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Welcome to HC Link's blog! Our blog will provide you with useful information on healthy community topics, news, and resources, as well as information on HC Link’s events, activities, and resources. Our bloggers include HC Link staff and consultants, as well as our partnering organizations, clients, and experts in the health promotion field.

Please note: opinions in posts are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of HC Link or our funder.

We look forward to engaging in thought-provoking conversation with you!

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Sustainability Planning Part Two: the Components of Community work

This post is part of a series of blogs on program sustainability and sustainability planning. Read the first blog in the series, Sustainability Planning Part one: What is sustainability?

 

As I often do when learning about something- in this case- sustainability- I turned first to HC Link’s resources. In this case, I turned waaaaaay back

sustain 4 componentsbeyond the 2009 inciption of HC Link, to a resource written by one of HC Link’s founding partners, the Heart Health Resource Centre. Written in 1999, the resource Health Heart Sustainability (available only as a scanned copy), was designed to support community partnerships participating in the Ontario Heart Health Program develop sustainability plans. While created specifically for the Ontario Heart Health Program, the ultimate goal of which was the reduction of behaviours that lead to cardiovascular disease (physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, smoking and stress), I think that this model is applicable to many other programs that focus on behaviour change, and in particular, involve multi-dimensional community partnerships.

This table suggests results for each component of sustainability, and gives a sense of various options within each category:

sustain table 3

What I really like about this model is that it goes beyond thinking how to replace expired program funding: it encourages us to think about what it is we are trying to change (the issue) the change we actually want to see (the behaviours), and the partnerships we’ve established to do the work.  Consider how to address sustainability of each of these components not only in your sustainability planning, but as you are designing your program.  

Stay tuned for the third post in this blog series, Developing a Sustainbility Plan. 

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Sustainability Planning Part one: What is sustainability?

This post is the first in a series of blogs on program sustainability and sustainability planning. Stay tuned for the next posts: Sustainability Components of Community Work and Developing a Sustainability Plan.

Lately we’ve been getting service requests from organizations and partnerships who are interested in sustaining their programs beyond the end of their funding period. “Sustainability” is one of those mysterious terms that is used a lot, though we don’t always know what we mean when we say it! I decided that I needed to find out more about what sustainability is and how to plan for it.

There are many different definitions of sustainability. Sustainability can be defined simply as a continuation1: the ability to carry on program services through funding and resource shifts or losses2. In other cases, sustainability can be about institutionalizing services; creating a legacy; upholding existing relationships and maintaining consistent outcomes2. Often we think of sustainability meaning about funding3:  however sustainability planning should focus on community needs, which shift and change over time2.  Sustainability is not a single event or a linear process: like many things in healthy communities and health promotion, sustainability planning is a continuous process that may involve one-step-forward-two-steps-back and multiple components happening at the same time2.

The Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) in the U.S. has several excellent resources on sustainability. In particular, their 2012 Tip Sheet titled Built to Last3 provides an excellent, 5 page primer to sustainability planning. In the tip sheet, the OAH lists four common challenges to sustainability of programs and services:

  • Organizations have difficulty in planning far enough ahead to secure necessary resources
  • There is a lack of well-documented successes to share with the community and funders, despite the quality of the program
  • There is a lack of stakeholder ownership of the program
  • Funding streams are finite and there is competition from similar organizations

Sustainability planning should not be automatic: in other words we should ask ourselves if the program should be sustained rather than simply assume that it should. I've adapted the below questions from the OAH tip sheet and a guidebook of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the U.S.4:

  1. Does your program or service address a need in the community?
  2. Do your evaluation results demonstrate that you are making a difference?
  3. Do you need to sustain the entire program? What parts of the program are the most effective and needed?

What I’m taking away from this wee bit of reading that I’ve done on sustainability, is that we often focus our sustainability efforts on replacing program funding, with the assumption that our programs should continue.  Sustainability is not about replacing expiring funding- though obviously that’s a part of sustainability planning. Rather, sustainability planning should be a fluid, ongoing process that is specifically tailored to local needs and the environment in which the organization operates. We need to ask ourselves the hard questions (as per above) to make sure that our program should continue. Then, we can begin sustainability planning. 

Read the next post in this series, Sustainability Planning Part Two: the Components of Community work.

References

1Heart Health Resource Centre, 1999. @heart: Heart Health Sustainability. Toronto, Ontario

2Office of Adolescent Health, 2014. Building Sustainable Programs: The Framework.

3Office of Adolescent Health, 2012. Build to Last: Planning Programmatic Sustainability.

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Join our “what successful partnerships do” series this September!

t HC Link we do a LOT of work supporting community partnerships. We’re finding that, more and more, people are working in partnership. That’s why we’ve developed this free series of webinars, consultations, workshops and resources to help you work more effectively in partnership.

Gillian and I began the series in June through a webinar in which we touched on key issues and strategies for building & maintaining successful partnerships. We then offered individual coaching sessions to help webinar participants apply their learning and identify next steps to strengthen their partnership skills.

This fall we will build upon our June webinar by moving into a more interactive stage. First, participants can use an online bulletin board to share what challenges or questions they currently face when dealing with partnerships. Then on Sept 26th, Gillian & I will host an interactive learning exchange that is completely customized to address the questions and concerns registrants sent in earlier in September. 

 

To sign up & ask your questions, click here.

 

What you can expect from this learning exchange:

  • Structured conversation lead by HC Link staff
  • Expert advice and opinion by contributors
  • A chance to build upon the ideas and challenges you face
  • Discussion on how to apply the 6 Key Activities for dynamic and effective partnerships.

 

Following the learning exchange, you can sign up for coaching sessions with HC Link consultants. Your partnership can also request consultations and workshops to help you move forward and accomplish your goals.

 

Missed part 1 in June? No problem! Get up to by speed by watching the recording or by reading this handy 2-page recap in FR and EN, which covers the topics we touched upon in webinar such as:

 

  1. Challenges organizations face to maintain strong partnerships
  2. Insight on how to define and achieve common goals 
  3. Our 6 key activities on how to achieve dynamic and effective partnerships

 

Not sure how HC Link can help? Contact us to start a conversation and see where it leads. 

 

partnership serie logo M 2017

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It takes a village: Social connections for health and well-being

By Rebecca Byers, HC Link

“Social isolation is the biggest health concern of our day,” said psychologist and best-selling author Susan Pinker during her closing keynote address at the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) Shift the Conversation conference I attended last week. She was referring to the science that shows social isolation harms peoples' health and shortens lifespans – material she covers in her latest book, The Village Effect, that explores how face-to-face contact is crucial for learning, happiness, resilience and longevity. Over the course of her talk, Susan shared the benefits of social connections and made the case for creating more inclusive communities where people know, and talk to each other, face to face.

Susan

Susan told us about her visit to a mountain village in Sardinia, Italy – one of the world’s “Blue Zone” areas as it is home to one of the highest proportion of super-centenarians. Her research of the over-100 club in Sardinia revealed that these centenarians typically had frequent and close connections with family and friends.

There is support for this observation; one study showed that social integration (loose in-person connections to many others) and close relationships (those tight bonds of friendship) are the strongest predictors of longevity – greater than perhaps more obvious things such as smoking, alcohol-use, diet, exercise, weight, hypertension.

chart

According to Susan, having loose in-person bonds, together with close relationships, creates a personal “village” around us, one that exerts unique effects. She went on to say that social contact (the face-to-face variety), like a vaccine, has a protective effect on our health, and it seems our bodies know it as it is a biological drive much like food and sleep. From birth to death, we are hard-wired to connect to other human beings and this connection gives us a sense of belonging.

“It’s a biological imperative to know we belong.” – Susan Pinker

Simply put, belonging matters. As mentioned by another presenter earlier at the conference, it’s the “secret sauce” to well-being. This is a belief supported by the Canadian Index of Well-being (CIW), which measures eight quality of life domains to provide a greater understanding of wellbeing and support evidence-based and community-focused decision-making. “Social relationships” is one of the categories of well-being indicators within the CIW’s Community Vitality domain - which looks at quality of life with regard to the communities we live in, how safe we feel, and whether or not we are engaged in community activities or socially isolated.

AOHC has been one of the pioneers to adopt the CIW. Over recent years, the association and its member organizations have worked to apply the CIW in a variety of innovative ways. One of the ways that community health centres are applying the CIW is by incorporating a “Be Well Survey” to collect information about the health and wellbeing of the people and communities they serve. The survey contains standardized questions that cover all eight CIW domains with a particular focus on Community Vitality and its components such as belonging, social connection, and inclusion.

Susan closed with the following recommendations for the audience of AOHC members, which I think hold true for all organizations, communities and people alike:

  • Build “third spaces” – social hubs that are neither work nor home. It doesn’t have to be fancy – can be as simple as providing tables and chairs. What’s important is that it draws people.

  • Build “villages”. Relationships help people thrive. Social contact should be built into all prevention and treatment plans.

You might also be interested in one of HC Link’s past webinars: Stress, Determinants of Health and Connectedness: Impacts on well-being 

 

 

 
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‘Everyday Superheroes’ recruited during Parachute Safe Kids Week to promote safe, active transportation and combat the #1 killer of Canadian children

safekidsweekbanner

By Julie Taylor, Parachute

This week is Parachute Safe Kids Week, a national campaign to raise awareness about predictable and preventable childhood injuries in Canada. This year’s campaign focuses on promoting safe and active transportation, which includes walking, cycling, skateboarding, scootering and other wheeled activities.

Each year, non-motorized wheeled activities lead to approximately 4,700 child injuries. Another 2,400 children are injured as pedestrians. As jurisdictions and organizations across Canada (including Parachute) adopt the Vision Zero approach, it’s important to keep a focus on our most vulnerable road users including child pedestrians and active transportation users. One fatality or serious injury on our roads, especially regarding children and youth is unacceptable.

This year’s theme is everyday superhero, which encourages children to become leaders in road safety by learning how to stay active and keep themselves and their loved ones safe on their travels to and from school, to the bus stop, and around their neighbourhood. Parents can guide their child’s activities by modelling safe behaviour and practices on the road, and also being aware of their child’s skill level.

This Safe Kids Week, Parachute is encouraging children and parents/caregivers to leave the car at home and choose active transportation whenever possible. The fewer cars on the streets and the more people walking, biking and wheeling, the safer it is!

Keep kids safe and active on their travels with these top tips:

walkWalk: Pedestrian Safety Tips

  • Teach kids at an early age to look left, right and left again when crossing the road.

  • Adults or older children need to walk with younger children and teach them how to cross the road safely. Young children can’t properly judge safe gaps in traffic or speeds.

  • Always cross the street at corners. Use traffic signals and crosswalks. Up to 25% of pedestrian collisions occur at mid block locations.

  • Walk on sidewalks or paths. Sidewalks can reduce pedestrian collisions by 88%. No sidewalks? Walk facing traffic as far away from vehicles as possible.

  • Phones down, heads up when walking. Teach kids to put phones, headphones and other devices down when crossing the street. Child pedestrians are up to 30% more likely to be struck or nearly struck by a vehicle when distracted by a cellphone.

  • Be seen. Teach kids to be especially alert and visible to drivers when walking after dark. Brightly coloured clothing and reflective gear help increase 360- degree visibility. 55% of pedestrian deaths occur at night and/or with low- light conditions.

bike2Bike: Cycling Safety Tips

  • Protect your head, wear a helmet. A properly fitted and correctly worn helmet can cut the risk of serious head injury by up to 80%. Using the 2V1 rule for helmet fitting (two fingers above eyebrows, straps form a ‘v’ under ears, no more than one finger space between strap and chin) will ensure better safety before taking a ride.

  • Check your ride. Ensure your kids’ bikes are adjusted correctly for their height and have them do a bike check before riding to ensure tires are inflated and brakes are working properly.

  • Be prepared. Bike safety training and knowing the rules of the road are important for the safety of riders.

  • Pick family friendly routes. Protect young riders by using designated riding areas when possible. These areas (often governed by bylaws) are in place for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

  • Stay on the right side of the road. Always ride on the right side of the road in the same direction as traffic to make you more visible to drivers. Adults should lead kids by cycling single file and having them repeat hand signals. Drivers should also give cyclists space on the road and be aware of the risks when opening car doors.

  • Assess your child’s navigational skills before riding on the road. Children develop better physical and cognitive skills around age 10 – but their ability to ride on the road may depend on their experience, environment and development. Not sure if your child is ready to ride solo? Consider traffic volume, the number of intersections and your child’s level of experience before making a decision.

  • Be seen and heard. Make sure drivers can see you at all times. Wearing bright, reflective clothing and equipping your bike with flashing lights and reflectors help increase 360- degree visibility. A working bell will also alert other riders and pedestrians when you are close or passing.

wheelWheel: Other Wheeled Activity Safety Tips (skateboarding, scootering etc.)

  • Wear the right helmet for the activity. Bike helmets can be used for in-line skating and scootering, but skateboarding helmets should be used for skateboarding and longboarding; they cover the back of the head better and can protect against more than one crash (see Which Helmet for Which Activity resource).

  • Always wear the gear. Along with a helmet, wear wrist guards to help prevent broken bones, sprains and wrist and arm fractures. Elbow and knee pads should also be worn for in-line skating.

  • Be seen. Make sure drivers can see you at all times. Wear brightly coloured clothing and reflective gear to help increase 360- degree visibility.

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It’s “cannabis” not “marijuana” and other interesting learnings from the Hon. Anne McLellan


By Jane McCarthy, Parent Action on Drugs

cannabis 1131526 1920Complex. Challenging. Broad societal impact. Words that come to mind when thinking about the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Canada. I recently had the opportunity to hear the Honourable Anne McLellan, chair of the Government of Canada’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, also use these words when she spoke at the University of Waterloo School of Public Health and Health Systems about the work of the task force and where we are headed. Having scanned the 106-page Task Force report, it was a welcome opportunity to learn more about the recommendations, how they came together (80 diverse position statements taken into consideration) and how quickly so (five months), in a more dynamic way. While Ms. McLellan recapped the general public health approach and principles upon which the legislation introduced last month by the federal government is based, i.e., take a cautionary approach and protect the public’s health and safety, she imparted some interesting and important side notes, a few I’d like to share here.

  1. It’s cannabis, NOT marijuana, from here on, folks! —as we go forward, we need to stop using the term marijuana in our messaging and replace it only with the correct botanical name. Marijuana is slang and typically is thought of as the dried flowers of the cannabis plant for smoking or ingesting. Cannabis can be consumed in many different forms in multiple ways, so we need to re-educate ourselves and those we work with and serve.

  2. There is soooo much we don’t know about this plant!—We know some things about THC and CBD, and there is still more to learn about them, but what do we know about the 104 other active ingredients in cannabis? Not much. Are they harmful or helpful? We need to know. There will be a huge focus on primary research in the botanical sciences and merging that knowledge into the biomedical space. Interested in studying plants? There should be plenty of work available in that field as we move forward.

  3. Why recommending the minimum legal age be 18 years makes sense—It’s true the developing brain is more vulnerable to harms associated with cannabis use until 25 years of age. Contrary to recommendations made by medial associations and others to set it higher, the task force made this recommendation for a number of valid reasons. First, it makes practical sense for Provinces and Territories to choose to harmonize it with their legal drinking age, three of which have set that age at 18. Second, although it seems counter intuitive to not set a higher age when the focus is to protect youth, setting the minimum age too high would encourage an illicit market targeting youth and thus, leaving them more vulnerable to the harms associated with unregulated substance content and criminal interaction. Third, most Canadians reporting use of cannabis in the last year are 15-24 years of age. Usage falls off dramatically after age 25 to about 10%. If the legal age were 25, it would criminalize the bulk of users and wouldn’t have much of a harm reduction impact, now would it? The Task Force believes that with quality public education, most people by age 18 can make an informed decision.

  4. It’s a gender target market, so far—Males by far out-number females in terms of recreational cannabis consumption, approximately to the tune of 3:1. However, once legalized in Colorado, consumption did see a rise among females. It will be interesting to see if that holds true in Canada as well.

  5. Education is key: from creating clarity around legalization to promoting health and safety—Ms. McLellan noted that many from the recreational use cannabis advocacy community only seem to hear the word legalization, while the word regulation goes unnoticed. Just because it will become legal, doesn’t mean it’s a free for all for cannabis to be consumed by anyone, anywhere, anytime. People must be educated to understand the rules and be held accountable to them for public safety. And while we must move away from a psychology of prohibition to legal use, proper public education is required to address both the benefits and harms to mitigate both fear among those opposed to legalization and the misguided belief that there are no harms associated with cannabis among the fervent advocates. To keep children and teens safer, longer, it is paramount that parents and other adults involved with youth, and youth themselves, receive effective education about the potential harms to the developing brain ahead of legalization and on-going.

In a nutshell, there is much to learn about cannabis, its effects, and how to best legislate production, distribution, and use to promote public health and safety. Every aspect of society will be impacted in some way by legalization and regulation of recreational cannabis from perceived norms to business development to educational opportunities to healthcare to law enforcement to—you name it! Thus, the Task Force has recommended legislation that is cautious and flexible to respond to evolving knowledge and experience. As health educators and promoters, we must get ahead of the legalization and teach the risks of developmental harms to youth and risks associated with problematic patterns of use at any age. We must target and engage parents, health care providers, educators, community workers, and youth themselves to develop and evaluate effective tools about facts, norms, and making healthy, safe choices around cannabis, regardless of what the laws will look like.

 

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What Program Components Are Effective for Promoting Mental Health in the Early Years, School Years, and Transition-Age Youth?

By Jewel Bailey, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

May 1-7 2017, is Mental Health Awareness Week. This annual event provides another opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of good mental health and what is required to achieve and maintain positive mental well-being. The Evidence Exchange Network within the Provincial System Support Program at CAMH, produced three evidence briefs that examine program components that are effective for promoting positive mental health in the early years, school years, and among transition-age youth. Selected findings for the three groups are presented below:

earlyyearsEarly Years

Home visiting and group-based parenting programs were identified as priority areas for this evidence brief since evidence demonstrates a high return on investment for these two types of interventions.

    1. Program components associated with effective home visiting include: utilizing appropriately and/or professionally trained home visitors, applying a clearly articulated theory of change, having more intensive programs, and teaching parents responsive parenting, behavior management, and problem-solving.

    2. Components associated with effective group-based parenting programs include: teaching parents emotional communication skills, disciplinary consistency, positive interactions with the child in non-disciplinary ways, and requiring parents to practice new skills with their own child during group sessions.

Read the Early Years Evidence Brief

schoolagedSchool-Aged Children

  1. Social emotional learning (SEL) programs are one category of mental health promotion interventions that foster the core competencies and skills to help children and adolescents manage emotions, relationships, and conflict.

  2. Components of effective SEL programs include using a whole school approach, SAFE (sequenced, active, focused, and explicit) components, interactive training methods, involvement of parents, and a focus on skill development. Programs delivered across all school levels have shown to be effective, though it is inconclusive whether longer programs are more beneficial than shorter programs.

Read the School Years Evidence Brief

 

tayTransition-Age Youth (TAY)

  1. Mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention supports for TAY must include interventions both on campus and in community-based settings that are diverse, integrated, and comprehensive.

  2. Skills-based programs that incorporate supervised behavior practice and feedback, such as those aimed at building cognitive-behavioral skills, mindfulness, or relaxation, have been shown to be effective at reducing levels of psychological distress among post-secondary students.

  3. Early evidence has demonstrated that integrated service centers, on campus or in the community, are effective at increasing access to mental health supports for TAY and somewhat effective at reducing psychological distress.

Read the TAY Evidence Brief


Findings from these evidence briefs informed the recommendations presented to the Ontario government by the Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council in its 2016 Annual Report.

 

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Improve the Built Environment to Promote Food Access in your community: Questions, Responses and Helpful Links from our online discussion

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

builtenvirofoodaccessheaderOn April 13th 2017, HC Link consultant Paul Young from Public Space Workshop joined with 50+ participants to share ideas, resources and information to help us improve the built environment to promote food access in our communities.

This online discussion focused on the physical/built environment, which is one key component of the overall food environment. Research and our experience shows us that the built environment can affect food access. There is a distinction between programming for food access in contrast to providing physical space (e.g. a municipal parking lot available for a food market) which can then support programming.

Below, we are sharing the questions that were asked, responses from Paul and participants, as well as helpful links and resources. Feel free to scroll to questions that appeal to you, and don’t forget to check out additional resource links at the bottom of the blog! If you have any remaining questions, or want clarification on the information provided, you can email Kyley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Poll 1.

The discussion began with a few poll questions to get participants thinking about how the built environment can affect food access–

How close are you to your healthy food store where you regularly shop?
Is your community designed with food disbursed throughout it or is it located in one area of town?
Some communities are disproportionately affected by lack of access to healthy food. For people in your community that may be on fixed or low income, check all that apply. (Options included healthy food stores within walking distance, having food banks, community kitchens, or food markets nearby, and having more unhealthy vs healthy places nearby).

After the poll the discussion was guided by questions submitted by participants.

Questions and Reponses

1. What is a food swamp? What is a food desert? How can we identify where there is a need in my community?

  • Food Swamp – areas with more fast food and unhealthier food options

  • Food Desert – areas with limited healthy food options

  • Taking a geographical perspective on food access – you can map out food resources (healthy and unhealthy) to see where there is a need in your community.

  • Transportation is a key issue for food desserts.

  • Working with planning departments, you can look for ways to incentivize grocery stores to come into the community.

  • Zoning – (e.g., Toronto’s Residential and Commercial or RAC zoning). Toronto has been experimenting with this and looking for ways to incorporate shops into the bottom of higher apartment residential buildings. Planning departments have started to open up this discussion – to look at introducing mixed land uses and incentives for shops to be located there (in areas where there are food desserts).

  • Toronto Public Health/ Food Share – Pop up markets and mobile food markets – having a market on a regular schedule to bring food into the community.

  • Healthy Corner Stores Initiative – Toronto Public Health has piloted a program to encourage convenience stores to sell some healthy food options.

2. What strategies can you suggest to reduce food swamps? At a policy level, when an area is zoned for commercial how do you control what types of food outlets are approved?

  • There is a chain of agreements that fall into place – planning departments can have some influence in this and can work with developers in early stages when tenants are determined.

  • Example - PAN AM games village (now the Canary District) in Toronto – they had an influence over what types of establishments could lease store front locations. There was a restriction on chains (although there could still be independent unhealthy shops), but that is example of influence.

  • Still early days on working with developers on this.

  • Montreal and NYC seem to be leading the charge on this.

Participant shared:

  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit collaborates with the planning department and we are invited to pre-cons with the planners. We attend and then try to educate the developers about the benefits of healthy foods vs. risks of unhealthy foods, or highlight they are close to a school so we don't recommend fast food/convenience store. They don’t have to listen to our advice but many of the developers are interested and do take our suggestions.

3. In rural areas, where there is limited/no public transportation, do you have any suggestions for how people can access food (whether through grocery stores, farmers markets, etc.)?

  • One strategy - Work with planning department to get food stores to locate near the downtown – where people are living and where transit may be connected.

  • There is a current trend to locate retail by highways – this makes it very difficult if you don’t have a car. Speak with your planners.

  • Strategy – connect with farmers.

    • Look for opportunities for Good Foodbox model.

    • Community shared agriculture (CSA)– where there are a series of drop spots where people can pick up produce at a location that is easy/in close proximity to where they are living.

    • Farm gate retail – where farmers can bring produce into town, such as a weekly market, or set up stand/money box at the end of their driveway (may need access to car still for this option).

    • Shuttles and Ride Sharing – organize weekly trips to grocery store and share transportation costs. Some agencies might have access to a shuttle bus – might be a way to connect pick up and drop offs to food stores.

Participants shared:

4. What resources/education documents exist to assist in enabling stakeholders and decision makers to understand the impact of transportation on food access?

  • Maps can help – you can start to see where concentrations of food stores are and see where populations of higher need are living, and calculate the distance between the two. You can layer in information about the transit system and see where they are/are not connected.

  • Food By Ward – connected to the work of Toronto Food Policy Council. They have produced a number of maps that serve as a good model for mapping out resources (including community kitchens, markets, food stores, etc.)

  • Toronto Urban Growers are also doing mapping work to show where food resources are located.

  • Mapping helps to point out needs and gaps.

  • Housing and Transportation Index – looks at cost of housing and transportation combined. We might think we have affordable housing, but do we when we consider transportation in car dependent locations?

  • Shuttles, cab sharing, changing a transit system to connect higher need communities with food stores can be explored.

  • Working with planners and developers to bring in healthier food stores – real opportunity with new developments especially.

5.How can you gain public or political support for investments in the built environment as they relate to food access?

  • Drawing on experience at the South Riverdale CHC– They started a food working group with a wide representation of stakeholders. A working group is foundational for setting up strategies to address local challenges.

  • A working group adds credibility when speaking with decision makers, local elected representatives – to advocate for change.

  • Mapping – Paul is currently making food (and recreation) maps that list food resources within a 2 km radius around schools in Toronto’s tower neighbourhoods. Maps have icons for a variety of resources, e.g. – Farmers markets, community kitchens, etc. When decision makers see there is no icon on the map for one of the resources (food markets for example) they might begin to think – we don’t have this and we should. Maps are helpful and compelling tools for pointing things out to decision makers, especially food desserts and food swamps.

Participant shared:

  • In my experience, one needs to provide clear evidence to help people understand what the problems are and, especially, what the problems are not (e.g. in Toronto "food deserts" are not a big problem, but "food swamps" are). Then being very clear on potential solutions and what you need from decision makers to realize it. Precision and clarity is not something that's been a priority among public health actors but we need to get better at it.

6. How do you evaluate success/use of map by public?

  • Just in process of doing this with the school maps - sending out survey to teachers, asking if they are aware of the map and if they are using it in the classroom, etc.

  • If maps are available online – you can look at how many people are downloading the map from your website.

7. What criteria, resources or standards could be used to establish what is deemed a healthy vs an unhealthy food outlet?

  • Dieticians can visit each store and do an analysis on what is sold there. For the school maps we are relying on their expertise and their criteria to tell us whether it is a healthy food store or not and the percentage of healthy/unhealthy food in the food outlets.

Participants shared:

  • Developing a food charter as a first step to incorporating food access and influencing the food environment could be useful. Food charters could be the basis for food strategy and food policies. Find out more about Toronto's Food Policy Council here: http://tfpc.to/

  • In Toronto we created definitions of "healthier" and "less healthy" food outlets that we applied to public health inspection data as part of food envir't mapping. It's meant for use as an analytical tool, not in any way as a public designation. Happy to share that approach with anyone.

Poll 2.

Before moving on to further questions, we asked two more poll questions to get participants thinking about how land use planning policies might be affecting the built environment and its effect on food access.

If you have any new developments where you live, does the new community have shops (including food stores) located near homes (within walking distance)?

  • Development patterns are changing. We are coming out of an era where we put all the residential areas in one part of town and all the retail in another – which made us very depending on driving.

  • More recent developments have started to incorporate retail on ground floor.

  • Still a lot of urban sprawl going on.

The Provincial “Places to Grow” plan is in place to protect farm land and natural features in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Has your municipality set out land use policies in the Official Plan to protect agricultural lands?

  • Most municipalities have an urban growth boundary – a boundary line that development is permitted to occur within to prevent sprawl and preserve farm land.


8.
What municipal policies have shown impact for improving access to healthy foods in a community and/or at the neighbourhood level?

  • Growth boundaries to prevent sprawl and preserve farm land

  • Mixed-use zoning – to encourage a retail and place to work in the community

  • Supporting existing downtowns – bring food shopping into downtown where people are living. Look for ways to support this in planning policies.

  • Story in The Star a few years ago – a couple moved to downtown Milton to be closer to shops and leave car at home. But as development unfolded, large format retailers (including food stores) were located on the outskirts of town and the downtown became more of a boutique retail area. Couple had to use the car to get their everyday shopping needs. Policies that enable new retail areas outside of existing communities can have an impact on food access.

  • Residential Commercial Zoning. Communities can introducing retail (even small scale convenience) into residential areas that don’t have any retail currently.

  • Municipalities can also introduce policies to enable community gardens at various scales. Fresh City Farms at Downsview park for example.

  • Designating areas for markets – Bellville has a formalized market downtown. Can also look at simpler models where policies allow parking lots to be used for markets at certain times.

  • By-laws such as allowing hens in the backyard for fresh eggs.

Participant shared: http://www.rentthechicken.com/


9. Erinn Salewski: Are there opportunities to insert food access language into municipal planning documents ie. City Master Plan, etc.?

  • Yes - see examples above

  • There are a number of documents that shape community planning - Official Plan, secondary plans with more detail (e.g., park space schools and lot sizes).


10. People living in poverty (whom, they themselves or people they know, also tend to experience higher levels and frequency of crisis) may not have energy or time (due to life as well as working multiple jobs) to go to a community garden/participate in a community garden - ideas for options?

  • Look for ways to overlap community gardens with other services/programs (i.e. have a garden in close proximity to other services)

  • Support people in having small scale gardens (i.e. balcony, vertical gardens). South Riverdale CHC has a demonstration rooftop garden set up.

  • Making it easier for people to garden by bringing it closer to where they are. It can be incorporated right on to the front lawn of a community organization, for example.

  • Note about Equity – food banks are a piece of the food access picture, but other models like a community kitchen or a subsidized good food market (Food Share is making it easier to get these markets set up in Toronto) are good options as well, and are often less stigmatizing.

Participants shared:

  • Connecting people to other services (i.e. social services) in the community is also important


11. Teaching children about respect for the environment is an important aspect of sustainability, and may contribute to how children make decisions about the environment as they grow older. I firmly believe that this process should start while children are young. A large number of Child Care Centres are located in strip malls, where children have limited access to gardening. What do others think about having Child Care Centres located in 'safe environments' (geographically) which provide greenspace opportunities for children to grow their little gardens, and develop physical literacy at the same time?

  • With regard to engaging students in schools, when students and teachers are involved in the garden design process first – it builds up support for the idea.

  • If space is restrictive, might need to look at vertical gardens or gardening indoors (planting seedlings in the window and taking home)

  • In terms of child care centres in strip malls (may be a health impact when located near a busy road).

12. How can schools be supported to provide healthy options for students and contribute to the food security issues in the larger community?

  • Paul is working with Toronto Public Health to show students where food is located in their neighborhood (as well as recreation resources). Teachers have a toolkit to incorporate this map into their class lessons/curriculum. Into Kids Health

  • At South Riverdale CHC Paul assisted schools in designing and planning gardens, and getting commitment from principals and teachers to support the garden (schools don’t often have resources to initiate this process).

  • Evergreen Learning Grounds – has resources and dollars for school ground greening programs (including gardens).

  • The Good Food Café (Food Share) – looks at how cafeteria food can be made healthier.

Participants shared:

  • In our community, the high school construction classes build all of the plots for the community gardens/ greenhouse. The Local Food Co-Op has a plot in their greenhouse that they provide for free to schools who do not have school gardens. Connections to other organizations can be key. www.cloverbeltlocalfoodcoop.com

  • The Ministry of Education does incorporate well-being (including physical literacy) in their How Does Learning Happen - Ontario's Pedagogy for the Early Years. NRC was involved in consulting with the Ministry of Education on how to incorporate Food literacy in to this document as well.

  • The tower garden/ vertical aeroponics approach has always looked interesting. A high school in Toronto has used them, good for areas with limited space.

  • Student Nutrition Program supports schools to provide healthy foods to students.

  • Interesting stuff happening with vertical hydroponics happening in the far north too. This is a fun story (one of many) http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/naujaat-nunavut-growing-north-project-1.3633295

13. In Canada, over 6 million tonnes of food that is perfectly good, and wholesome to eat is thrown in the garbage every single year; Yet 1 in 8 homes struggle to put enough food in the table. What models have you encountered that reduces food waste while improving food security and food access?

  • Second Harvest – Food rescue matching. Electronic app to connect consumers to food. If you’re running a business that has food that will expire, this app helps you connect.

  • South Riverdale CHC – has relationship with some bakeries – provides bread at the end of the day.

  • Important to build relationships between agencies and local food providers.

  • Urban fruit harvesting programs - Not far from the Tree

Participants shared:

For more resources on this topic, please see our Resource Sheet that was prepared for this online discussion.

 

 

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Connecting Through Stories: an exploration of relationships through art making and connection to the Land

 

An HC Link Regional Gathering: March 30, 2017
Baggage Building Arts Centre in Thunder Bay.

Written by Lorna McCue, HC Link/OHCC

Every two years, HC Link works with local community organizations and groups to plan and co-host regional gatherings across the province that respond to regional needs and issues. These gatherings support the development of cross-sectoral and diverse community partnerships by providing opportunities to engage stakeholders across the region in a community-building event.

In Thunder Bay, a connection was made by HC Link with Alana Forslund, Coordinator of the Community Arts & Heritage Project, which initiated a discussion about the role of the arts in a healthy community. She brought Carol Kajorinne, Public Programming Coordinator for the Art Galley of Thunder Bay into the conversation who, in turn, invited others to join in.

The gathering was co-sponsored by HC Link and the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, with the organizing group doing the bulk of the work to develop the program, promote it to prospective participants, recruit facilitators and procure the art materials.

Members of the regional gathering organizing group were:
• Lorna McCue, Ontario Healthy Communities, a member of HC Link
• Carol Kajorinne, Public Programming Coordinator, Art Galley of Thunder Bay
• Crystal Nielsen, Community Artist
• Michelle Richmond-Saravia, founder of beSuperior Consulting and representative of Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre’s Long Life Care Program
• Michelle Kolobutin, Community Clothing Assistance

In planning the gathering, the group agreed that racism against Indigenous people was a pressing issue in Thunder Bay, and felt there was a need for non-Indigenous people to gain a greater understanding of the historical impacts of colonization and residential schools. They saw the regional gathering as an opportunity to make a contribution to Article 63 of the Call to Actions contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Report, which calls for “building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect”, and to Article 83, which calls for “a strategy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process”.

This event aimed to create intergenerational connections through art and story. It brought together more than 45 people, including about 20 Gr. 6 & 7 students from a neighbouring school, elders and seniors from the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre and Community Clothing Assistance, college students, artists, storytellers, and other community members. People from different cultures, from ages twelve to people in their eighties, were engaged in a creative process that combined sharing their stories with a collaborative weaving project, with a focus on learning and growth.

The event began with an opening smudge ceremony, led by Elder Diane Michano-Richmond. Michelle Richmond Saravia, of beSuperior Consulting, shared a story of her journey and invited other to share their stories throughout the day. One elder reminisced about his negative experience at a residential school.

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Elder Diane Michano-Richmond    
Photo by Lorna McCue

Eleanor Albanese, a community-engaged artist, guided the collaborative weaving project. The participants were seated in groups of 6-8 around tables with a weaving frame and strips of cloth of a variety of colours and patterns. Eleanor laid out about a large number of pictures of a variety of subjects, such as people of different ages and races, different plants and animals and landscapes, along the windowsills that spanned the long room. She invited participants to go up, one table at a time, to view the pictures and select one to bring back to their table. Once seated again, they took turns explaining what they liked about the picture and what meaning it had for them. Many stories were shared in this way. Each person then took a marker and wrote meaningful words or drew a picture or symbol on a strip of cloth. They shared their words or symbols with others at their table, then, as a group, they worked on weaving the strips of cloth into the weaving frame.

 

 

 

 

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A weaving created by a group of elders. Photo by Michelle Richmond Savaria

The group took a break for lunch, which was catered by Fox on the Run, a locally owned restaurant and catering service. Managing the lunch service was challenging, due to the narrow shape of the somewhat overcrowded room and the diversity of the participants regarding mobility, dietary needs and cultural considerations. However, with several helping hands from students and other helpers it all worked out.

 

 

 

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Students explain the meaning of their weaving.  
Photo by Lorna McCue

When the groups completed their weavings, they showcased them at the front of the room and explained the meaning of some of the elements. There were many exclamations about the beauty of the weavings and a warm, positive mood was apparent at the close of the gathering.

 

 

 


Because of the diversity of the participants and varying literacy levels, it was decided not to have each participant complete an evaluation form, but to pose a series of reflective questions to the members of the organizing group. While there were some suggestions for improvements, all felt that the gathering was successful in meeting its objectives. As Eleanor Albanese said: “Community-engaged art making breaks down barriers of all kinds.” Other comments from the organization group included:


It was moving for me to see how people really did share their stories, and wove their stories together, both symbolically and literally.


For the seniors and Elders, it provided a creative and social opportunity. The youth had the opportunity to share and hear stories through art making as well as devour some nurturing food. I heard some profound stories come out of the youth! I feel that no matter the age, everyone had a valid and meaningful story to share.


For something like this to be successful, it takes a high level of experience in community-engaged arts and also cultural knowledge; it takes humility; it takes a group of people all working together with a common goal; it takes a spirit of helping each other and helping the participants feel both welcomed into a space and comfortable in the space; it takes hot tea and coffee, and food to share!  It takes courage and a positive view of the future, as well as acknowledgement of the pain of the past (in the instance of residential schools and our history.)   In other words, it takes tremendous thought and planning.  And even though things did not go perfectly, in my view, it was a special day.  And, of course, there is always room to grow and learn. 




For those interested in viewing the “Connecting Through Stories” weavings, they will be on exhibit at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery Community Room from May 9-24.

 

       

Thank you for your generous support throughout organizing this wonderful event. It’s been a pleasure working with you and OHCC/HC Link.

Carol Kajorinne and the Thunder Bay Art Gallery

       
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Discharge Planning in Hospitals: How can we improve?

By: Megan Ferguson BSW, RSW


social work 1

Discharge planning is a vital component of a patient’s hospital stay, it is the moment where the healthcare team connects patients and their close family members with integral resources so that they can receive follow up healthcare services in the community. However, as I am developing my career as a hospital social worker, I notice that in many hospitals social workers are tasked with both coordinating discharge planning and providing emotional support to patients and families (Mizrahi & Berger, 2001). However, within these two tasks, social workers perform multiple sub-tasks including 1) Assessing a family’s social situation, 2) Consulting with interdisciplinary team members about patient care planning, 3) Identifying the psychological, emotional, social or spiritual barriers that interfere with treatment or discharge planning, 4) Engaging in advocacy on behalf of patients and families, 5) Providing crisis and emotional counselling and/or intervention, 6) Counselling around end-of-life, grief and bereavement issues, 7) Counselling around suspected abuse, 8) Addressing substance misuse issues, as well as 10) Engaging in writing, teaching and research activities (Gregorian, 2005, p.4). Patients that are typically seen by social work are patients who lack social supports, need assistance with income, need assistance with locating accessible and stable housing and individuals who may struggle with addiction or mental health challenges. Social workers are also the core discharge planners and lead the team to transition patients back into the community with the resources and support that they require.

Although I quite enjoy my work as a hospital social worker, my experience as a frontline social worker has allowed me to understand the obstacles and limitations that social workers in health care have to face in order to advocate for their patients while following multiple policies, standards, and guidelines. Tensions exist between “advocacy and collaboration” as well as, “commitment to patients and the organization” (Mizrahi & Berger, 2001). I find it challenging at times to maintain provincial, and regional guidelines of social work, while also following the Canadian Association of Social Workers’ (CASW) Code of Ethics (2005) and Guidelines for Ethical Practice (2005). The health care system also requires social workers to abide with hospital patient flow and length of stay standards, which can also further complicate patient care when many social issues are prevalent. Within these challenges Dr. Anna Reid, Former President of Canadian Medical Association, stated that “An estimated one in every five dollars spent on health is directly attributable to the social determinants of health,” in her final address (Eggertson, 2013, p. E657). However, these social determinants of health bring forward multiple barriers. Some of the most prevalent barriers may include income, housing, and food insecurity, which is further maintained by oppression and discrimination against minority groups such as women and First Nations individuals (Raphael, Curry-Stevens, & Bryant, 2008). These barriers force social workers to advocate on behalf of patients and families in order to work towards change and make social and policy adjustments to empower patients to better their health and well-being.

Social workers have a very large role and this role may differ depending on the client, and the unit that a social worker is working on. Collaboration is also so important when working in healthcare, unlike other social services agencies where social workers may make up the majority of professionals working in that area (Gregorian, 2005). Instead, hospital social workers play a more consultative role where they aim to collaborate with many disciplines each day (Gregorian, 2005). However, more emphasis must be placed on the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary teamwork in order to initiate better patient outcomes and eliminate the power struggle between healthcare disciplines.

As social workers, we often work in collaboration with community social services agencies such as income and housing government organization as well as nonprofit organizations that assist with mental health and addiction. However, not enough of these organizations exist and we must continue to support these agencies in order to have resources that community members can draw on in times of crisis.

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Megan Ferguson is a Master’s student in the School of Social Work at the University of Calgary. Megan holds a BSW as well with a Specialization in Aging. She also sits on the Board of Directors for A & O: Support Services for Older Adults. Megan currently works as a Social Worker for the Acquired Brain Rehabilitation Program and Stroke Rehabilitation Program at a hospital in Winnipeg.

References

CASW. (2005). Social work Code of Ethics. Ottawa: CASW.
CASW. (2005). Guidelines for Ethical Practice. Ottawa: CASW.
Eggertson, L. (2013). Health equity critical to transforming system, says outgoing CMA president. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 185(14), E657-E658, DOI: 10. 1503/cmaj.109-4588.
Gregorian, C. (2005). A career in hospital social work: Do you have what it takes?. Social Work in Healthcare, 40(3), 1-14. DOI: 10.1300/J010v40n03_01
Mizrahi, T. & Berger, C.S. (2001). Effect of a changing health care environment on social work leaders: obstacles and opportunities in hospital social work. Social Work, 46(2), 170-182
Raphael, D., Curry-Stevens, A. & Bryant, T. (2008). Barriers to addressing the social determinants of health: insights from the Canadian experience. Health Policy, 88(2-3). DOI: 0.1016/j.healthpol.2008.03.015

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Considering the effect of economically mixed communities on children’s wellbeing

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

On Thursday last week, I listened to a 20 minute webcast presentation by Candice Odgers from Duke University, as part of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Researched (CIFAR) event titled “Building Neighborhoods that Thrive.” Candice shared a few study results on the impact of economically mixed communities on children with low-income, and left us with a few thoughts to consider for future work. Here were some highlights for me:

  • Using data from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, as well as community mapping, and resident surveys – they investigated the effect of living in an economically mixed community on a child’s wellbeing.

    • While there was not a statistical effect on girls, boys with low family income living in an economically mixed community (and presumably going to better schools) tended to have lower school performance and engage in more anti-social behaviour, compared to boys in a concentrated low-income neighborhood.

    • Results indicate it is not just about how much you have, but also how much you perceive you have – creating a double disadvantage for those who have less AND believe they have less in comparison to others. To this point, twins who come from the same household but perceive they have less compared to others, score lower on wellbeing than twins who perceive they have more.

    • High levels of collective efficacy in the community, as well as supportive parents, were protective factors to a child’s wellbeing (or factors that reduce disparities).

    • While this presentation did not get into details on this, factors such as perceived safety in an economically mixed community might play a role in the different effects observed between boys and girls on well-being.

Candice was very clear to say that this research does not indicate that communities should be segregated based on income, and mentioned that some efforts to create economically mixed communities have been very successful at reducing disparities. However, it is important to learn from the data and realize that if economically mixed communities are not properly supported, they may actually create more disparities.

One RECENT shocking example of the WRONG way to create such environments is a luxury residential building in Manhattan that created 55 low income units in their ritzy 33-story building. Upon moving in, residents that qualified for these low income units learned that they had a separate entrance to the building (including a separate address), were not permitted access to common areas in the building (such as the courtyard, pool, gyms, etc.) and lacked basic features to their room (such as light fixtures and a dishwasher).

snippetwebcastSnapshot taken of the live webcast.

Clearly this is no way to create a sense of belonging, or to engage with others in a safe and meaningful way. When efforts are made to create economically mixed communities (which has been one proposed way to improve the life outcomes of children growing up in poverty), or to look at reducing health disparities in existing mixed communities, we need to be very mindful of the potential consequences, and make sure that proper supports are in place to improve the well-being of all children (and adults).

For more information on this event and the presenters: https://www.cifar.ca/events/building-neighbourhoods-that-thrive/

 

 

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Just Add Bikes! How cycling can help build a healthy, vibrant community

By: Sue Shikaze, Health Promoter, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race” H.G. Wells


While it might be a stretch to claim that the bicycle can solve all the ails of the world, it can certainly be one solution to many challenges facing communities today. Making communities bicycle-friendly and getting more people on bikes can address issues of public health, safety, air quality, and traffic congestion. Cycling is a healthy, economical and sustainable transportation option as well as an attractor for tourism and economic development. It is an important quality of life feature that many people look for when choosing where to live, work or play. Not everyone can afford a car or wants to drive and a good cycling environment offers more mobility options. And let’s not forget: cycling is fun!

bikesmeanbusiness

Biking attracts people and brings business to the community


Evidence indicates that there is demand and need for improved conditions for cycling in Ontario. A 2014 poll conducted by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition indicated that 32% of Ontarians cycle at least once a month and 54% of Ontarians said they would like to cycle more often. What would most encourage people to cycle more often is better infrastructure, such as bike lanes and trails.1 The Ontario Medical Association recognizes cycling as an important solution to help address rising rates of chronic diseases associated with physical inactivity. They advocate for better and safer infrastructure in urban, suburban and rural settings, and that, “much more must be done by provincial and municipal transportation departments to make this form of exercise safer.”2

So what does a bicycle-friendly community look like? Assessment of the cycling environment is typically done around the “5 E’s”: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation and planning. These indicators address the range of needs to accommodate cycling.

Engineering refers to on-the-ground facilities and infrastructure. Good cycling facilities are carefully planned, designed and maintained to accommodate bicycles safely, conveniently and comfortably. A well-planned cycling network has good connectivity between routes and destinations, as well as things like secure bike parking and bike racks on buses to provide inter-modal connections. Facilities could include on-road accommodations such as designated bike lanes, separated cycle tracks or paved shoulders, or off-road paths and trails. There are also innovative design treatments such as bike boxes, which provide a designated space for cyclists to wait at an intersection, separated from cars.

greenbikelane
Green bike lane being installed in Thunder Bay


Education needs to address both cyclists and motorists to ensure that they know how to safely share the road. The goal of public education programs is to increase the knowledge and awareness of all road users on their rights and responsibilities, as well as to build practical skills. Education initiatives can include cycling skills workshops, share the road campaigns and tip sheets.

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Share the road promotion – an example of education


Encouragement initiatives are intended to get more people on bikes and to normalize cycling as a viable activity for both transportation and recreation. While it may be true that “if you build it, they will come”, many people still need encouragement to get rolling. Encouragement includes promoting the benefits of cycling, and of places and opportunities to cycle. Initiatives such as the Commuter Challenge, Active and Safe Routes to School and SMART Trips give information and incentives to support and encourage people to cycle more often. Cycling maps, signage and clubs are also ways that communities encourage cycling.

Enforcement ensures that all road users follow the rules of the road and share the road safely. In addition to traditional methods such as issuing tickets and fines, enforcement can also include education and public relations programs that remind cyclists and motorists of their responsibilities under the law. Recent updates to the Highway Traffic Act are intended to improve safety for cyclists, including the requirement for motorists to leave at least 1 metre of space when passing a cyclist, increased fines for dooring a cyclist and increased fines for cyclists who don’t use lights when needed.

Evaluation and planning refers to having systems in place to evaluate current activities and programs, and planning for the future. Becoming a more bicycle-friendly community is a process that requires ongoing measurement and monitoring in order to identify and meet future needs. The amount of cycling taking place, rate of crashes, and economic impact are all aspects of tracking progress. The development of a Cycling Master Plan is a key tool for planning, implementation and evaluation.

Plus a ‘P’: Partnerships

Cycling has multiple benefits for communities and can help address many issues including health, economic development, environment, sustainability and equity. Potential partners who have an interest in cycling include municipalities, public health, law enforcement, schools, community organizations, cycling clubs and committees, workplaces, business community, tourism and economic development, trails and environmental groups. Different partners have different skills, knowledge and resources; no one group can do it completely on its own.

If you are looking for an opportunity to learn more about making your community bicycle-friendly, meet other like-minded professionals and find out about innovative cycling initiatives, consider attending the annual Ontario Bike Summit hosted by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition. It is THE premier cycling networking and professional development event in Ontario. Whether you are an advocate or elected official, a professional in planning, transportation, health, tourism or economic development, there is something for you at OBS to get informed and inspired.

The 9th annual Ontario Bike Summit takes place on April 11 & 12 at the Eaton Chelsea in Toronto. This year’s theme is “Just Add Bikes: The role of cycling in urban mobility and community building”. The agenda features speakers from across Ontario and North America who will share successes for building bicycle-friendly communities. Presentation themes will include advocacy best practices, risk management, complete streets implementation and more. You will also hear from municipal and provincial elected officials about why cycling matters to them. Keynote and workshop sessions are carefully curated by a panel of professionals with cycling expertise from across the province, and selected to create a program that features the most innovative, current, and state-of-the-art initiatives for cycling. Sessions address issues and opportunities that are most relevant to communities, from policy to implementation to evaluation.

The Ontario Bike Summit has put cycling firmly on the radar of decision-makers at all levels of government. Find the 2017 draft agenda, registration information and more details at http://www.sharetheroad.ca/ontario-bike-summit-p157286 

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Participants in the pre-summit bike tour led by the City of Toronto.

 

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About Share the Road:
The Share the Road Cycling Coalition is Ontario’s premier cycling advocacy organization working to build a bicycle-friendly Ontario – a place where a cyclist of any age or ability can ride safely, wherever they need to go. Share the Road works with municipal, provincial and federal governments, the business community, public health practitioners, road safety and other not-for-profit organizations to enhance access, improve safety and educate the public about the value and importance of safe cycling for healthy lifestyles and healthy communities. www.sharetheroad.ca

 

1 Share the Road Cycling Coalition, (March 2014), polling conducted by Stratcom Communications
2 Ontario Medical Association, (2011), Policy Paper: Enhancing Cycling Safety in Ontario.

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Walk and Roll: Making Active Transportation Work in Small, Rural Communities

By Sue Shikaze - Health Promoter, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit

Active transportation (AT) refers to all human-powered forms of transportation, usually walking and cycling, but can also include wheelchairs, in-line skating, skateboarding, cross-country skiing, and even kayaking. It is any trip made for the purposes of getting to a particular destination - to work, to school, to the store or to visit friends.

Small, rural communities have different realities than their urban counterparts, especially when it comes to active transportation. Most have limited financial resources, but extensive road infrastructure to maintain. Rural geography generally means large distances and low density. The prevailing attitudes regarding transportation may be quite focused on cars. Finally, most evidence on AT is urban based, leaving a gap in knowledge.

But, implementation of AT initiatives is achievable in small rural communities!

In small, rural communities, AT can contribute to the community’s health by providing a way for people to build physical activity into their daily lives. But it is also an important economic development feature. Walkable and bikeable communities make great tourist destinations, and contribute to quality of life – important for attracting and retaining residents and businesses. Many studies also show that people tend to spend more money in a place that encourages walking. It’s important to also remember that many people do not or cannot drive due to age, disability, income. Therefore, making AT safe and accessible provides them with important transportation and mobility options.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening in one rural area. The County of Haliburton is located about 2 hours north of Toronto. It covers an area of approximately 4,500 sq km (it takes over an hour to drive east to west and north to south) and has a year round population of about 17,000 that more than triples in the summer. The county has a very high proportion of seniors. There are two main village hubs, Haliburton and Minden.

The Communities in Action Committee (CIA) www.communitiesinaction.ca is a community-based group that was formed in 2004, and includes representatives from public health, community economic development, community development planning, seniors, and county roads. The CIA promotes active transportation as a way to create a healthy, active community. They do this through activities that include advocacy, partnership building, planning and research, influencing policy, education and promotion, evaluation.

A primary focus of CIA has been to build partnerships with local municipalities, who play an important role in creating a healthy active community through creating supportive land use policies, implementing plans and on-the-ground changes. The CIA’s advocacy targets municipal elected officials and is intended to ‘make the case’ for and raise awareness of the benefits of investing in AT. They communicate regularly with councils through regular reports, updates and delegations, and engage them through events such as workshops and community walkabouts. The CIA has found that it has been important for them to learn about municipal priorities, and to frame their messages to address these as much as possible.

The CIA has done a great deal of community based research, with strategies that have included surveys, focus groups, observational studies and walk audits. This research has informed the development of AT plans for both Haliburton and Minden, which have been provided to municipalities as resources. These plans were developed by the CIA, rather than commissioned by the county or municipality, which is more typical. This provides a great example of how in a rural community, an external group can enhance municipal capacity.

In order to garner municipal support, it is important to build community support and awareness in order to demonstrate community interest in AT. The CIA’s promotional initiatives address AT in a rural area by focusing messaging on village ‘hubs’ rather than whole county. They developed a ‘doable’ AT message by acknowledging that people need to drive to town due to distance, but encouraging them to then park and walk once they got there. The CIA has developed maps and signs to encourage walking in town, and since 2009 has partnered with the County to promote share the road messages to motorists and cyclists.

So how has the community improved for AT?

The County and municipalities have made many infrastructure improvements that support AT. While the CIA doesn’t ‘do’ infrastructure, they do help build awareness and momentum for improvements, and sometimes help provide a vision. For example, in 2007, the CIA contracted a landscape architect to do illustrations for some key problem locations in Haliburton. The municipality later hired that same person to develop detailed plans for streetscape improvements in the Village. This work, completed in 2012, saw major improvements that were done in conjunction with Hydro One’s work to bury their lines. Two streets were entirely redone, including new curbing, sidewalks, decorative brickwork, bike racks, benches, pedestrian buildouts, tree plantings and new lighting.


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York St, Haliburton, before streetscape

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York St, Haliburton, after streetscape

In Minden, streetscape improvements included widening sidewalks, coloured concrete, and new planters. The Riverwalk trail was completed, including a new pedestrian bridge, shelters, benches and lighting. These changes have made the streets more aesthetically pleasing and safer for walking, as well as improved connectivity.

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Gull River, Minden, before Riverwalk

 

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Gull River, Minden, with Riverwalk and Logger’s Crossing pedestrian bridge

 

The County has been paving road shoulders on major road projects since 2008, with a total of about 65.5 km completed. Their 4-year Capital Works plan continues this work into the future. The CIA has strongly advocated for paved shoulders over the years.

The policy landscape has changed too. Prior to 2010 only one Official Plan (OP) referenced cycling. Now, all official plans have policies specific to cycling, active transportation, healthy communities, and walking. The CIA has provided policy recommendations during all OP reviews, which were sometimes added verbatim and other times captured ‘in spirit’.

Yes, change can happen! In 2004, active transportation was not part of anyone’s conversation, at a community or local government level. However, an evaluation conducted by the CIA in 2011 showed that there has been a cultural shift over time, and recognition of the benefits of AT, both in the community and among municipalities.

“The population is aging and so this (active transportation) has become an economic strategy for our municipality – making it a destination for retirees and creating places for walking has influenced our whole decision-making.”

“People now have a place to go to walk and they may even go further than they did before. Just having the infrastructure gets people out.”

The CIA continues to look for new ways to continue to improve conditions for active transportation. They recently did a temporary pop-up traffic calming demonstration, and are wrapping up a partnership project with Active Neighbourhoods Canada that looked at how a local road could be a more complete street.

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Traffic calming pop up Demonstration –  without

 

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Traffic calming pop up Demonstration – with

The CIA sees active transportation as a key element of a vibrant community that offers great quality of life for people of all ages and abilities, making it a great place to live, work, play, learn, visit and invest.

Some lessons learned by the CIA over the years include:

• Build partnerships with multiple sectors

• Public Health is a key partner

• Take evidence-informed action

• Relate the message to municipal priorities

• Work from the top down (e.g. influence policy) and bottom up (e.g. community awareness raising)

• Identify and promote a message realistic to rural communities

• Find opportunities to share and exchange knowledge

For more info on cycling in Haliburton County visit www.cyclehaliburton.ca

 

haliburton

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Improve the Built Environment in Your Community: Questions, Responses and Helpful Links from our online discussion

onlinediscussionfeb13If you are working to improve the built environment in your community, there’s a good chance you participated in our online discussion with consultant on tap, Paul Young, this past Monday. With a steady flow of well-thought out questions from participants, informative responses, and lots of peer sharing among the 100 attendees – it was a great learning opportunity!

To further that learning and to allow those who couldn’t join an opportunity to gain insights and connect to helpful information and resources, we are sharing the questions that were asked, responses from Paul and participants, as well as helpful links and resources shared for each question with you all! Feel free to scroll to questions that appeal to you, and don’t forget to check out additional resource links at the bottom of the blog! If you have any remaining questions, or want clarification on the information provided, you can email Kyley atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

1)During the Healthy Communities Partnership Project we worked with some of the municipalities to strengthen wording or add wording for Active Transportation and Built Environment in MOPs – now they have been done and it will be another 5 years until they start reviewing them again. What do we do in the meantime? Do we keep reviewing MOPs and see how they can be strengthened, what if the municipality doesn’t want to see us for a while? Are there other municipal documents that public health can have input into?

  •            A lot of interest from public health units in getting involved in planning

  •          The Official Plan was a big hit – enabled a high level approach to including things related to the built environment that affect health

  •         Official Plan updates are typically every 5 years, but there are other mechanisms to provide input on planning matters, such as:

    - Working on Recreation policy - access, Rec master plans, coordinating with the transportation plan (trails, for example, cross over between recreation and transportation).

    - Secondary plans (for high growth areas) – you can look at how well this plan supports walkability. Can look at age friendliness, cycling supports, food access, density, mixed use, complete streets, etc.

    - Working with schools - access to recreation, healthy food, active travel

    - Other built environment projects, like Environmental Assessments – that can shape road design

    - Can get involved in Transportation Policy (master plans) – such as paved shoulders, etc.

  • Public Health and Land Use Planning document by OPHA – has as a spectrum of great ideas that other public health units are doing on built environment: http://www.opha.on.ca/OPHA/media/Resources/Resource%20Documents/CAP_PHLUP-Report-Apr2011_1.pdf?ext=.pdf

2)What are some of the best strategies to engage Councillors or Mayors in AT planning/development - especially those Councillors/Mayors that have been huge barriers to AT.

  • It can be difficult to start with people who are not on board...try to engage a Champion amongst council and have that person serve as spokesperson

  • Fairly common way to engage a councillor would be on an active transportation committee – they can lead and be spokesperson OR have councillors sign a Walking or Active Transportation Charter, which is a public declaration of support

  • Experience in Thunderbay – Public Health organized a bus tour of dangerous intersections with councillors, municipal staff and community. We also went to places that were very supportive of active transportation, so they could see the difference – easy opportunity for a councillor to be involved

  • Health is usually an issue that council will respond to – preventing crashes and fatalities

  • Economic development is another- municipalities interested in attracting and retaining populations (i.e. age friendly communities with retirement)

  • quality of life as well – usually councils will have a strategic plan, and quality of life is usually a part of this

  • active transportation is a great way to frame and address all three of these

3) How do you sell Built Environment ideas (new trail, park, etc.) to councillors who are budget conscious? Do you have a good evidence-based resource?

  • Municipalities often conduct Recreation Needs Assessments e.g., surveys to find out what residents prefer – walking comes up usually as #1 – one reason to invest in trails

  • Walking is the easiest and least costly physical activity and so trails (walking and biking) can be a great way to support the needs of a councillors constituents

  • Economic development - having trails and access to recreation is a great way to attract and retain populations in their community

  • World Health Organization has age-friendly guidelines: Walkable communities are featured prominently http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Global_age_friendly_cities_Guide_English.pdf?ua=1

 

4) Is there a business case document that shows the return on investment for built environment (reduction of health care costs due to injury/increase in physical activity)?

  • There are resources around the economic impact of building trails from a tourism standpoint. The Waterfront Trail has resources on this: Contact Marlaine Koehler at the Waterfront Regeneration Trust. See also Ontario By Bike

  • Rails to Trails Conservancy – search in their library : http://www.railstotrails.org/

  • Economic investment in trails is pretty clear

  • Challenge - Health care costs aren’t born by municipality but most active transportation infrastructure work is undertaken by municipalities (so municipality spends and province saves) – although we are starting to connect those dots more

Participants shared:

  • Niagara developed an economic value of AT fact sheets that include one about health care. Halton replicated it:

  • City of Toronto's road safety plan targets areas with high collision and injury incidence. Used mapping to help identify areas.

  • See also Parachute Canada’s Cost of Injuries (including transport injuries)

 

5) Do you know of any community (rural or urban) that is using injury statistics as part of their infrastructure planning for roads/cycle lanes/sidewalks?

  • Thunder Bay - GIS maps of injuries/fatalities to ID problem areas (they then took councillors and stakeholders on a tour of these locations) – raise awareness among decision makers to make those places safer

  • Hamilton Walking Strategy - looks at crash data as well

  • Port Hope - looked at problem street crossings

  • Most Transportation Dep'ts are aware of where crashes are occurring and could contact them for info or ask if this data is being collected

Participant shared:

  • The Saskatoon Health Region did a report on unintentional injuries and looked at emergency room and discharge data. Transportation injuries were included and we have shared this with the municipality (they were interested as it accessed data sources that they normally do not refer to/have access to). We use the data and the recommendations from the Chief Medical Health Officer to guide our advocacy and work with the community. This is the link to the infographics and one-page summaries: http://www.communityview.ca/infographic_shr_injury.html

 

6) Do you know of any really great strategies/policies to encourage walking in small rural communities?

  • HKPR health unit - Communities in Action Haliburton (www.communitiesinaction.ca) – you can see the great work they have been doing for some examples.

  • Getting councillors to sign a Charter – so you know there is political support

  • Lots of interest in walking in rural areas but distances are quite long… not as likely to be utilitarian walking as recreational walking.

  • Great opportunities for trails on abandoned rail lines or adjacent to active rail lines, hydro corridors, river corridors, waterfronts.

  • Trails are a great strategy to connect settlement areas.

  • When there are no trails, then rural solutions along road ways like paved shoulders

  • Encourage purposeful trails that connect to practical destinations – Georgian Trail near Collingwood connects to everyday destinations like shopping – trail connects to backside of parking lot of Meaford grocery store. Makes it more part of active transportation network.

 Participant shared:

  • In Northern Ontario (Kapuskasing, Cochrane, Iroquois Falls) all have a walking map highlighting sidewalk routes which are distributed to various locations.

7) In rural communities transportation is often split between two tiers of government (Upper and Lower Tiers), with sidewalks and trails falling to the Lower government (at least this is the way it is in Peterborough County). Do you know of any upper tier ATMPs that include supportive policies/strategies for walkability?

  • Then you get down to details of how to separate the cyclists from pedestrians, which are usually covered in the master plan as well.

  • A lot of work going on in schools – unfolding at regional and municipal level

Participants shared:


8) Can anyone recommend any tools/checklists that planners can integrate into their planning process/application reviews in order to support health outcomes in approvals?

  • Peel Region - Healthy Development Index: http://www.peelregion.ca/health/urban/pdf/HDI-report.pdf

  • Checklists can be challenging to incorporate into the intricacies/nuances of planner's work

    • We can say we have a facility for cycling for example (and check the box), but it needs to be matched to the context – so if it’s a busy road way, you need a separated cycling facility and not just a bike lane.

  • City of Toronto has developed some tools as well. Example the Active City Reports

  • Most municipalities have a sustainable development or urban design checklist that incorporates sustainability – looking for things like bicycle parking, street trees, open space… (all tailored towards individual municipality)

  • This site provides a number of checklists: http://wcel.org/checklists

Particpants shared:

 

9) With respect to public spaces, aside from the requirements in the PPS, is there any research that shows how much park/green space you need in a built area (i.e., subdivision) so that this space contributes to increased physical activity and health?


10) Please share information on community health promotion initiatives that incorporate elements of Built Environment into their programming, e.g. walking groups, ‘yoga in the park’, etc., and incorporate advocacy for healthier Built Environments as part of their community development efforts.

  • Advocacy: many health units are promoting multi-stakeholder engagement processes and focusing on relationship-building and collaboration between sectors/dep'ts and in the community (health, planning, etc.) (E.g. planning, transportation, economic development, health).

  • Most departments are looking for improvements on the built environment – this is consistent with health objectives – less car dependence, compete streets, etc.

  • Niagara Region Health Unit is promoting/supporting AT committees in each municipality

  • Ultimate objective – form a Committee of council – made up of local representatives (counsellor, technical advisory people on staff, volunteers from community) – will advocate for AT-supportive planning and design

  • Policy work on a broader level – OPHA has done great work there

 

11)I am on an Accommodation Review Committee, that is going to make recommendations to the school board regarding the transition from an elementary school and high school and combining the two schools. I would very much look to gain input an insight in to some of the ways that the built environment, inside and out can help to improve health for the school and the community. One of the daycares in my community has recently done a lot of work to take out play equipment, and go with more natural setting with wood and trees. I look forward to any suggestions that you might have in to providing input in to creating a new school play yard and indoor school space.

  • Dufferin Grove - was slated to come up with a new play equipment but they looked at adding more natural alternatives (sand pit, water hoses, gardens, etc)

  • If amalgamation of schools – one thing to consider is there might be a loss of green space

  • In terms of school siting, there are advantages to siting it where most people live (rather than outskirts of town) and enabling shorter walking distances and limiting bussing needs

  • Hamilton has done some work on school siting to support AT

  • Regarding inside the school – healthy food, standing up desks, etc.

  • Naturalizing playgrounds are popular – Look at Evergreen Canada - Learning Grounds Program– they have funding and resources available on school yard greening: https://www.evergreen.ca/

  • Richard Louv's book “Last Child in the Woods” – talks about nature deficit disorder and importance of access to nature and play

 12) Have you or any others done work regarding improving health equity in/through the built environment? If so, any lessons to share?

  • People with low income rely more on active transportation and transit – ensuring these are located in close proximity to where people need it

  • Recreation fees

  • Access to food

  • Proximity to noise, unsafe areas, pollution, etc. – where you live affects your health. Some people are living with more health stressors because that is where affordable housing is – these are some things to consider.

 

Additional Resources

Paul Young’s resource listing to promote active transportation: http://www.hclinkontario.ca/images/2017/Resources_for_promoting_active_transportation_Paul_Young_2017.pdf

HC Link resource page on the Built Environment: http://www.hclinkontario.ca/resources/resources/built-environment.html

HC Link’s Digest PLUS on Community Transportation: http://www.hclinkontario.ca/images/2017/HCLinkNewsDigestPLUS1FEB2017_CommunityTransportation.pdf

 

 

 

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Tried and True Tools for Collaborative Work

By Pam Kinzie, HC Link Consultant

Those of us who have worked in partnerships, coalitions and other forms of community collaboratives, have seen many frameworks for collaborative work come and go over the years. Sometimes, I believe that the baby does truly get “thrown out with the bathwater” when excellent tools are abandoned for the next new thing. I suggest that we examine ways in which well-founded, widely used, evidence-based tools can be integrated into collaborative work. I’d like to make a case for one such tool - Results-based Accountability (RBA). No doubt many of you have other tools that have components for planning and implementation that you still find useful after many years.

hands 565602 1280Currently there is widespread use of the Collective Impact framework in Ontario amongst community groups. Developed by John Kania and Mark Kramer in 2011, it requires the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific complex social problem. Issues suited to collective impact are those that are not easy to resolve, have persisted over time, and cannot be solved in isolation.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation offers grants to support collective impact through strategy and transformative action to achieve a lasting change. It funds projects in three phases in order to assist collaboratives in defining, organizing and delivering impact initiatives.

The idea of working together to produce community “impact” is at the heart of both RBA and Collective Impact. Collective Impact literature sets out conditions for the success of community change efforts, and RBA provides specific methods to help partners meet those conditions. RBA is being used widely in North America, including by some groups in Ontario, and in more than a dozen countries around the world to create measurable change in people’s lives, communities and organizations. For complete information about RBA and how to use it I encourage you to read the book Trying Hard is Not Good Enough by Mark Friedman.

In her 2011 paper Achieving “Collective Impact” with Results-based Accountability Deitre Epps examines how application of the core RBA components enables community groups to operationalize each of the five collective impact conditions. She examines the seven population accountability questions in RBA that guide community partnerships and coalitions in their work to improve the quality of life conditions for children and families and draws parallels with how they can be used as practical tools to create common agendas, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities and continuous communication amongst partners. Mark Friedman the creator of RBA also demonstrates how RBA and Collective Impact fit together in his online article from 2014.

The strength of RBA is that it starts with ends and works backward, towards means. The “end”, “result” or difference you are trying to make looks slightly different if you are working on a broad community level or are focusing on your specific program or organization, but the two perspectives are always aligned. RBA makes the critical distinction between population and performance-level initiatives. It is what separates RBA from all other frameworks. It is a significant distinction because it determines who is responsible for what. Population accountability organizes work with co-equal partners to promote community well-being. In contrast, Performance Accountability organizes work to have the greatest impact on the customers of specific agencies – those whose lives are touched in the delivery of programs and services. What is done for customers is the contribution to the larger community impact.

Dan Duncan describes how RBA and a number of additional tools are important components of collective impact in his 2016 article The Effective Components of Collective Impact . He also describes the importance of community engagement and relationship-building, stressing that “organizations do not collaborate; people collaborate, based on common purpose and trust”. This article reinforced how many tools there are that can be employed to enhance collective impact work.

HC Link can support you to use RBA and other tools for collaborative work through workshops, webinars and customized consultations. Materials from previous workshops and webinars can be found in the “Resources” section of our website. For more information about how we can assist you in your collaborative initiatives please go to www.hclinkontario.ca or give us a call at 1-855-847-1575.

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Changing our Destiny: A Regional Gathering in Timiskaming

Every two years (alternating with our provincial conference), HC Link partners with local communities to design and deliver Regional Gatherings. This year, my colleague Stephanie Massot and I were lucky to work with a dynamic team in Timiskaming to hold a regional gathering there on January 11. The event was a partnership between HC Link, the District of Timiskaming Social Services Administration Board and the City of Temiskaming Shores.

We formed a planning committee in the spring/summer of 2016, and over several months our event took shape. Planning Committee members included Dani Grenier-Ducharme, Tiffany Stowe and Melissa Boivin (District of Timiskaming Social Services Administration Board) Dan Lavigne (Timiskaming First Nation), Tina Sartoretto (Town of Cobalt), Sylvain Guilbeault (Timiskaming Child Care), Stephanie Masson and I (HC Link). We selected the title “Changing our Destiny: Building a vision for all our communities” to represent the desire to make decisions that affect Timiskaming in Timiskaming. It is a vibrant region, with industry, tourism, a great deal of natural beauty, and--in January--a great deal of snow!

The focus of the event was to create a space for conversation about working together collaboratively to form community hubs in Timiskaming. Despite Mother Nature’s best efforts to dissuade attendance with a snowstorm, 78 people (including planning committee members) attended the gathering! Unfortunately due to cancellation of school buses, the youth that committee members had worked so hard to engage were not able to attend. We had representation from a wide variety of sectors, with a total of 15 different sectors represented. It would be impossible for me to pick just one highlight of the day, as each part of the day was a highlight for me! Instead, I’ll summarize the day for those of you who weren’t able to be there.

art

High school art work from the Indigenous art class, graciously lent to us for the day

We began the day with a traditional smudge and pipe ceremony, drumming and song. Elder Philip Snr Gliddy  told us that these ceremonies show respect and help us start our gathering in a Good Way. Mayors Tina Sarteretto (one of our planning committee members) and Carman Kidd gave opening remarks and Dani Grenier-Ducharme, Children's Services Manager with the District of Timiskaming Social Services Administration Board, was our fearless Master of Ceremonies for the day.

charles

Charles Cirtwell from the Northern Policy Institute gave a keynote address and spoke about how the North already does community hubs: people in the North have worked together in this way for hundreds of years.  Dr. Cirtwell advised us to have:

  • Flexible thinking: to not constrain the who, how and where of community hubs

  • Flexible funding: funding should promote collaboration, be used for transportation and technology, and as an incentive

  • Flexible doing: blend organizational objectives, knowledge and assets. The goal is for everyone to see that their mandate is being achieved, even if someone else is doing some or even all of the service delivery

Following Dr Cirtwell’s presentation, Stephanie Massot gave a short presentation on partnership and working collaboratively. Melissa Boivin, one of our planning committee members, then led the group in a “Merry-Go Round” exercise to give participants the chance to talk with each other about the ways they currently work together, the challenges and benefits they receive from their work.

I then led a panel discussion to find out how the community hub model is working in four different communities.

Carol McBride is the Director of Health and Social Services at Notre Dame du Nord, Temiskaming First Nation Health Centre. The centre has experienced significant growth from its beginnings in the 90s with 4 employees to its current staff complement of 35. Previously, the centre worked in silos, where people who accessed services did get help but not as much as they needed. When Carol learned about the community hub model, the centre transformed using the Medicine Wheel as its model, with the individual in the middle of the wheel and the Centre providing emotional, physical, mental and spiritual support.

Scirish Panipak is the Vice-President of the Friendship Centre in Parry Sound. That organization will be opening a “bricks and mortar” community hub, focused on community housing, in June. The organization was able to purchase a school to use for non-profit housing, and a priority for them was to keep the gymnasium to use for the community as well as clients and residents. They began to look for community partners to move into the space, and currently have more than they can hold!

Laura Urso from the Best Start Network in Sudbury shared her experiences in this long-standing network of service providers. The network began with agencies that provide like-services, and now they are programming and delivering services together. One of the keys to the success the network has experienced is the designation of a staff-person who is responsible for bringing--and keeping--stakeholders together.

Brent Cicchini is an officer with the Ontario Provincial Police (incidentally, the first time I’ve had a panelist who wore a bullet-proof vest) who has been working with a variety of community partners to address the needs of high-risk youth, with the aim of supporting them before they come into contact with the justice system. There is a good network of services and stakeholders, though meeting can be viewed as being redundant. Brent spoke about the idea of connecting with existing networks/tables, rather than constantly inventing new groups of the same people to talk about different things.

After lunch, Karen Pitre, Special Advisory to the Premier on Community Hubs, joined us via remote technology. Community hubs, explained Karen, are a service delivery model that brings together service providers to offer a range of services that respond to demonstrated community needs and priorities. As our four panelists demonstrated, there is no one formula for a community hub: they can be a bricks and mortar building, a “virtual” hub or a group of service providers working together. There could be as many variations of what a community hub as there are communities in Ontario. One of the key components of a community hub is that they are cross-sectoral, bringing together education and training, health care, children and youth, sport and recreation, social services and a variety of other community partners together.

communityhub

Following Karen’s presentation, participants formed small groups in a Conversation Café designed to help the group discuss how they can work together, in partnership, to support community wellbeing in Timiskaming. The group had a robust discussion, with a group who discussed Indigenous health committing to meet monthly after the gathering to continue their conversation!

It would take me at least another two pages to talk fully about the incredible experience that Stephanie and I had in Timiskaming and the wonderful things about the Regional Gathering itself. We had such a rich experience in working with our planning committee members, our event partners, and our event sponsors Northern College and Presidents Suites. Aside from the experience of being in the north and being at the event itself, another highlight was the excursion to Dani’s farm, where Stephanie rode a horse and I collected eggs. The beauty of the scenery, the warmth of the people, and their dedication to working together will be in my memory for a long time.

You can access the slide decks, videos from the presentations and panel, and more at http://www.hclinkontario.ca/events/regional-gatherings.html/#Timiskaming

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andreasteph

stephhorse

 

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HC Link's 2016 Top Resource Round-up

top2016

Happy New Year! We are looking forward to another exciting year of working together to create healthy communities across Ontario. In case you missed them the first time around, here is a collection of a few of our most popular resources, webinar recordings and blog posts from 2016.

 
popularresources2016
 

Here are a few of our most popular resources of 2016:

 
popularwebinars2016


Here are a few of our most popular webinars of 2016:

 
popularblogs2016
 

Here are a few of our most popular blogs of 2016:

AND our most popular guest blog was by the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH):

continue

We look forward to another great year of working together and continuing to offer our customized consulting services, resources, webinars, workshops, and other learning events! Please contact us to learn more about how we can work with you and your community to meet your specific needs for building healthy communities!

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What does the Task Force’s recommended minimum age of purchasing cannabis at 18 mean for health promoters?

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

cannabis2imageLast week, HC Link co-hosted a webinar with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) and Parent Action on Drugs (PAD) – Canadian Youth Perceptions on Cannabis: Implications for practice and policy. This webinar was part of a two-part webinar series that covered the methods, findings and implications of CCSA’s recent qualitative research study, Canadian Youth Perceptions on Cannabis. In this second webinar, presenters discussed implications of the research on prevention practice and policy, and featured a panel discussion of youth prevention practitioners – Patricia Scott-Jeoffroy, an Education Consultant with PAD and Cathy Maser, a Nurse Practitioner in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Sick Kids.

frameworkimageHours before our webinar, the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation released their highly anticipated report – A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada.

One participant asked the presenters what their thoughts were on the Task Force’s recommendation to set a national minimum age of purchase of cannabis at 18. With limited time to have even read the report, Cathy Maser provided an explanation from the report and opinion that many participants found very helpful. So, for those who have not had a chance to go into the detail of the report, but are curious about this recommendation that has gained a lot of attention – I thought I would share.

Here is a brief summary of what Cathy shared with our participants, and what is stated in the report:

While many health professionals and those in public health are concerned about how the brain is still developing until around age 25, most of those consulted felt that this age was too high to set as the minimum, as many of the issues that legalization is trying to address – such as the illicit market and criminalization, would still persist. Youth who are in the 18-24 age range are in fact the highest users of cannabis, so setting the minimum age at 25 might further criminalize youth. While age 21 was suggested by many, age 18 was decided on because it is the age of majority and provinces and territories can raise the minimum age to align it with the minimum age to purchase alcohol – which from a societal context, seems to make sense. As stressed by Cathy, a key point in this recommendation is the need to align this policy with education, prevention and treatment – with emphasis on robust preventative measures to discourage and delay cannabis use to mitigate the harms between the ages of 18-25, a critical period of brain development.

This is where many of us as health promoters can focus our attention. Given the results from CCSA’s report, and this recommendation from the Task Force, some considerations for minimizing harms to youth include:

• Providing youth with factual, accessible, and non-bias information – talking about potential benefits and real risks/harms (possibly even low-risk cannabis use guidelines)

• Focussing on tangible harms (and those they would experience in the short term versus long term) so that these harms resonate with youth

• Providing health professionals, peer mentors, parents, and others who youth believe are credible sources of information, with the right information/tools/resources to provide the information to youth

• Developing youth critical thinking/decision-making skills, so they are better equipped to make their own decisions

• Building youth resiliency through programs, support, and positive relationships so that they are more capable of avoiding/minimizing harms of cannabis use

• Clear, and consistent messaging across the board – including messaging and information around medical marijuana – as this causes youth to perceive cannabis as less harmful and also leads youth to self-diagnose and self-medicate.

While many of the ways that health promoters can help to minimize the harms to youth listed above are focused around education and skill building, we must not forget about the many other factors at play – the social determinants of health – that cause some youth to disproportionately experience more harms associated with drug use. Factors like poverty, education, social exclusion, etc., all come into play, as they do with almost any other health issue, and cannot be left out of the picture.

 

Link to the Task Force report: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/task-force-marijuana-groupe-etude/index-eng.php

Link to the webinar recording and slides: http://www.hclinkontario.ca/events/webinars1.html/#YouthPerceptionsonCannabis2 

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Peer sharing session about online community engagement

By Robyn Kalda, HC Link

On November 23, I facilitated an HC Link peer-sharing webinar on online community engagement. I had the misfortune to lose my internet connection half a dozen times during the session, which is always exciting when one is facilitating -- a huge thank-you to the participants for your patience! And to Andrea Bodkin, HC Link's Coordinator, who stepped in as technical backup.

We left the definition of "online community engagement" open. Whether it's a community that wants to engage online, or an online community that wants to increase engagement, a community is the people involved and not the technology, so it's quite possible to talk about both at once.

We discussed creating a Terms of Reference for an online community -- the difficulty of drafting such a thing before discussing it with potential community members, yet the need for management accountability. The need for flexibility in the document was raised, so that the group can grow and change over time and feel ownership of the community.

Next, people suggested ways to pique people's interest in the community. Relevance was key here: connect people to content and expertise, help them with their work and goals. One participant was running a community that had recently added a feature that allowed users to tag others in discussions if their opinions or expertise would be helpful -- at which point they are emailed a notification, and their response (or lack thereof) is, of course, visible, providing some mild peer pressure to participate.

Participants felt regular updates helped a community both feel and stay active. A monthly newsletter via email, with links back to the community highlighting what's new / hot topics / upcoming events was one great idea, as were occasional face-to-face meetings (if possible).

Thinking about the technology itself, people generally suggested thinking first about what functions the community truly needs and where people are already. Can you start with a plain old email list? Or Facebook? Often, you can. It's easier for people to engage if it doesn't involve learning an entirely new tool.

The issue of moderation was raised. Moderation can be fantastically time-consuming and a source of contention, in my experience, so I suggested avoiding it if at all possible. Others pointed out that group culture, if developed carefully over time, often works well to counter or discourage inappropriate posts. Sometimes supporting people behind the scenes to post and model a desired behaviour -- social support of a good post, or respectful criticism -- can work well to get things going.

We finished by encouraging people to join HC Link's discussion list, Community-Links (http://lists.hclinkontario.ca/listinfo.cgi/community-links-hclinkontario.ca), and to get in touch if they had questions that weren't answered in the peer-sharing session.


Thanks to all the participants!

Here are some of the resources that were shared in the session:

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Taking part in the holiday spirit of giving – Does food charity alleviate hunger?

This is a guest blog post by the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH).

With the holiday season upon us, charitable food drives are in full swing. It’s easy to throw a can of baked beans, a jar of peanut butter or a box of macaroni & cheese in the food bank bin. But does this really help to reduce hunger in our communities?

To start, let’s clarify some terms. ‘Hunger’ is a feeling of discomfort from not eating enough food.  ‘Food insecurity’ is inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints.  Poverty is the root cause of food insecurity. People experiencing food insecurity:

  • worry about having enough food
  • do not have suitable quality or variety of food, or
  • have reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns due to lack of food. (This extreme is how we commonly use the term ‘hunger’ when we mean severe food insecurity).

Food insecurity is a significant social and public health problem in Ontario.  In 2013, 1.6 million Ontarians or one in eight households did not have enough money to buy food. Click here for more information on how food insecurity is defined and measured in Canada.

How have communities responded to the problem of food insecurity?

With the gradual erosion of social programs, a variety of community-based charitable food programs have emerged. There are now food banks in every province and territory, with a network of almost 5,000 emergency food programs including food banks, soup kitchens and various meal and snack programs.

Food charity is very much a part of the problem of food insecurity in rich societies. While charitable food programs may provide short-term relief of hunger, they do not reduce food insecurity at all. Food charity is ineffective due to the following reasons:

  • undermines people’s dignity
  • has limited reach – 3 out of 4 food insecure households do not go to food banks
  • has limited operating hours and restricts the number of visits and the amount of food provided
  • does not meet people’s daily need for nutritious food

Food insecurity is a symptom of an income problem; it is not a problem that can be solved by redistribution of food by charities no matter how much we try to build better food banks. In fact, food banks are counterproductive because their existence creates the illusion that food insecurity is being taken care of in the community.  We’ve become so conditioned to raising more money and getting more food on to food bank shelves that we lose sight of poverty being the root cause of food insecurity. The prevalence of food charity allows governments to neglect their obligations to ensure income security for Canadians, leaving community-based charities attempting to fill the gap.

The media perpetuates this problem by drawing attention to food drives. By packaging a food drive as an integral part of the festive season, food insecurity is framed as an issue for charity, not politics, strengthening the public perception that food charity is acceptable, necessary and adequate to address the problem of food insecurity. High profile, public food drives use messaging that reinforces the notion that food charity makes a difference in the lives of those living with food insecurity. Calling on the public to participate in food drives in an effort to ‘give back to the community’, ‘join the fight against hunger’ and ‘participate in the spirit of holiday cheer’ feeds into the age-old philosophical ideal of feeding the hungry. High profile community members, such as politicians or celebrities, are often used to reinforce these messages and create a bigger media story.

If food charity is not the solution to food insecurity, then what is?

All sectors have a role to play in promoting income security as an effective response to food insecurity.

The media could focus on supporting campaigns and covering news stories raising awareness about the root cause of food insecurity, which is poverty, such as on implementing a basic income guarantee, a living wage, and affordable housing and child care policies.      

Individuals, community groups, and organizations can support ‘up-stream’ efforts, such as:

  • Becoming a member of, donating to, or volunteering with Basic Income Canada Network
  • Donating or volunteering with national, provincial or local poverty reduction advocacy groups, such as Make Poverty History or Canada Without Poverty  
  • Donating to or becoming a member of food advocacy groups, such as Food Secure Canada
  • Contacting or meeting with local politicians at all levels about their concerns with the food charity response to food insecurity and the potential benefits of a basic income guarantee
  • Supporting campaigns and signing petitions for adequate income security, affordable social housing and child care, enhanced mental health services, and development of national and provincial food policies

Federal and provincial governments must consider policy options that will enhance income security and reduce poverty levels to alleviate food insecurity.

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The Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH) is the independent and official voice of Registered Dietitians working in Ontario’s public health system. OSNPPH provides leadership in public health nutrition by promoting and supporting member collaboration to improve the health of Ontario residents through the implementation of the Ontario Public Health Standards.

The OSNPPH Food Security Workgroup has developed a position statement (and French translation) and an accompanying infographic (and French translation) to increase awareness about the growing problem of household food insecurity in Ontario and the urgent need to advocate for effective responses. Since its release, the Position Statement has received official endorsements from these organizations and individuals. If you would like to endorse the Position Statement, please complete the form available here.

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