a workshop context. They hired actors from a French language community theater group (Les Indisciplinés de Toronto) to role play and demonstrate a series of possible scenarios in the context of hiring people with various disabilities. They allowed for audience feedback and found this was a great tool to generate discussion amongst participants.


Companies in Ontario who work with communities and are using theater as a tool for positive change:

Mixed company theatre uses forum theatre (an interactive approach that involves the audience in developing real-time strategies for dealing with social and personal issues) to educate, engage and empower audiences in schools, communities and workplaces.

Sheatre uses issue-based theatre to find solutions to social problems. Artists and community members work collaboratively to express and explore a wide variety of issues that are important to their community.

In Forma Theatre aims to engage community members in meaningful dialogue through participatory theatre.

Branchout Theatre believes in the use of popular theatre as a branch towards social change by connecting and empowering individuals and communities to communicate and transform the world around them.





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Webinar recap: new technology trends, tools, and applications

By Robyn Kalda, HC Link

Star Wars Day (May the 4th Be With You), seemed like a good day for a webinar on new technology trends and uses and some health promotion implications. As health promoters, we like to be sure we stay on the light side of the Force, and to do that we need to think about new technology as it develops as well as paying attention to research findings about the best ways existing technologies are used.

I discussed trends in new technology generally, including the Internet of Things, wearable technology, virtual reality / augmented reality, and the growth of the Internet as a shrinking collection of walled gardens.

Design trends I mentioned included the massive growth in mobile traffic, leading to trends such as responsive design (where the various parts of the page display differently depending on the size of your screen) and infinite scrolling (endless webpages that keep loading content, such as your Facebook homepage); the tendency for design to now be slightly less "flat" than has been the trend for the past few years; the increased use and acceptability of images and video; and the inclusion of nonstandard interface controls such as sideways scrolling (instead of the usual vertical scrolling).

I encouraged health promoters not to ignore the world of apps, which suffers from the same content-quality controls as the rest of the Internet. Whether we choose to create our own apps or whether we choose to help highlight the pros and cons of various existing apps, health promoters can play a useful role.

While research on social media has challenges -- by the time you conduct and publish your research, the technology has probably changed -- I discussed some findings from existing studies and reviews.

One main finding is that two-way communication in any kind of health promotion social media effort is critical for success. Just putting information out there is not enough.

Another main finding is that while many studies have assessed the reach of social media -- and of course it can be very good at expanding an intervention's reach -- many fewer have assessed behaviour change. However, one meta-review did find no negative behaviour changes occurred as a result of social media interventions, so at the very least we can be reasonably sure we are not causing harm.

HC Link has a number of resources on social media including policy and plan outlines, a starter sheet to fill out before you set up a social media account, and a communications inventory to help you figure out what you already have that you might effectively repurpose with social media.

You can view the webinar recording and download the accompanying handout on our webinar archive page.

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