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

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

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

To view past blogs, please click on the home icon below left.

March 24 Mental Health and Healthy Weights for Children and Youth: A TOPHC Preconvention Forum

On March 24th HC Link had the privilege of participating in a one day event hosted by Public Health Ontario (PHO) and the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre. The focus of the event was the intersection of public health activities to promote mental health and healthy weights. Innovative projects from public health units across Ontario were showcased and many engaging presenters spoke. The role of health equity was integrated into discussions and learning throughout the entire day.

Dr. Chris Mackie, CEO and Medial Officer of Health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit gave the keynote address. He provided an overview of areas where we are seeing interactions between mental health and healthy weights, these included childhood bullying, outreach and home visits to new and expectant mothers, breast feeding, and the built environment. He noted the importance of understanding the unintended impacts of labelling people as “overweight” such as double stigmatization.

We also heard from Dr. Ed Adlaf, a Senior Research Scientist at CAMH, who spoke about The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) and his research on the association between Subject Social Standing (SSS) and health and mental health outcomes. Dr. Ingrid Tyler from PHO and Sherry Nigro, Manager of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at Ottawa Public Health participated in a panel discussion on the role of healthy equity in addressing heathy weights and mental health. Highlights of the discussion included:


  • The many interlocking systems that influence obesity as illustrated through this Obesity Systems Map
  • The idea of Proportionate Universalism – we should be intervening at an intensity that is proportionate to the level of disadvantage in order to reduce health inequities.
  • “Don’t make things worse” – be aware that talking about obesity is stigmatizing and that we need to be sensitive to body image issues when talking to children and youth about their weight. Dr. Gail McVey from Sick Kids also discussed this issue throughout the day emphasizing the need to be aware of weight bias in our messages around “healthy weight”.
  • Improving access to physical activity and healthy eating, especially to those with disabilities.

Promising Projects and Programs 

The afternoon was comprised of a World Café where we got the opportunity to learn about promising programs, projects, and tools being used in the field. These included.
  1. Nutristep – Sudbury and District Health Unit
  2. Sparking Life Niagara – Niagara Region Public Health
  3. F.U.E.L. -  Niagara Region Public Health
  4. Eat Well, Be Active, Feel Good Manual – Ottawa Public Healt
  5. CAMH Best Practices Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Children and Youth

Overall the day provided a wonderful opportunity for public health units and those working in health promotion to begin to think about the intersection between mental health and healthy weights. We need to think about how we can address the pathways that lead to obesity and mental health challenges using a healthy equity perspective. We also need to be aware of mental health implications of our messaging to the public around obesity and implications for issues such as stigmatization, body image, and eating disorders.


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Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth: All Partner Forum in Toronto

On March 23rd, 2015, Parent Action on Drugs (PAD) was fortunate enough to have all our provincial partners for the Health Canada project come to Toronto for a face-to-face all-partner forum. The day was full of collaboration, networking, and information sharing about how to make Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth (SFPY) deliveries as successful as possible in the coming years.

 Diane Buhler, Executive Director at PAD opened up the day by discussing the objectives of the Health Canada project, and what has been achieved so far. After discussing what the goals for the all-partner forum were, Diane passed the floor to Suzanne Witt-Foley (Consultant at Making Connections 4 Health), who was the facilitator for the day.

 After leading an activity to help partners get acquainted with one another, Suzanne facilitated a discussion about where each partner is at in terms of delivering an SFPY cycle. Following this, the Peterborough Drug Strategy shared a presentation about their experience running SFPY in Fall 2014, and how they achieved such strong successes with 11 families.

sfpyforumNext, Suzanne facilitated a community mapping exercise, where all participants were asked to identify the assets in their community, the need for SFPY, the service gaps SFPY can fill, how SFPY can benefit the organization, and what individuals, businesses, funding sources, and organizations may help in delivering a successful SFPY cycle.

After a fun activity from the SFPY curriculum, the group participated in an interactive activity about how to engage youth successfully in SFPY. Participants were given post-its and were asked to write down what works, successes, challenges, and barriers to running SFPY. The post-its were then posted on the wall, which had a continuum showing different stages of the SFPY cycle. See the attached for a photo of the continuum and a list of the ideas and lessons learned that were raised during this session.

After a nutritious lunch, the group came back to a presentation by Suzanne about how 14 years of running the Strengthening Families Program has transformed the community in Muskoka. Suzanne touched on funding sources, how stigma associated with the program has almost disappeared over the years, and tips on how to make families feel as comfortable as possible when they are participating in the program.

The group then had a discussion about where each partner is at in terms of capacity building, and how the project has contributed to an increased sense of community. The day closed off with a discussion and sharing of each partner’s community map (see some examples attached), and a roundtable discussion about what each participant gained from the day.

It was a wonderful day full of rich discussion, knowledge exchange, networking and capacity building. We are very thankful to our partners for making the trip to Toronto for the all-partner forum, and also to Health Canada for providing the funding to make this all-partner forum possible.

For more information about SFPY, go to 

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Recapping HC Link’s Northern Gatherings

During the 2014/2015 year, HC Link held 6 regional gatherings in northern Ontario so as to provide an opportunity for
information and knowledge exchange between individuals who were working to improve community conditions for local residents. Three were conducted in French and three in English. These events took place within the Northeast and Northwest regions of the province, as defined by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

The Northern Gatherings were designed to appeal to and attract people from across the regions in which they were held. The three French language northern gatherings were planned in collaboration with a number of francophone organizations and networks, and held in Longlac, Geraldton and Thunder Bay during spring 2014. The three English language gatherings were held in the fall and winter of 2014/15, in Sioux Lookout, Timiskaming and Kenora. This blog will provide an overview of the English language northern gatherings.

A goal of the gatherings was to promote networking and facilitate connections at the regional level, while also promoting the availability of HC Link services in Northern Ontario. The content of each of the gathering related to Healthy Communities, i.e., community-wide, multi-sectoral engagement to improve local conditions that promote health and a high quality of life. Each of the events focused around a specific theme and was very interactive, including skills and knowledge exchange, peer sharing and networking components.

Host organizations were recruited to assist with planning and logistics in Sioux Lookout, Timiskaming and Kenora. For each of the events, a committee was established to take the lead in planning the gatherings. The committees met on a monthly or semi-monthly basis for 4-6 months prior to the events. Support was provided by HC Link in the areas of planning, committee development, workplan creation and budgeting, media communications and outreach, registration and workshop facilitation. HC Link consultants also helped to provide information on topics such as community development and engagement, partnerships and collaboration, health and the built environment, and local sustainable food systems.

Here is a recap of each of the events: 

  1. The Sioux Lookout event was held on October 28th and involved a developmental assets workshop on the building blocks for raising healthy children and youth. The premise was that the more assets young people have, the less likely they are to engage in a wide range of high-risk behaviours and the more likely that they are to thrive. Participants were provided with tools to become asset builders in the lives of young people in their communities.
  2. In Timiskaming, two separate events were held on December 9th and 10th in New Liskeard and Kirkland Lake respectively. A need had been identified to build upon existing community initiatives by increasing engagement, skills
    and the capacity to advocate for change. A type of advocacy training specific to northern small and rural communities was provided, along with story-telling about successful local initiatives.

  3. The Kenora event was held on February 12th and had three goals: 1) develop a common understanding of food security in the region; 2) engage local municipalities in food security work; and 3) increase awareness of Kenora food security initiatives. The priorities were that identified at the event were organized under the headings: a) School, b) Workplaces, c) Community and d) Municipality. Among the partners and groups that participated were: the Northwestern Health Unit, Women's Place Kenora, Kenora Association Community Living, the City of Kenora, Lake of the Woods District Hospital,
    Kenora Midwives, the Northwest Training Adjustment Board, the Legal Aid Clinic and arts organizations.

All of these events helped to build skills and strengthen networks in northern Ontario. They were positive and enriching experiences for participants, planning partners and HC Link representatives alike. HC Link got to know these communities better, gained key insights into what their needs are, how they function, and the types of supports and relationships that are available to them. We are very appreciative for having had the opportunity to work with our partners and all of the participants in these northern communities.




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Healthy Food for All: Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems in Ontario

Across Ontario hundreds of organizations, councils and networks are working to relieve hunger and improve the quality of food available to community members. Many are engaged in developing strategies to achieve community food security and sustainable local food systems. It is a very complex and challenging situation, however, as the food system is comprised of a diverse range of activities, stakeholders, policies and regulations.

“Our efforts have been fragmented and the region continues to lack a long-term vision and coherent plan to further the development of a sustainable local food system - one that enables farmers to learn livable wages while ensuring that all residents have access to safe, healthy local food,” (David Thompson, Rural Agri-Innovation Network)

Recognizing the lack of tools, training and other resources to engage communities in developing a shared vision of a healthy food system and a process for achieving it, seven organizations decided to work together to address this need. The purpose of this project is to increase the capacity of local communities to work collaboratively to create and strengthen sustainable local food systems in Ontario. The project is funded by the Healthy Communities Fund of the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care, from October 1, 2013 - March 31, 2015 and led by the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition.

There are five main components of the project.

1. Food Systems Tool Kit: A comprehensive, dynamic on-line toolkit is being developed in English and French to assist community organizations and others in creating and implementing comprehensive community food systems plans. The Tool Kit has been designed to be accessible by a link on any of the partners’ websites, without any other organizational identification.

2. Peer Learning Circles: Led by Sustain Ontario, participants of four peer learning circles (PLC) are meeting regularly to learn collectively about particular aspects of the food system or food system planning processes. They have also contributed tools and resources to the Food Systems Tool Kit. So far 15 Sustain Ontario blog posts have referenced the PLC. Facebook postings and linking all social media activity are other benefits being provided by Sustain Ontario.

“Sustain Ontario strives to transform the food system into one that is healthy, equitable, ecological and financially viable. We are working with the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition to leverage our collective networks and our complementary strengths to ensure that we achieve the strongest outcome for practitioners and regional community actors across the Province”. (Karen Hutchinson, Sustain Ontario)

3. Community Planning Case Studies: Four community organizations in four regions of the province are undertaking a local food systems planning process and embarking on action plans. Their activities will be documented as case studies.

The Huron Food Action Network (HFAN) is developing a Food Charter for Huron County. The draft food charter has now been released and a news release was issued inviting comments from key food system stakeholders and the general public. The HFAN Coordinating Committee has initiated a branding process to develop a logo and key messages that will be incorporated into the final Huron County Food Charter document.

Harvest Halliburton is conducting a Community Food Assessment. This project involves several working groups and 24 project partners. They have developed a two page fact sheet to promote and outline the project, and have developed working relationships with the County Planning Department which will allow them to use their GIS mapping technology. The County Tourism Department will incorporate the Community Food Assessment report in an ongoing a culinary tourism initiative that is being developed in partnership with the Ontario Culinary Tourism Association.

The Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN), in the Sault Ste. Marie area, is increasing access to local food through innovative marketing techniques. In November 2014 the first annual RAIN Food Summit was held bringing together Algoma and Sault Ste. Marie stakeholders for two half day food system planning sessions. The summit attracted excellent media coverage and evaluations of the event suggest that there is a great deal of interest in expanding the sustainable food system development work to include a food strategy for the area. Food Summit participants identified priority areas of focus for the Sault & Area Food Strategy including food access, food infrastructure, food skills and education, food procurement, forest and freshwater foods, and food production, including urban agriculture.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation  (NAN) is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities within northern Ontario with the total population of membership (on and off reserve) estimated around 45,000 people. As part of this project, NAN is developing a food strategy guidebook to showcase planning process and community success stories, as a means of engaging leadership, funders and community members. Recently, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Food Summit 2014 – “Traditional Foods without Borders” took place in Thunder Bay. Click here to read a summary of the conference. NAN participated in RAIN’s agriculture asset building program (SNAP), a direct result of their participation in the Project Steering Committee.

4. Learning Activities: A series of learning activities will for organized for staff and volunteers of community organizations and networks who are working to develop a local sustainable food system. A three-part webinar series was conducted in February and March, 2014, in collaboration with HC Link, and recorded for future viewing. Additional webinars, one on the Food Systems Tool Kit and another on the results of the project, will be scheduled in March 2015.

The project was presented at the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition’s Annual General Meeting on October 24, 2014, highlighting project milestones and sustainable food system development plans. Three project partners attended the Toronto event and the two other, more remote projects joined via web conferencing. Feedback from those in attendance stated that they were impressed with partnerships and outcomes.

5. Communications: The FoodNet Ontario website has been enhanced to allow greater interactivity. Eight new blog posts have been uploaded, and the Food Systems Tool Kit will be housed on this site, but accessible from each of the partners’ websites. All partners’ are contributing to sharing information and resources through their own websites and networks.
Creating a healthy sustainable food system is an important part of creating a healthy community. Community food system planning integrates common factors involved in food-related issues such as nutritional quality, affordability and availability. In this project we will look at the social, environment and economic contexts which impact on our food choices and ultimately our health.

“This project will help to increase the profile of local food as a means to diversify and enhance the local farm economy and promote healthy eating”. (Janice Dunbar, Huron Food Action Network)

Further information about this project is available from the project webpage or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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March 2 Health in All Policies Forum

On March 2, over 30 people from around Ontario met at the lovely Ontario Heritage Trust building in downtown Toronto to talk about Health in All Policies.

Karen Loney from Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit was our MC for the day, moving the group through introductory presentations by Andrea Bodkin (HC Link Coordinator), who talked about the HC Link Policy Learning Community, and Kim Bergeron (Public Health Ontario), who gave an introduction to the Health in all Policies concept. photo 3

Presentations on specific Health in All Policies work followed. Tanya Hill from Hastings & Prince Edward Counties Health Unit, Karen Loney, Andrea Bodkin gave examples of work from different areas and discussed the challenges inherent in developing policies that affect health but that are outside the traditional bounds of what people think of as "health" -- urban planning, for example. 

Small-group and then large-group discussions gave participants a chance to discuss how they are using, or could use, Health in All Policies in their work.

As always, there were discussions about language. Are there better words to use than "health"? Does "wellness" perhaps make it clearer that we're talking beyond the health-care system? Is using "citizen" exclusionary in policy development work? While it can be a strong reminder to politicians about where their support is found, the group suggested "residents" or just plain "people" as more inclusive options.

In the afternoon Kim Bergeron, Lorna McCue (Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition/HC Link), and michael kerr (Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change) presented tools and resources they found helpful.

The last session was a short focus group session on the HC Link Policy Learning Community now and in future.

To end the day, attendees each offered a one-word summary of their thoughts. A few of these reflective words:

  • engagement
  • collaboration
  • rural
  • complexity
  • language
  • multi-sectoral collaboration
  • reframing
  • opportunities
  • challenges

The slides and other resources have now been posted on the HC Link Policy Learning Community discussion group - see here Additional resources are posted as replies to the initial “Health in All Policies Forum Resources” discussion forum, so keep scrolling down to see everything.

Thanks to all attendees for their insight and enthusiasm!

You will need to be a member of the HC Link Policy Learning Community to add comments or contribute your own links and resources.

Join the HC Link Policy Learning Community 

photo 1


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Learning from Indigenous Helpers and Scholars

The more I learn about Indigenous world views and approaches, the more solidly energized I become about how much our work building healthy communities can benefit when we recognize and learn from Indigenous knowledge sources.

Because I grew up in Canada, I grew up learning about Indigenous people, not from them. And most of what I learned was misinformation. Thankfully today things are shifting. Powerful community movements and leaders within Aboriginal communities, organizations and scholarship have been willing to take on the challenge of better educating those of us from a settler (non-Indigenous) heritage. I have often taken up these new opportunities to learn. It has always been time best spent: a workshop at a conference, a youtube video, a cultural or political gathering, an effort to facilitate learning among colleagues at work …and so many good books!Below I will share learnings from a favorite book of mine. But even if you can’t read on right now, I hope you will move on with a new (or renewed) determination to embrace any opportunity to learn from an Indigenous person/group/community when it next presents itself on your path. 

Below are some quotes, and their impacts for me, from the 2011 book by Ryerson University social work professor Cyndy Baskin called Strong Helpers’ Teachings:


“Let me share with you one of the challenges I am having right now… writing about Indigenous approaches on topics of helping as though they are separate from one another... Within Indigenous perspectives, everything is connected... Should I include a disclaimer here?” (p. 77)

I kept in that last sentence because it shows how Baskin’s warmth and humour permeate the book as much as her intellectual insights and social change determination.

I am struck throughout the book by how much of what Baskin emphasizes resonates with my experience and discussions in healthy communities work. For example:

  •  everything is connected;
  • we must work with families and communities if we want to impact individual health; and 
  • “helping” is reciprocal (i.e. when helping we also experience healing, when teaching we also experience learning).
“A world view is a foundation that guides how one sees the environment/land, people, communities, challenges, causes of problems, and possible solutions…” (p.11)
In reading this definition, I am reminded of how often HC Link works to help people and organizations see and approach the environment, land, people, communities, challenges, causes of problems and possible solutions differently. We share evidence and conceptual frameworks that differ from the dominant world views. As I already noted above, there is lots of alignment between our evidence and Indigenous knowledges. There are also places where Indigenous knowledges offer something unique.
“Centering Indigenous knowledges … can be a part of decolonization in Canada and elsewhere.” (p.17)
As I read, I reflect on how I could take a more active role in this centering:  recognizing Indigenous knowledges as an equally valued unique source of theoretical frameworks and approaches for our life and work (e.g. recognition beyond anecdotal proverbs). I remember how this was done when I attended the Health Promotion Summer School in 2001 in London: at the pre-school day, Western academic, Indigenous, and immigrant community health approaches to health promotion were presented together – a trilogy. Because of this, the foundational reference avoided being euro-centric. We need to make this a norm, instead of an exception.
“World views can be learned as they are general. Cultures cannot be learned unless one is immersed in the particular culture…” (p.12).

I learned that there is a big difference between me taking and applying a holistic approach (which comes from a world view) versus me taking and applying a cultural practice, like smudging. Through Baskin’s book, I became more convinced on the importance of clearly referencing the Indigenous knowledge sources of commonplace community-building practices like arranging chairs in a circle, and using a “talking piece” to promote inclusion. Baskin uses clear explanations and examples, as well as citations of other Indigenous scholars, to teach us how to become allies in decolonization. I learned more about how subtle colonization is, and how impactful our own subtle acts of decolonization can be.

From spending time with this book, I nurtured a new relationship to Indigenous cultures and peoples. In this new relationship I receive strength and knowledge from Indigenous cultures and peoples and I deeply appreciate the generosity of those (in this case Cyndy Baskin) who share with us Indigenous wisdom and “collaborative process tools”. Through this new relationship, I learn and confirm important knowledge and approaches - and ways of sharing knowledge and approaches - that help me advance equity and achieve stronger impacts in my work.

I highly recommend you obtain a copy of Baskin’s book, and share it around. You might also consider requesting your local library to acquire it in their collection …now there’s a small act of decolonization any of us can take on!

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Twitter Trends, Tips & Tools

Non-profits and public sector organizations are no longer lagging behind the business world in the use of social media. It has become apparent that social media is useful for engaging communities and building brand recognition and small organizations are taking note. Most non-profits, and most of the general population, predominantly use Facebook for social networking. Twitter can seem intimidating to those new to social media. Here are some treads, tips, and tools to help your organization get started with Twitter.

Twitter logo blueTrends on Twitter

  • Live tweeting from events is expected. This is a great article from Nonprofit Tech for Good – How to Report Live from Nonprofit Events and Conferences 
  • Twitter is becoming more visual. There are so many images on twitter now that tweets without images often get skimmed over because they get lost in the news feed. While not all tweets need a visual – use a visual when possible. Knowledge of Adobe Photoshop will allow you to use to create graphics for your tweets. Infographics are becoming increasingly popular, and you don’t need to be too tech-savy to create them. Check out Piktochart
  • Twitter chats continue to increase in popularity. More organizations and people on twitter are becoming familiar and comfortable with participating in a live twitter chat. Twitter chats are a great way to obtain helpful resources, consider new ideas, share your own organizations resources and connect with and follow new people/organizations who have similar interests.

Tips for Using Twitter

  • Don’t just tweet about your own organization. Only about ¼ tweets should be self-promoting. Think about educating your audience and sharing important information.
  • Don’t over-tweet but tweet consistently. Aim for 3-8 tweets per day (unless participating in a twitter chat or live tweeting from an event). You don’t want to crowd the newsfeed, and you only want to tweet important/relevant information (it’s ok to be selective). You want to make sure you tweet daily so people know your organization is active on twitter and will actively search your profile to read your tweets daily (because they know you always have good stuff to say).
  • Check content before tweeting/retweeting. Sometimes an article title or tweet about an article can be misleading, or the source or information is not reputable or appropriate. You want other people and organizations to be able to trust your tweets and be able to retweet them with confidence (without having to check the content themselves if they don’t have time). 
  • Add visuals whenever possible. 
  •  Include appropriate twitter handles of people and organizations in your tweets. Organizations appreciate the exposure and will likely retweet – dramatically increasing the number of people your tweet will reach. If you aren’t sure if an organization has a twitter account, look up their website, it should be included there. 
  • Mark your calendar with cause awareness days. Cause awareness days provide a great opportunity for organization to gain new followers and promote themselves.

Useful Tools for Twitter

  • Twitter Analytics is a free online tool that allows users to track the number of impressions, engagements, link clicks, retweets, favorites and replies. Note, this application only starts tracking from the first time you use it.
  • Twitonomy is a Twitter analytics platform that allows you to get detailed and visual analytics on anyone's tweets, retweets, replies, mentions, hashtags. To use a lot of the features you must have a paid account. 
  • Tweet Deck is a free dashboard powered by Twitter that allows you to create a custom twitter experience and manage multiple timelines to keep track of notifications, searches, and hashtags. You can also schedule tweets and mute users or terms. 
  •  Hootsuite is a paid social media dashboard that allows organizations and businesses of all sizes to manage social networks, schedule tweets, and track analytics. It is a great tool for organizations who have multiple staff managing social media accounts to delegate tasks and streamline workflow.
  • Canva is a online tool that lets you create a custom Twitter header that will make your dashboard look more professional and eyecatching. This simple drag and drop is easy to use and free!
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Reading of the Month - Dignity for All Anti-Poverty Plan

Canada Without Poverty and Citizens for Justice launched the Dignity for All Campaign in 2009. This multi- year, non-partisan national campaign aims to create a poverty-free and socially secure and cohesive Canada. While everyone plays a role in national poverty reduction the federal government is crucial and therefore the campaign is focused on three federal policy goals:

  1. Creation of a comprehensive, integrated federal plan for poverty elimination
  2. Passing of a federal Act to eliminate poverty, promote social inclusion and strengthen social security
  3. Collection and allocation of sufficient federal revenue to invest in social security


In Canada 4.8 million people, or one in seven, live in poverty and struggle to pay the rent, afford nutritious food, and meet basic needs. In early 2015 Dignity for All released their anti-poverty plan which is based on the notion that poverty is a violation of Canada’s human rights obligations. They make recommendations in 6 key areas - income security, housing and homelessness, health, food security, early childhood, and childcare, and jobs/employment. To create the document Dignity for All held 6 different policy summits bringing together leaders from academia, social policy organizations, provincial and territorial anti-poverty movements, national associations, faith-based groups, unions, and front-line service agencies.

Poverty and Health

The anti-poverty plan focuses on the often ignored impact of social and economic circumstances on health, also known as the social determinants of health. Social determinants, particularly income, are strongly correlated with health outcomes. Canadians living in poverty perform worse on health and social indicators such as life expectancy and prevalence of diseases, stress, and psychological problems. As income decreases so does health.

This effect is most apparent among groups with high levels of poverty such as the Inuit, First Nations, and Métis people. It is well documented that Inuit, First Nations, and Métis populations have lower life expectancy and higher rates of chronic illness than the general population.

People living in poverty experience significant barriers to health and healthcare such as long waitlist, challenges accessing or affording transportation, and inability to cover expenses such as drugs and dental care that aren’t covered under the provincial insurance plans. While Canada is proud of our national health care system, Medicare only covers 70% of health care costs – unlike many other wealthy countries that cover drugs and homecare.

The relationship between health and poverty is bi-directional as poverty can contribute to poor health and people experiencing poor physical and mental health often have low incomes. It is estimated that 20% of total annual health care spending can be attributed to socio-economic disparities.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Recognize in legislation the social determinants of health
  2. Develop a new 10-year Health Accord for the implementation of high-quality, universal, culturally-appropriate, publicly-funded and managed health promotion, prevention, and acute care services.
  3. Develop a Continuing Care Program
  4. Develop a new universal, publicly-funded National Pharmacare Program
  5. Implement the National Mental Health Strategy developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada
  6. Fund and support a collaborative ventures designed to improve the health and well-being of Inuit, First Nations, and Métis peoples with the final goal of establishing a First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Health Authority
  7. To fully rescind the 2012 cuts, totalling $20 million, to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP)

If you feel passionate about putting to plan into action help spread the word using the hashtag #WeHaveaPlan




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The Collective Impact Framework: Where’s the Fit?

I'd like to share a few of my thoughts following a workshop I attended recently in Brampton on "Accelerating Community Change with Collective Impact", presented by Sylvia Cheuy of Tamarack: An Institute for Community Engagement.

Most of you are likely familiar with Collective Impact (CI), as it has gained a lot of attention in recent years. At the workshop, Sylvia provided us with an overview of the CI framework, which is a comprehensive, multi-sector approach used to address a range of complex community issues, such as education, poverty, food security, neighbourhood revitalization, crime prevention, and environmental sustainability. Three panelists presented the Collective Impact strategies they are using in their community initiatives.

 I have been interested in CI since it was introduced by John Kania and Mark Kramer of FSG Social Impact Consultants in an article in the December 2011 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review. During the workshop I found a few questions coming to mind about how CI fits with other approaches that I use in my work.


Collective Impact and Healthy Communities

The first question I pondered is "In what ways is the Collective Impact approach similar and dissimilar to the Healthy Communities (HC) approach?" Below are the key components of the CI and HC approaches:


Collective Impact Healthy Communities 
  • Common agenda
  • Equitable community engagement
  • Shared measurement
  • Intersectoral partnerships
  • Mutually reinforcing activities
  • Political commitment
  • Continuous communication
  • Healthy public policy
  • Strong backbone entity
  • Asset-based community development

They are clearly complementary, but have different starting points. The HC approach begins with creating a shared holistic vision of the preferred future of the community, followed by a community assessment, a community strategic plan that builds on current community assets, and the formulation of action plans. CI focusses on community problems, as opposed to the asset-based approach of HC. However, I can see strong benefits in using a CI approach, within a larger HC framework. CI is particularly suited for developing and implementing effective solutions to complex community issues that transcend the mandate of single organizations and thus require a focussed, inter-organizational and intersectoral coordination of resources.

Collective Impact and Community Development

Another question that came to mind during the workshop is how it fits with a Community Development (CD) approach. For some CI initiatives I have read or heard about, it appeared that municipalities, institutions and/or larger community agencies were driving the process, and it wasn’t clear how community members participated in any of the decision-making processes. Although there is plenty of room within CI to incorporate CD approaches, it does seem to be a top-down rather than bottom-up process. Ensuring a strong community voice is present may be a challenge in CI initiatives.

Collective Impact and Results-Based Accountability

A third approach that seems to be strongly aligned with CI is Results Based Accountability, a data-driven, decision-making process aimed at making significant progress towards goals. Its approach to population level goals; e.g. “All children in Huron County will be well nourished”, fits very well with CI, in that the community at large is held accountable for progress, and thus requires intersectoral partnerships. RBA also has a strong focus on using data to help tell the story behind the issue and developing powerful measures to determine whether progress is actually being made. The Region of Peel has recognized the complementariness of these two approaches. According to a report of the Region of Peel Community Investment Committee, non-profit community organizations in Peel see RBA and CI as an effective process for achieving positive social change. The integration of RBA and CI began with the Community Investment Strategy (2009); grew into the Peel Counts Report (2011) and culminated with the Peel Institute for Collective Impact.


It seems that CI is a highly versatile approach that can be used on its own, in combination with other approaches or as one strategy within a larger framework for change. Innumerable strategies and processes can be incorporated into a CI approach, designed by the participating organizations and individuals to reflect their particular values and interests. Because the issues that communities are grappling with are highly complex, they require a multi-dimensional approach and collective effort. RBA and CI both provide effective tools for addressing these issues and thus contributing to development of Healthy Communities.

Resources on Collective Impact

Here are a few items that might interest you:

a) Workshop materials: Sylvia was kind enough to post the PowerPoint presentation, handouts as well as the suggested resources from the workshop here.

b) Collective Impact Forum: For more information about collective impact, I suggest you join the Collective Impact Forum, an initiative of FSG and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The website contains tools, training opportunities, and peer networks to assist practitioners to be successful in their work. Here are some of the resources available from the Forum:

Collective Impact in Neighborhood Revitalization
In this four-part blog series, community organizing and development expert Jim Capraro shares insights about how collective impact initiatives can engage with community members.

System Leadership and Collective Impact
In this podcast, Forum director Jennifer Splansky Juster talks with John Kania (FSG), about system leadership and how this leadership is imperative for collective impact efforts to achieve their goals.

How to Transform the Lives of Low-Income People through Collective Impact
The Integration Initiative (TII) began in 2010 with the promise of transforming the lives of low-income people and the communities in which they live in cities across the US. Living Cities recently released their evaluation of TII’s first three years, examining the successes achieved and the challenges faced by each participating city.

c) Peel Institute for Collective Impact - online tutorial series on articulating impact, designing a measurement plan, and implementing the plan.



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World Cancer Day – February 4 2015

Today is World Cancer Day, an annual campaign organized by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). This year the theme is "Not beyond us" and organizers are taking a positive and proactive approach to cancer. It is important to highlight the solutions and prevention measures that do exist and exciting new research. Empowering communities to make healthy choices is key to cancer prevention.

The World Health Organization is working to reduce the number of premature deaths by non-communicable diseases by 25% by 2025. They recommend the following:
• Don't smoke
• Be physically active
• Eat a healthy diet
• Limit alcohol intake
• Avoid sun, and use sun screen
• Breastfeed – to reduce the mothers risk
• Ensure your children get Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines
• Take part in cancer screening programs

At HC Link we focus on healthy communities – here are some great resources from HC Link and other health resource centres that can help communities be proactive about cancer prevention.

Getting Started with The Healthy Kids Strategy
This short resource provides an overview of the Ontario's Healthy Kids Strategy and highlights from HC Link's three-part webinar series on the Strategy. It also offers a snapshot of related resources and supports from HC Link and other organizations.

Addressing Alcohol Consumption and Alcohol-Related Harms at the Local Level
This report identifies evidence-based local level strategies to reduce alcohol consumption and related harms. Through the triangulation of literature, key informant interviews and public health unit surveys the project team has formulated 13 recommendations for local level action and six areas for advocacy in Ontario.

Community-based Strategies for Healthy Weight Promotion in Children and Youth
A summary of community-based strategies recommended to address childhood obesity. For each of the four main strategies is a review of the quality of evidence supporting its use. Readers can further explore the academic and grey literature referenced to help inform the development of local strategies.
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Thinking about Mental Health after Bell Let’s Talk Day 2015

Submitted by Monica Nunes of the CAMH Resource Centre
Most of us are becoming more and more familiar with the idea of mental illness as reflecting some kind of mental health issue. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) mental health is a positive concept that is distinct from mental illness. PHAC defines mental health as "the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face". Mental health is a multifaceted topic and making the distinction between mental health and mental illness is just one of the many potential discussions to have when it comes to our mental well-being. Yesterday was Bell Let's Talk Day; let's continue the conversation about mental health!
Not sure where to start or what to say about mental health? No need to worry, the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre has you covered! Check out our website for resources on mental health and mental health promotion. Our What is Mental Health postcard shares several different ways to talk about mental health.
Bellletstalk CAMH
You can join other conversations happening later this week. Several CAMH experts will be on TV and social media in celebration of Bell Let's Talk Day! Click here for more info.
If you want to share events happening this week across your organization and others, please share them in the comments section.
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Webinar Recap- How to Engage Francophones – when you don’t speak French!

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

For many people working in the areas of community-based planning, health promotion and healthy communities, we want to fully engage and work with all of the people who live, work and play in our community. When it comes to working with the Francophone community many feel that this can only be done if we are fluent in French. This week, Sylvie Boulet and I delivered a webinar, How to Engage Francophones- when you don't speak French, for the Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC). A wide variety of physical activity promoters in Ontario attended the session- 78% of whom spoke a little or no French.

There are many reasons why organizations and groups would want to engage with Francophone communities and deliver services in French. Sometimes these reasons are legal ones or have to do with funding mandates. Most importantly however is to consider that if we want our programs, services and initiatives to improve the health of our communities we must consider the health status and needs of Francophones. Franco-Ontarians tend to have lower levels of self-reported health and feel less a part of their communities than their Anglophone counterparts. Franco-Ontarians are also more likely to eat fewer fruits vegetables and more likely to smoke and drink alcohol. There is clear evidence that Francophones who receive information, supports and services in French follow advice and instructions more closely and have fewer follow-up visits and re-admissions.

The reasons for engaging Francophones and delivering services in French are clear, but HOW to do it, particularly if your organization lacks French capacity, is a bit fuzzier. In our webinar and companion resource we lay out three easy steps to engage Francophones regardless of your French capacity.

Step One: Examine Your Motives: be very clear about the purpose and objectives for your engagement strategy, and also have a plan in place for what you will do with the results. The Francophone community tends to be over consulted, and it's not always clear if/how the resulting data is used.

Step Two: Understand Francophone Contexts in Ontario, your community and your organization: understand the history and contexts of the community as well as the history of your organization's past engagement strategies. This history may have an impact (positive or negative) on relationships and results.

Step Three: Find people to work with: For many of us who don't have the capacity or comfort to work in French, this step is really key. Are there colleagues in your organization or networks that have the capacity to liaise with communities in French? Also investigate existing networks and initiatives that you could partner with. Take the time to establish a trust relationship with new partners as well as with the communities themselves.

Have you experienced successes or challenges in engaging Francophone communities in your work? Please leave us a comment and tell us about it!

View webinar slides

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We have refreshed our website!

We have been working hard on our website to offer you an enhanced experience, including:

An enhanced homepage

  • We have added more direct links to our top information and resources to make it easier to get to where you want to go – including all of our social media channels (icons at the top), requesting a service from us (right side bar), our most popular resources (right side bar), and joining our listservs (left side bar).

  • Our new slider is more visually appealing and functional.

  • We have added a 2-minute video to describe HC Link and our services.

Improved navigation

  • The EVENTS section of our website has been re-organized to make it easier to find upcoming events and materials from past events. Rather than having all of our events lumped together, they can now be searched separately by: webinars, peer-sharing and online discussions, conferences, and regional gatherings. An EVENTS landing page has been added to help you find where you need to go.

  • We have added a landing page for the RESOURCES section of our website to help you navigate through the various resources we offer, including: resource topics (new topics have been added and new resources are now showcased), our policy learning community, community storybank, blog, twitter and our listservs.

  • We have created a separate page for our Reports and News Digests under the ABOUT section of our website to make it easier to find what you are looking for.

In depth details and examples of the services we provide

  • The CONSULTING SERVICES section of our website has been completely re-done! When reviewing our website before the refresh, it became clear that we needed to better describe the consulting services we have to offer and provide some concrete examples of the work that we have done. Please visit the About Our Consulting Services page to learn more about our services and to read though our Q&A, which should answer any questions you have about what we can offer!

  • We have kept our Consultants page to allow you to browse through our listing of skilled consultants to learn more about their areas of expertise, and have added examples of consulting services we have recently done, and quotes from clients to share what others thought about our service. We have also taken the mystery out of how to request a consulting service from us and what to expect from us once you do request a service, by updating our Request A Service page.

  • We have added an infographic to showcase all of the ways that HC link can support community groups, organizations and partnerships to build healthy, vibrant communities across Ontario. You can check this out on the new WHAT WE DO page.
HC Link Continuum of services


New online platform for our Policy Learning Community

  • We recently changed platforms for our online policy learning community to provide a more interactive and user-friendly space for members to learn, share and exchange ideas related to building healthy public policy. This new platform offers a Discussion Forum to share ideas, tools, resources, research and upcoming events on variety of topics and emerging issues, a Policy Webwatch that scours the internet looking for policy-related items on news sites, social media, journals and organizations that work in policy, and offers two Think Tanks on food security & active transportation for dedicated discussion.
Learning Community


Visual Enhancements

  • We have a new page layout to allow more space for content (less scrolling!) and a bigger font size for easier reading.

  • We have added more images to our website - including photos, thumbnails, and infographics!


We hope you enjoy the changes we have made to our refreshed website! Feel free to leave comments on this blog about our website, or suggestions for how we can further enhance your online experience with us!

If you have any questions about these changes, please contact Kyley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Webinar Series Recap: Moving from Evidence to Action on Student Mental Health and Well-being

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Over 200 participants from across the province from the education, public health and policy sectors joined a two-part webinar series on November 10 and December 1 to hear about the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS). In addition to learning about the mental health and well-being results, participants explored how the data might be applied to programming, planning, and policy in health promotion and prevention.

The webinar series was co-hosted by the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre (HPRC) and Evidence Exchange Network (EENet).

In part one of this webinar series, Nandini Saxena, Manager of Knowledge Exchange, and Tamar Meyer, Supervisor, CAMH HPRC, looked at various long-term and current trends in student mental health and well-being. Participants then heard about some positive findings as well as areas of public health concern from OSDUHS researchers Dr. Bob Mann, Senior Scientist, Dr. Hayley Hamilton, Scientist, and Angela Boak, Research Coordinator, as well as Gloria Chaim, Deputy Clinical Director of the CAMH Child, Youth and Family Program. Dr. Ken Allison, from Public Health Ontario, was also on hand and spoke about the need to monitor both mental health and physical health trends in youth.

The second webinar focused on bringing the OSDUHS evidence into action.


Dr. Kathy Short, Director of School Mental Health ASSIST, and Allison Potts, Mental Health Leader of Durham District School Board, spoke about how the OSDUHS data helped them set directions for school-based mental health programming at the provincial and school board level.

Next, Nasreen Giga, Public Health Nurse, and Kathy Moran, Epidemiologist, both from the Durham Region Health Department, spoke about how the OSDUHS findings support their public health unit in monitoring health trends among youth. Knowing about these trends helps inform resiliency-based programming for children in their communities.

To view the recording and slides from this webinar series, please visit the following links:

Part 1 - Results Overview Recording | Slides
Part 2 - Evidence to Action Recording | Slides

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Webinar Recap - Health in All Policies: Ways to facilitate and model intersectoral collaboration

Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

This morning I co-presented a webinar with Kim Bergeron of Health Promotion Capacity Building at Public Health Ontario. We had a terrific crowd join us to talk about the importance of working intersectorally in a Health in All Policies approach.

I was excited about this topic for three reasons. Firstly it was great to work with Kim on this! Secondly, I think that the Health in All Policies approach is critical when we're looking at building healthy communities. So many of the policies that affect health lay outside of the health sector: everything from economic development, housing, transportation, education and many others impact the health of citizens and communities. Thirdly, it's for this very reason that we must work intersectorally: we must engage with the sectors outside of health who affect the policies that impact health.

Kim and I have been working in the areas of policy development and intersectoral collaboration for many years. When we started talking about some of the ways that facilitate this kind of collaboration, we decided to put them into a bit of a process or framework.


This isn't exactly a step-by-step process or map, rather it's a collection of the things that we've found to be important when working collaboratively. First of all, it's vital to get folks around the same table – whether it's a new or existing table, a real one or virtual one- just having everyone together creates opportunities for dialogue, synergy and collaboration. Using the Stakeholder Wheel can be helpful to identify who to bring to the table and in what capacity. In the course of those dialogues, develop a collective understanding of the problem or issue you are trying to address and potential solutions. From that, create a vision or goal statement capturing what you want to happen as a result of working together: what is the change that you want to see? I really like the exercise "1-2-4-all" from Liberating Structures as a way to create a collective vision. Creating a document to capture your collective understanding, vision, roles and responsibilities and scope of the project is an important way to ensure that all partners are on the same page and have committed to the project. A Terms of Reference or project charter can help. Tailoring key messages for particular audiences, including "what, so what, now what" and the actions that you want them to take is also important.

I'd love to hear your experiences of working intersectorally in the area of policy! What worked well for you? Did you experience challenges? What happened as a result of your collaboration? Use the comment box below to share your stories.


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CKX challenge: 75 minutes to address a large-scale, complex social issue

By Gillian Kranias, HC Link

I recently participated in a hands-on learning experience that was totally unrealistic—and hugely valuable. Staff from the MaRS Solutions Lab led me and other curious participants through a series of collaborative dialogue and deliberation activities. This was all happening within the context of the Community Knowledge Exchange (CKX) Summit held in Toronto last month. I wanted to learn about the MaRS approach to partnerships for complex community change, since this is a common focus of my work at Health Nexus work and HC Link.

MaRS #CKX Solutions Lab: Systems Mapping on Youth Employment

Food, housing or youth employment—take your pick!

Each 75-minute session was built on the work of participants from the previous session. The activities were:

  1. Understanding Complexity (systems mapping)
  2. Designing and Prototyping for Change*
  3. Scaling for Change
  4. Scaling Deep - on Youth Employment
  5. Building Partnerships - for Youth Employment

*Note: Although I participated in both sessions #2 and #4, this blog describes my experience in #2— Designing and Prototyping for Change.

The Journey Map

mars2What drew me to the MaRS approach was the mapping – starting with large empty "journey map" diagrams and then mapping our thoughts and ideas onto them with stickies. This process generated dynamic conversations and the maps became a common visual reference for collaborative decisions. However, given this was a mock session our decision-making was rushed and perhaps artificially smooth since people did not press their viewpoints.

MaRS staff kept reminding us that the activities we were attempting to complete really take anywhere from several days to several months. That mantra of partnerships for complex change emerged over and over again: effective efforts take time.

Our chosen challenge: design and prototype for changes in food security systems

I sat down at one of the Food Security tables. Ryan, the warm-mannered MaRS staff facilitating our table, explained the systems maps on the walls around us that had been created by the previous session tables (see example above). After we had introduced ourselves, we rapidly set to task.


  • On blank stickies, we were asked to individually brainstorm ideas for interventions to address the key challenges highlighted on our Food Security system map.

  • Using a Fast Idea Generator worksheet, we then expanded on our favorite idea. First we were invited to elaborate: Who is the actor? Who is the subject? What is being done? How is it being done (quality)?... Next we went on to stretch our idea following a list of prompts that encouraged us to explore, play and invent through: inversion, exaggeration, extension, replacement, addition, differentiation, and integration. Finally we had to rewrite our idea in a maximum of 150 words.

  • The DFVI Analysis tool helped us each evaluate our intervention to address:
    • Desirability: what problem is being solved for the individual user?
    • Feasibility: what do you need to make the idea happen?
    • Viability: what opportunities can it make use of? Or what barriers will it face?
    • Impact: what potential impact will the intervention have over time?
  • The pitch process helped us share our ideas to our table members. After which we were instructed to collectively pick one idea that would move forward (i.e. for further evolution in the following session).

  • The choice came next. I am not sure we succeeded in selecting one. We joked about our unwillingness to "choose one". And I wondered about a proposal none of us had put forth: why not first fund a network coordination position to support diverse initiatives, each tackling the complexity of food security from their own interdependent vantage point? It was probably better we didn't make any decision, since our mock partnership did not include people representing a lived-experience perspective (i.e. someone living with food insecurity).

What I learned

Overall, this session was highly engaging, and I took home those stimulating questions for a future opportunity (a real one, with more time). It was noted by a colleague that the process relied heavily on individual writing, and that this could pose some inclusion problems. A real-time application of this approach could include the use of visuals and pair/small group discussions in the development of ideas to support effective collaboration among partners with different styles and approaches.

For further reading, here are the six "design principles" of the MaRS Solutions Lab approach:

  1. Start with the citizen, look at the system
  2. Create solutions with users and stakeholders, not just for them
  3. Look for the smallest possible intervention with the largest possible impact
  4. Always work towards scale, but start small and learn
  5. No action without reflection, no reflection without action
  6. Work to diagnose problems, galvanize change and deliver real improvements

Photos are from


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CKX got me thinking out of the data box

By Suzanne Schwenger, HC Link

Last month, I attended a great conference focused on community knowledge exchange—called the CKX Summit. It was a very energizing experience, and helped me to think differently about how data can be used to support community change.

I wanted to share a few of my key takeaways with you, as I believe many of them could be of interest to all of us.

5 highlights:

  1. Wellbeing Toronto Map- is an amazing map of Toronto's neighbourhoods with indicators on topics ranging from crime to education to the environment.

  2. Use design principles for social innovation- from the plenary with Joeri van den Steenhoven, Director of the MaRS Solutions Lab. These include working 'back to the future', and making sure that there is no action without reflection.

  3. Let's move beyond pilots to create prototypes—which move to scale. We practiced prototyping ideas for youth employment at the CKX Solutions Lab.

  4. Personal storytelling is a powerful force for community change—from session with Jenna Tenn-Yuk, conference story-teller in residence.

  5. Canadian cities have a huge untapped food source—thousands of edible fruit and nut trees! —from the jam session with Hidden Harvest Ottawa.

You can view images of the summit online here:

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Today is World AIDS Day, the day the world shows solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS

By Andrea Zeelie-Varga, Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR)

World AIDS Day is held on December 1st each year – it was first celebrated in 1988 and was the first ever global health day. The past few years have focused on the theme Getting To Zero: zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.


We've made incredible strides in the fight against HIV. But it is not over, not yet. There is still no vaccine and no cure, and people living with HIV still face discrimination.

Canada is one of a handful of countries with the intellectual capital, infrastructure, and resources to make a significant difference in the fight against HIV and AIDS. The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) is Canada's only independent charitable foundation dedicated to eliminating AIDS through research. Notable breakthroughs by CANFAR-funded researchers include a key component of the drug treatment that is keeping many people alive today, and findings that have nearly eliminated the risk of HIV transmission between a mother and her baby.

CANFAR's tech-savvy, youth-friendly campaign Kisses 4 CANFAR aims to help young Canadians tackle misconceptions about the disease. Kisses 4 CANFAR is a national movement that creates an ongoing dialogue about HIV and AIDS, prevention, and stigma reduction.

CANFAR is encouraging people to take a pledge and make a personal commitment to kissing HIV and AIDS goodbye!

The pledge card is formatted for the most popular social media platforms (Facebook., Twitter and Instagram) and is also available in a print-ready format. Pledges are shared online with #kisses4CANFAR and #WAD2014 (and also for #GivingTuesday2014!)


Join us and visit to make your promise this World AIDS Day.

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Parent Action on Drugs (PAD) presents at the 2014 Children Mental Health Ontario Conference

By Seher Shafiq, Parent Action on Drugs

On November 25th, PAD attended the 2014 Children Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) conference titled "Getting it Right for Kids and Families" at the Marriot Hotel in Toronto. I attended on behalf of PAD, and we had a poster presentation on display titled Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth: Engaging Diverse Youth in a Family-Based, Skills-Building Approach. I got there bright and early for 7:30am, and before the conference started was able to chat with many delegates about our best-practice program for at-risk teens aged 12-16. You can learn more about our SFPY program at

CMHO Seher Nov 25

After the conference breakfast and poster presentations, the day opened with a speech by Mr. Aryeh Gitterman, Assistant Deputy Minister for Policy Development and Program Design at the Ministry for Children and Youth Services. Gitterman emphasized the importance of "shared responsibility", as well as collaboration at the local level. Recognizing that a lack of knowledge and lack of planning is a hurdle, he suggested that lead agencies should reach out to the LIHNs, as the two have a common objective and work together. Gitterman discussed the education system at length, stating that all 72 school boards in Ontario have a superintendent with responsibility for mental health, a mental health leader, and mental health teams. He noted that school boards now have a Mental Health Strategy and Action Plan in place, which is a big change from the past. Gitterman also touched on data, measurement and public reporting about performance indicators, stating that the public should know how the system is working.

After Gitterman's speech, I attended the morning session on youth engagement titled How to Give Youth an Opportunity to Speak Up, Speak Out! We talked quite a bit about the National Youth Advisory Committee – a group of 110 youth aged 12-24 from across Canada, who work on their own projects while also playing an advisory role for projects within and outside CAMH. The discussion focused around how to best engage youth and make them feel comfortable and welcome while doing so. We discussed that accountability means many things: being accountable to the process, letting youth know how their input will be used, encouraging diverse voices, and allocating money and staff into youth engagement. Integrity was also discussed as being key to youth engagement, and organizations should not just participate in youth engagement to "check the box"; they should do it wholeheartedly or not at all. We also touched on the importance of trust and respect, and talked about concrete ways to engage youth effectively: have food and incentives that youth will like, have more youth than adults in the room, support conversations rather than directing them, and ensure that the environment is comfortable, flexible and accessible. The best part about this session was the play-doh, pipe cleaners and pom poms on each table that participants were encouraged to play with!

play dough

After a healthy lunch and great keynote about mental illness and stigma by Professor Patrick Corrigan of the Illinois Institute of Technology, I headed over to another session on youth engagement titled Youth-Adult Partnerships: Working Together to Achieve Desired Outcomes and Impact System Change. A youth-adult partnership (YAP) is a relationship between adults and youth that focuses on joint work, common values, shared power and works on collective issues. The principles of a YAP include authentic decision-making (active participation of youth), community connectedness (increases community engagement, fosters relationships), natural mentorship (support without taking over), reciprocal activity (everyone is a teacher and student). The session discussed how youth can join an organization, as well as the challenges and solutions associated with YAPs. We ended with a short workshop where we discussed in groups what our organizations are currently doing to engage youth, and what we hope to do in the future.


The conference closed with a panel discussion and another engaging workshop. Overall, it was a great day!

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Webinar Recap: Taking a bite out of HEAL policies

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

This week we held the fourth-and last- webinar in our policy development webinar series. A group of very enthusiastic folks from Ottawa joined us to talk about their experience in implementing Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) guidelines in municipal daycare centres from start to finish: Helen Parker and Ellen Lakusiak from Ottawa Public Health, Ginette Perron from the City of Ottawa, and Fadi Chouhaibar, chef from Centre Educatif Beausoleil.

The impetus for the HEAL guidelines came from the municipality: they approached Ottawa Public Health for their support in developing and implementing the guidelines. The guidelines were developed under the guidance of a multi-disciplinary advisory committee informed by a literature review. The guidelines were then implemented in municipal daycare centres.

Often times, I think that we put a lot of energy into the development stage of policy development: identifying the policy issue, building community and stakeholder support, identifying policy options. This webinar focussed on the implementation of the guidelines: staff from Ottawa Public Health were seconded to provide support to daycare centres; a variety of training and sharing opportunities were held; parent engagement strategies used to garner support; a comprehensive evaluation plan identified changes made as a result of the policy; a sustainability plan was developed. It reminded me that getting a policy developed and adopted isn't the goal: getting it implemented is.

The presenters identified three main drivers for the successful implementation of the HEAL guidelines:

  1. The partnership between the municipality and public health: the municipality approached public health and asked for their participation in developing and implementing HEAL guidelines. Support for the guidelines within the child care centres was already there.
  2. Parents: a cornerstone of the implementation of the HEAL guidelines was open communication and sharing with parents through newsletters and conversations. Parents became engaged in what was happening at their child's centre: asking for recipes, sending in photos of their kids being active at home etc.
  3. Political will

The HEAL guidelines have been successfully implemented in all municipal child care centres in Ottawa. Next, Ottawa Public Health hopes to implement the guidelines in community centres and has their eye on home-based centres as well!

To learn more, check out the recording and slides from this webinar.

Review resources from previous policy development webinars.

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