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.

Have THAT Talk! Ottawa Public Health’s New Campaign Helps Parents Talk Mental Health

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Parenting and family life play a pivotal role in the health and well-being of children and youth. In some cases, combined with other determinants of health, families can increase the risk that leads to childhood mental health problems or unhealthy behaviors. On the other hand, parents, caregivers and families can also promote the protective factors that buffer children from risk and increase their resiliency to bounce back from difficult situations.

Research shows that the protective factors that parents and families can facilitate might include, among others, developing positive attachment between parents and children, providing age appropriate supervision and monitoring, promoting mutual respect of all family members and encouraging open communication.

When it comes to communication in families, there can be some topics that parents and caregivers are eager to broach with their children but they may not know where to begin. Mental health and mental illness might be one of those topics. To support parents in having these conversations, on January 28th during Bell Let's Talk Day, Ottawa Public Health launched a new campaign that calls on families to Have That Talk. The campaign includes a video series designed to answer common questions parents have about their child's mental health.

The video series, available in both English and French, comprises of four parts with each part responding to several questions on a related topic. The videos provide information relevant to parents who have a child that is stressed, depressed or suicidal. Content in the video is shared by professionals with expertise on a given topic such as a public health nurse. Overall, the goal of the campaign is to give parents the knowledge and resources they need to talk about mental health with their child or teen. Not only is knowledge power, but when it comes to informing some discussions parents have with their children it may even be lifesaving.


If you're interested in learning more, please visit the campaign website at: and You may also direct specific questions or comments to Ottawa Public Health through Benjamin Leikin, Supervisor, Mental Health and Youth Section at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Finally, if you'd like to share other helpful resources that can assist parents, families and caregivers in addressing mental health in their children and teens, feel free to post them in the comments section of this blog post!

2129 Hits

Webinar recap: Family-based Approaches for Building Resiliency in Children and Youth

By Andrea Zeelie-Varga, Parent Action on Drugs

What does a resilient family mean to you?

Participants on our January 29th webinar told us:

A resilient family is...

  • a family that communicates in a healthy manner
  • a family who is able to support each other in healthy development
  • supportive; connected; able to share feelings; able to try new things and take risks
  • respectful of each other
  • having healthy coping skills in difficult situations
  • ability to adapt and cope with hurdles
  • connected and supported
  • having positive behaviours that help to resist "risky" behaviours
  • ability to adapt to changes
  • flexible

The webinar was the first in our online series Family-based Approaches for Building Resiliency in Children and Youth.

Barbara Steep, an equity and engagement lead in the GTA Region Office at CAMH, kicked off the webinar with an introduction and definition of family-based/ family skills programming.  Monica Nunes, a research analyst at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health within the MOHLTC-funded CAMH, provided an overview of the evidence base for this type of work and reviewed best practices and guidelines. Learn more about what Monica had to say in the resource list below. Diane Buhler, executive director of Parent Action on Drugs, gave an introduction to best practices guidelines for family skills programs, peppered with program examples.

We also held a discussion with participants to hear about their experiences with family-based programs.

To learn more about the webinar, check out the resources below:

The series continues with two more events!

  • An interactive twitter chat (#resilientfamilies) will be hosted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. to facilitate continued discussion. Follow @HC_Link and @PAD_Ontario for more information.

  • Part 2 of the series Learning from the Field will take place Wednesday, February 19, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. This last webinar of the series will feature community partners who currently deliver family-based programming. A panel of practitioners will identify successes as well as lessons learned, while reflecting on the evidence in this area of practice. The session will provide substantial opportunities for discussion with webinar participants.
1857 Hits

The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care announces new initiative in response to the Healthy Kids Panel

HC Link is excited to learn of the new initiative launched by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC), The Healthy Kids Community Challenge, to support the priority of Healthy Active Communities within the Ontario Healthy Kids Strategy. This program aligns very closely with HC Link's values and priorities; at the core, this program is about collaborating through partnerships, creating healthy communities (and in turn, children), and supporting health equity. What is particularly unique about this program is that the municipal government is the lead organization, a wide range of partners must be involved and a community champion must be identified. Read on to learn more about this opportunity.

HealthyKidsPicImage from:

The Healthy Kids Community Challenge at a Glance

This is a community-led program, under the leadership of municipalities and coordination of the province, where partners from different sectors (e.g. public health, education, recreation, local business) work together to implement activities to promote healthy weights for kids. Program activities will be based on a specific theme (selected by the MOHLTC every 9 months based on best evidence of risk and protective factors) that is related to healthy eating, physical activity and adequate sleep (e.g. eating a healthy breakfast, active transportation, etc.).

For more information on this program and how you can apply (note – deadline is March 14, 2014), you can visit the MOHLTC website or read the Background and Guidelines to the Healthy Kids Community Challenge.

HC Link encourages you to look at this important program and think about the role that you can play to make this initiative a success. We look forward to supporting communities in meeting this challenge.

3679 Hits

Celebrate Bell Let's Talk Day!

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Most of us are becoming more and more familiar with the idea of mental illness as reflecting some kind of problematic mental state. But have you thought recently about how mental health is something that affects us every day even if we aren't dealing with a mental illness? 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. Fortunately, today is Bell Let's Talk Day and it provides the perfect opportunity to start a conversation about mental health!

Across the country today, people will be using their phones and social media accounts to raise money and their voices to make a statement about the importance of mental health. So don't be shy! Sending a text message, making a mobile long distance call and tweeting #BellLetsTalk will all have an impact.

Not sure where to start or what to say? Here are some online events happening today to get you in the loop:

Follow CAMH in the Media

Various CAMH experts will be on TV and on social media throughout the day in celebration of Bell Let's Talk Day! On Toronto's CP24, CAMH clinical psychologist, Dr Katy Kamkar will talk about the signs of stress and how to manage it. You can also follow CAMH on Twitter @CAMHNews and @endstigma today for related updates. Click here for more info.

Mobilizing Minds and mindyourmind host #YAMH Young Adult Mental Health Twitter Chat

From 1 -2 PM EST today join the #YAMH Tweet Chat! The topic of the day is "Reaching our audience: How to get depression tools into the hands of people who need them". The chat will include youth, professionals and advocates who are interested and passionate about getting tools to the people who need them. To participate: Create a free Twitter account and go to Simply enter the hashtag (#YAMH).

Ontario Shores #MindVine Launch and Twitter Chat

Join Ontario Shores in launching #MindVine, a new social media section on From 12:30 – 1:30 PM today, Stella Ducklow, mental health advocate and star of the adolescent teen documentary Three Voices, will help to launch #MindVine. Use the hashtag #MindVine to ask Stella a question via Twitter.

1380 Hits

Learnings from HC Link’s 2013 Conference: A Participant's Perspective

By: Zanita Lukezich, Evergreen

Attending HC Link's 2013 Conference, Collaborating for Change in November here in Toronto was a great opportunity to learn about new approaches in the field of community health promotion. It provided direct connections to our work here at Evergreen, with our outreach and partnership building programs for vulnerable and under-served communities.

The workshop that resonated most strongly with me was the session entitled, Turning Around Albert: One year towards a healthy public housing building, facilitated by Carol Zoulalian and Helen Cheung from Houselink Community Homes and Gautam Mukherjee from the Fred Victor Centre. They introduced the various inter-related issues that the residents face, living in Toronto's downtown eastside. From mental illness and social isolation to extreme poverty and vulnerability to crime, this community is on the periphery of our society. It is incredibly easy for residents of this community housing building to fall through the cracks, get evicted, and be one more person living on the streets.

turning around albert(Carol Zoulalian, Helen Cheung from Houselink and Gautam Mukherjee from the Fred Victor Centre)

They detailed the collaborative and inclusive approach to addressing these issues with the residents, and how good communication and having the same goals for the partners which included: a public housing landlord, supportive housing provider, community developer, a primary health care provider, and police services, can lead to a huge success for the entire community. They approach these complex issues with an 'eviction prevention' mindset and try to have the staff seen as champions of the tenants' well-being.

We know from the Social Determinants of Health that secure housing is a priority in order to provide safety and stability to individuals. Moreover, housing is the foundation on which an individual can build independence. It was inspiring to see the comprehensive, one-on-one support that was offered to residents who were suffering with addictions and mental health issues. The end result of this unique collaboration was better access to primary care opportunities for residents who often go without these fundamental services. Funded by the Toronto Central LHIN, this pilot project showcased that a community can be strengthened from within with the proper support.

This work taps into the potential within each person living in community housing, and recognizes the basic goodness therein. The transformation that took place at this address was groundbreaking, and it was a pleasure to see the dedication and commitment that these organizations utilized to reduce social isolation and ensure the success of this project.

This blog post was written by Zanita Lukezich, Senior Manager, National Programs for Evergreen. Evergreen is a national not-for-profit that inspires action to green cities.

All presentation slides and video recordings from HC Link's 2013 conference are posted in the Event Archive section of the HC Link website.

1913 Hits

HC Link’s Exclusive Interview with Tonya Surman on Becoming Innovative and Staying Motivated

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

Tonya Surman, Founder and CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation, sat down to chat with us about social innovation at our 2013 conference- Linking for Healthy Communities: Collaborating for Change. In this short interview Tonya provides tips for organizations looking to become more innovative and reveals her secret to staying motivated.

In this interview Tonya asserts that creating safe, dedicated spaces for people to think outside of the box is critical for organizations looking to become more innovative. Also, on an individual level, becoming aware of how to NOT create your own mental blocks is important. When Tonya is asked about how realistic it is to create this time, when we are already so busy at work, Tonya replies "Everybody has the same time. It is not about time, it is about priority." People will find the time if they are motivated, and people will be motivated if the threat or opportunity is great enough. It is the role of the Community Animator to look for larger patterns and position issues as threats or opportunities to weave together social capital and motivate others to dedicate their time.

And on staying motivated? Well, small wins are hugely important. Oftentimes, we want to change the whole world now, but it is important to take on projects that are small enough to achieve in a reasonable amount of time, as this allows you to build trust and a track record in your community, which will allow you to take on more in the future.

We want to thank Tonya Surman for sharing her time, wisdom and ideas with us. For more on Tonya, please check out the presentation she gave at our 2013 conference:

"It's Up to Us: Collaboration, Social Innovation and our role as Community Animator"

1899 Hits


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

ONCAThe Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA) is an important piece of legislation that will affect every not-for-profit organization in Ontario. Rather than seeing it as a cumbersome corporate responsibility, the Board of Directors of the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition is using it catalyst to examine how its governance structure can further its mission.

From the ONCA Basics webinar, hosted by HC Link on November 19, 2013, and presented by Brenda Doner, Manager of the Get Ready for the ONCA Project of Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO), we learned that ONCA (Bill 65) was passed in 2010, but has not yet been proclaimed. It is expected to be proclaimed in 2014, following passage of a technical amendments bill. The government has guaranteed that ONCA will not take effect until 6 months after it has been proclaimed, and that there will be a three-year transition period so that organizations will have until 2017 to comply with the new regulations.

The purpose of ONCA is to modernize the law that governs how nonprofit organizations operate. ONCA will make it simpler for organizations to incorporate as not-for-profits and will ensure greater transparency and accountability in how they are run. When ONCA comes into effect, it will:

  •  Make it easier and quicker to incorporate a not-for-profit organization
  • Provide clearer rules for governing a corporation and increase accountability
  • Clarify that not-for-profit corporations can engage in commercial activities if the activities support the corporation's not-for-profit purposes
  • Ease audit requirements for smaller corporations
  • Enhance member's rights

General information about ONCA is available from the Ministry of Consumer Services. The Ministry also publishes a checklist for existing non-profits, to help them get ready to comply with the new legislation. CLEO has been funded by the Ministry of Consumer Services to provide educational tools and workshops to further assist organizations to respond effectively. Their website provides:

  • background on the ONCA in plain English
  • helpful planning and work tools
  • webinars and other educational events
  • links to other resources

After viewing the webinar, there seems to be little of concern in ONCA for OHCC, but we have embraced this opportunity to re-examine our governance policies, structures and corporate affairs. We have struck a governance committee, comprised of 6 board members, who will study the ONCA, develop a plan for a comprehensive review and engage all board and staff members in the process. From our Letters Patent to membership classes to our organizational structure - all will be scrutinized to ensure that our organization meets all regulatory requirements, and is efficient, effective and reflective of our members' wishes. Embarking on this journey has energized the board and we are all looking forward to some stimulating debates.

1782 Hits

New Drug Use Data for Ontario Students: Smoking, Binge Drinking and Driving after Cannabis Use are Areas of Concerns

New Drug Use Data for Ontario Students: Smoking, Binge Drinking and Driving after Cannabis Use are Areas of Concerns

Submitted by Linda Yoo and Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Understanding health needs is essential for shaping programming and policy making in public health and health promotion. For some time the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), the longest ongoing school survey of adolescents in Canada, has provided data to describe student health needs in the area of drug use and guide substance misuse prevention across Ontario. This week, the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre was in attendance for the release of findings of the OSDUHS's Drug Use among Ontario Students report. At this launch, the OSDUHS research team highlighted overall student drug use trends, several positive findings, and findings of public health concern. In addition to reviewing these highlights below, you can also read the full report online.

Overall student drug use trends

  1. No drug monitored showed significant increase in use compared to the 2011 OSDUHS results.
  2. Three drug use measures showed decreases between 2011 and 2013:
    • Alcohol fell from 55% in 2011 to 50% in 2013
    • High-caffeine energy drinks fell from 50% in 2011 to 40% in 2013
    • Inhalants use fell from 6% in 2011 to 3% in 2013
  3. Alcohol remains the most common drug used by students in the past year.
  4. OSDUHS has begun tracking two new synthetic drugs.
    • The OSDUHS research team began tracking 2 new synthetics drugs, synthetic cannabis (aka K2 or spice) and Methoxetamine (aka "MXE" or mket"), in addition to the synthetic substances mephedrone ("bath salts") and BZP (benzylpiperazine pills) that were tracked in 2011.
    • Although use of the latter three substances is minimal, synthetic cannabis has been used by 2%, or about 17 300 students in the past year which suggests a need for monitoring given the adverse of effects of synthetic cannabis.

Positive Findings

  1. In addition to the steady decrease in alcohol use, driving after drinking is on a downward trend.
  2. Illicit drug use is also on a downward trend for substances such as cannabis, hallucinogens, cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, and so on.
  3. Prevention programs which aim to delay initiation of substance use have shown progress. For example, students today use substances starting at an older age.

Public Health Concerns

  1. A significant number of students are still smoking or using tobacco.
    • 1 in 10, or about 83,000, students report smoking in the past year.
    • 10%, or about 88 400 students in Ontario, report the use of a waterpipe (hookah) in the past year.
  2. Students that drink alcohol are drinking in hazardous ways as shown by the increase in binge drinking.
    • One if five students reported binge drinking at least once during the month before the survey. This is a concern given the increased number of injuries associated with binge drinking and other related problems.
  3. More students are driving after cannabis use than after drinking alcohol.
    • 1 in 10 students report driving a vehicle within one hour of using cannabis at least once in the past year.
  4. Over-the-counter medications are the only drug that shows an increase in use since 1999.
    • 10% of students (about 94 100 students) reported using over-the-counter medications to get high in the past year.
    • The majority of students obtain the drug from someone at home.
  5. Nonmedical use of prescription opioid pain relievers remain an area of concern.
    • 12% of students (about 120 100 students in Ontario) report using a prescription opioid pain reliever nonmedically in the past year.

In the New Year, the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre will be hosting a webinar on how data is used to inform mental health and substance use related health promotion programming. As part of the webinar, the use of OSDUHS data will be highlighted with examples from the field of public health. Stay tuned for details!

2566 Hits

“Our world is a better place for having had a Nelson Mandela” Remembering the life of Madiba

“Our world is a better place for having had a Nelson Mandela” Remembering the life of Madiba

Previously on the HC Link blog, we've reflected on Mandela's legacy.

Today in acknowledgement of his passing, we share two pieces of writing that capture Mandela's spirit and honour his life.

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika.

1302 Hits

The World Is Your Co-Op

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

I heard the most amazing speaker today. He also happens to have the most awesome job title I've ever heard: Community Choreographer.

I'm talking about Dave Meslin, and he was the community choreographer for the Nutrition Resource Centre (NRC)'s workshop on food policy.

Now I love policy. I aspire to be a true policy wonk one day. The thought of sitting around all day talking about policy gets me pretty excited. But what the workshop was really about for me was empowerment. It was about the opportunities that we, as folks who work in non-profits and in the health promotion and healthy communities sectors, have to give a voice to people who don't always have one.

Now that gets me even MORE excited than policy does. As Dave says, we would live in a better world if people had a voice.

In my sector- health promotion and healthy communities- we talk about bad policy a lot. We talk about it in the context of policy that's not informed by evidence (or contradicts evidence), about policies that create or support health inequities etc. Dave argues that bad policy comes from a vacuum of non-engagement. When the people affected by the policy are not involved in the process, bad policy is the result. When only industry and political interests form policy, bad policy is the result. The community voice provides a balance, and provides the best ideas of how to make the issue or situation better.

And the even bigger problem, how do we get people to the table? How do you get your message out there? Dave suggested being creative. And maybe a little crazy. For instance, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first pedestrian death due to a motorized vehicle, activists obtained a car and buried it. Literally dug a hole, put the car in it and held a funeral. To bring attention to the 1700 deaths in Toronto associated with smog, activists collected 1700 posters done be people affected by smog, printed them on coloured paper and installed them- like an art installation- on clotheslines in a local park. And in both of those cases, there was a LOT of media presence. The media, Dave says, needs us more than we need them. They need content. We need to give them content in innovative ways (preferably that includes photo ops) that they'll pick up.There are, Dave says, no rules to communications. Except that you should break all of the rules.

There are, Dave says, four steps in journeying citizens from their passive roles to more active ones. Citizens need confidence: that their opinion matters, that they can create change. They need tools: a diagram to be shown how policy and politics works. They need to believe in malleability: that change is possible. And they need to be part of the collective ownership that is this work. The world, Dave says, is a co-op, and everyone is a shareholder.

I could have listened to Dave Meslin's stories about activism and engagement and crazy ideas ALL day. And I hope to have another opportunity to do so very soon!

1952 Hits

HEIA part of broad health equity efforts, past and present.

By Gillian Kranias, HC Link

My work in healthy community projects has always been driven by a passion for equity. Through community collaborations, we work for change to transform the living situations of equity-seeking groups (to which we sometimes do/sometimes don't belong) for the benefit of all. At the local level, we draw links and we ask important equity questions, like "What differences among community members might cause some folks to be negatively impacted (or not reached) by our organizing, our actions and our programs? What steps can we take to remedy this?" Often enough, we make positive progress. But at the system-level (policies and large-scale services) change is harder to impact. Still, we stay committed and hope for more.

On a very hopeful day last week (November 26th) some fifty people gathered in a room at CAMH - with thirty others connected online - for an event titled: Realizing the Potential of Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA). The HEIA tool, developed by the province, is "a decision support tool which walks users through the steps of identifying how a program, policy or similar initiative will impact population groups in different ways." Among the presenters, not all spoke to the ministry's tool – there are other tools out there too. All of the tools hold a promise to enhance our efforts to advance equity through policy and service changes.

Here are some of the goodies I gained from the various presenters:

  • Ayasha Mayr Handel commented that taking a health equity focus can tap into a positive place for everyone.
  • Dr. Ketan Shankardass' research reveals that the use of health equity tools is making an impact in places where the tools are either mandated, or resourced (i.e. where a capacity building team supports implementation) ...wouldn't it be best to have both!
  • Erika Hanley highlighted that "understanding the culture of poverty" is a key competency for staff and teams implementing the HEIA tool. Her team in Simcoe-Muskoka used the Sudbury District Health Unit's video and resources Let's Start a Conversation About Health . . . and Not Talk About Health Care at All. And they are now creating a panel of folks with lived experience to assist in guiding and facilitating their HEIA work.
  • Dr. Corey Neudorf and his team at the Saskatoon Health Region decided to lead by example. Looking at glaring health disparities in local data, they are pressing departments to answer "what are we doing now?" and "what could we do better?" Their key message is: let's provide equal service for equal need.
  • Cynthia Damba noted that The Hospital for Sick Kids has an online learning module on Social Determinants of Health and Health Equity. I checked this out, and it's great; it emphasizes "asking the right questions" and guides health care providers to make the links, and to use their privilege to take action on health equity issues.
  • Karen O'Connor of the CMHA shared some of her organization's experiences using the HEIA tool and talked about the need for both top down AND bottom up action. She found the HEIA tool helped build transparency and intention.

Half way through the afternoon, a speaker from the floor representing a [mental health services] consumer group patiently appealed to the presenters asking "how can we reduce the gap between the talk about HEIA and related tools, and the work of groups [like ours] in the community". This contribution brought thoughtful commentary from the speakers, and sparked some dynamic insights during participant dialogues at the end of the session. Such as:

  • We need ground rules (e.g. "nothing about us without us") when we use these tools. Budget commitments need to support such ground rules.
  • It's important to acknowledge the work of those before us; this work is not new. History and context is important.
  • When we use the term "knowledge" in place of "evidence", it is easier to include people's lived experiences and qualitative data as contributing sources towards "knowledge-informed practice".
  • Organizational culture and providers need to break down the "us vs. them" dichotomy. To support this, participant dialogues referenced both the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion and Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

This afternoon of learning and exchange was an event of the HEIA Community of Interest and Health Nexus was one of the co-hosts. I really appreciated all the efforts of the organizers and enjoyed meeting new people, as well as seeing a some familiar faces from our HC Link community.


This afternoon of learning and exchange was an event of the HEIA Community of Interest  and Health Nexus was one of the co-hosts. I really appreciated all the efforts of the organizers and enjoyed meeting new people, as well as seeing a some familiar faces from our HC Link community.

3240 Hits

Building a case for Workplace Health & Wellness

By: Sara-Jane Linton

Educating employers on the importance of Workplace Health & Wellness initiatives is a passion for Sara-Jane. She actively researches and studies psychosocial issues and its impact on employee holistic (mind, body, emotional) health. Sara-Jane has extensive work experience as a Human Resources Professional working for both public and private sector.

Making the case:

The demand for workplace health & wellness has steadily grown over the years and employers have begun to recognize the need to invest into employee health and well-being. Implementation of Workplace Health & Wellness programs helps employers contain costs associated with employee health issues pertaining to mental, physical, emotional well-being and also educates employees on ways to incorporate sustainable health practices into their daily lives, developing a better sense of work life balance.

When building a case for workplace health & wellness programs employers must recognize the effect of daily stressors and multiple demands of family obligations and responsibilities of work employees face. Employees find themselves multi-tasking between the two resulting negatively on their health and quality of job performance. In addition to physical health a comprehensive workplace wellness program considers psychological safety factors such as office bullying and other forms of toxic work environments. Employers are beginning to understand legal liability of not providing psychological safe working environments and when implemented properly a workplace health & wellness program practices due diligence and encompasses both physical and emotional health critical to employee performance and productivity at work.

Workplace health & wellness programs demonstrate organizational commitment for the health and well-being of its employees, recognizing them to be the most valuable asset and positions the organization as socially responsible. An organization that invests money and time into the holistic health of its workforce reduces turnover, retains existing employees and makes itself very attractive to new talent as potential hires.

How to build:

A case for workplace health & wellness programs begins with employer and employees receiving the necessary tools needed to combat daily life stressors while enhancing a work life balance. The onus for better health within the organization belongs to both employers and employees and is not the sole responsibility of the workplace health & wellness program. Making better health practices a priority and aligning to the business strategy of the organization is a major step in building a case for workplace health & wellness program.

Employee surveys and questionnaires provides the opportunity to give opinions and shed light on what they believe to be underlying health issues systemic within the organization. This will help to identify, define and measure primary health risk factors and establish targets on how to address health issues. Employee involvement before, during and after the implementation of a workplace health & wellness program is critical as it allows them to act as subject matter experts placing them into the role of advisory ensuring health concerns and access to the program encompasses the entire organization. Obtaining feedback of the wellness program, what works or needs improvement, keeps employees engaged and ensures the program remains the active responsibility of employees and does not become dormant. Senior management must buy into the importance of workplace health & wellness programs and demonstrate this with visible participation and providing the organization with consistent and concise communication endorsing workplace health & wellness as organizational norm otherwise employees will not see the value in the program and become disengaged.

Examples of a Workplace Wellness Program:

Common areas of concern for employees are overwhelming job duties, prolonged stress and long work hours just to name a few. Workplace Wellness Programs need to be comprehensive, tailored to the specific needs and wants of employees and as a result will differ with every organization; there is no one size fits all. One approach is to research similar organizations within the same industry as reference for compatible ideas and suggestions for your own organization. The options are endless when creating a Workplace Wellness Program, and it does not require an extensive budget, just creativity. Here are few simple suggestions:

• Wellness Committees
• Wellness Fairs
• Volunteering within the community
• Healthy Food options at work,
• Physical activity while at work

Success of wellness programs depends on the input and involvement of employees and organizational leaders.


Happy employees are engaged with their work, and engaged employees are happy to be at work. Workplace health & wellness programs mean different things for different organizations but a targeted, integrated and comprehensive program will always see the most significant returns on investment. Challenges faced by any wellness program are design, maintenance and making the program attractive so employees will want to continuously participate. A successful wellness program is nurtured by employees so healthy behaviours remain long enough in the organization becoming habit forming and consistently evolves overtime ensuring long-term success. The goal when building a case for workplace health & wellness is educating the entire organization on healthy lifestyle choice and behaviours leading to a happy sustainable workforce.

Helpful resources:

Workplace Health Fact Sheet, Health Canada 2013

The Business Case for a Healthy Workplace, IAPA (Industrial Accident Prevention Association) 2008

Creating Healthy Workplaces, IAPA 2006



1816 Hits

Symposium on Healthier Cities and Communities

By Andrea Zeelie-Varga, Parent Action on Drugs

I attended the Symposium on Healthier Cities and Communities last month. And while I chose to sit in two sessions dedicated to collaboration, the thread of positive partnerships seemed to run throughout my day. This should be no surprise, as cities serve as the ultimate test of collaboration: coexisting. The concept of a health city (or community) relies on a number of integrated moving parts: gathering and translating knowledge so that informed solutions can be designed for the complex urban problems impacting population health.

The following interesting collaborative projects were presented and discussed:

Creating Healthier Apartment Neighbourhoods, a project with Toronto Public Health, Toronto Planning and Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal

Digital library and online community of

OCADU and Ryerson's Mental Health Strategy

Hospital-Community Collaboration to Address Determinants of Health: A Resource Guide

I also enjoy (and am rejuvenated by) hearing of initiatives which contribute to the greater good of Toronto. But I was particularly interested in the theme of collaboration because it is such a big part of my work sphere. In my position at PAD, I work with a number of agencies and community groups to coordinate the implementation of one of our programs. Working at PAD also means working within the collaborative HC Link, a partnership of three organizations. In both capacities, I feel the many benefits of collaboration.

In a few of the breakout sessions, participants were asked to share their thoughts and experiences on working together. I found the following to be good reminders:

• Collaboration works when there is a unified genuine interest, flexibility and openness between collaborators.

• Alliances allow for shared resources and wisdom, the ability to achieve or create something that would not be possible otherwise, and increased learning and understanding.

• Barriers to effective cooperation often stem from unclear expectations or varying agendas.

• Collaboration requires trust and relationships – both, which take time to build.

1225 Hits

CAMH’s Bold, New Awareness Campaign Seeks to #CreateHope

Submitted by Monica Nunes, CAMH HPRC

This week the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) launched a provocative new campaign that calls us to better understand the ripple effects of untreated mental illness, including addiction, as well as the potential for recovery through the right treatment, care and supports.

The images in the campaign, informed by the personal insights of individuals with experiences of mental illness, are both harsh and hopeful. The harsh messages speak to the many social, economic and health challenges people living with untreated mental illness and addiction face as a result of the direct experience of their illness but also due to stigma and discrimination.


Each difficult message is linked with a message of hope around the impacts of accessing help and the outcomes of recovery.


This focus on hope is a powerful aspect of the CAMH's new campaign. Over the last five to ten years awareness about the challenges people with mental illness experience has spiked as a result of research, successful awareness and anti-stigma campaigns, and advocates with lived experience who courageously share their stories. However, although recovery from mental illness is possible we hear less about the potential impacts of pursuing help.

There might be several reasons why discussions around getting help fail to make it into public discourse. Pervasive stigma is one explanation. Last week, Dr. Peter Selby, chief of addictions at CAMH wrote a very compelling article in the Globe and Mail where he identifies that stigma and discriminatory attitudes perpetuate the inaccurate idea that individuals can treat addiction with willpower alone. As another reason many of us are just learning that there are available treatments and supports for mental illness and addiction. As CAMH's campaign suggests, discussions and awareness around these issues will help us infuse conversations about mental illness and addictions with a sense of realistic hope. It is this hope that will reduce stigma around help-seeking and also encourage continued investment in mental illness and addiction supports so that help is always ready and available for those that need it.

To learn more about CAMH's Understanding campaign and join the conversation, please visit:

2413 Hits

Join the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre for two exciting, new webinars this November!

Submitted by Tamar Meyer, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

This month the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre will be hosting two webinars. We hope you will join us as we continue to deepen our understanding of mental health in the context of health promotion and public health settings. Both of these webinars are introductory and no prior knowledge of the subject matter areas is necessary. The webinars are also intended for health promotion and public health professionals but all are welcome to join. Read on to learn more!

Finding a Shared Language: Addressing Mental Health and Mental Illness in Health Promotion and Public Health Settings

Date and time: Monday November 25th, 12:00 – 1:00 PM (EST)

There is a growing movement to acknowledge the interconnections between health promotion and public health work and mental health. At the same time, a recent study of public health unit activities to address mental health in Ontario – Connecting the Dots – shows that, while many are engaging in activities to promote mental health, there is uncertainty around the concepts connected to mental health and mental illness impeding work among health promotion and public health stakeholders in this area.

Consequently, this webinar hosted by the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre aims to explore a common language to frame, discuss and impact mental health within health promotion and public health settings. The webinar will begin by presenting some fundamental terms and concepts for considering mental health in health promotion and public health settings. Special guest, Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health and CEO, Middlesex-London Health Unit, will then speak to the latter content, sharing reflections from the field of public health. Throughout, the webinar will address the following questions:

• How do the ways we talk about mental health and mental illness impact our practice?
• How do the ways we think about mental health and mental illness impact our practice?
• How does mental health and mental illness relate to population health work?

Registration link:

Spirit to Spirit: Sharing Knowledge for Mental Health Promotion and Substance Misuse Prevention with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples

Date and time: Tuesday November 26th, 10:00 – 11:30 AM (EST)

This webinar will share knowledge on the foundations and context for mental health promotion and substance misuse prevention with First Nations, Inuit and Métis (FNIM) peoples. Alison Benedict, Program Consultant: Aboriginal Community Engagement for CAMH's Provincial System Support Program (PSSP), will provide recommendations for effective engagement of FNIM peoples with a focus on making change, social action and addressing stigma. Alison will also reflect on the results of a literature search of evidence in this area, as presented by Monica Nunes, Research Analyst with the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre.

Registration link:

1851 Hits

Linking for Healthy Communities 2013 Conference Recap by Andrea Zeelie-Varga

By Andrea Zeelie-Varga, Parent Action on Drugs

My head is still spinning from Collaborating for Change! Two days, jam packed with formal presentations, structured networking activities, and informal learnings from colleagues has energized and inspired me so!

hands up conference

One of my favourite aspects of this conference was the ability for each attendee to tailor the event to their interests. Numerous breakout sessions allowed me to spend time in sessions that were directly related the work that I do – but also the chance to indulge myself and catch up on other areas of "healthy communities."

I loved how this conference was partially bilingual and offered simultaneous interpretation services – which provided a seamless way for both Anglophones and Francophones to take full advantage of the program. A live streaming option for all of the keynotes and half of the workshops was also available to make this conference more accessible (geographically and financially).

Day one kicked off with an inspiring keynote presentation from Tonya Surman, the maven behind the Centre for Social Innovation. I spent time interning for a small charity in the Spadina location during my undergraduate degree, and fell in love with the concept for the shared space. I'm not at all surprised to see it grow to two more spaces in the city, and one across the border. I enjoyed hearing more about the centre's humble beginnings and how it's grown into a real bed for collaboration. Tonya spoke about how the CSI's community animators where inspired by Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition!

The keynote was followed by a panel on Community Animators in Action. Health Nexus' Barb Willet, Human Endeavours' Noor Din and the Wellesley Institute's Bob Gardner all shared their experiences with collaboration and innovation in building healthy communities.

I attended the Healthy School Panel: Approaches from across Ontario, which included four very different perspectives on healthy school initiatives. In short, partnerships are key but all involved should have an interest in the initiatives. Initiatives would be more successful if these interests were aligned, so that real action could be taken. Youth should be involved in the process. Evidence helps schools understand what is happening and make decisions about how to proceed.

Concurrently, workshops were held on topics like mental health and gardening, community engagement, and creating public spaces.


My last session for the day was about engaging youth in substance misuse, and was partially facilitated by two teenagers. Celeste Auger Proulx spoke about programming with Peer Power, sharing a number of creative ideas. Kerri Kightley and Meagan La Plante, from the Peterborough Drug Strategy, shared some examples of their work with youth (including some programs developed by Parent Action on Drugs!). Kerri spoke about the drug strategy's collaborative approach and their success in engaging stakeholders working in prevention, harm reduction, treatment and enforcement.

Sessions on de-mystifying policy, shaping healthy neighbourhoods, rethinking poverty, housing, and resiliency were other workshop options.

Day two opened with an engaging and eye-opening presentation by Francious Boileau, the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario. He spoke about how vulnerable groups (such as Francophones in Ontario) oftentimes won't complain because they are intimidated or worried about negative repercussions, and how we should adapt our services to focus on these populations. His keynote was followed by one of my favourite activities of the conference: the community minute. Conference participants were encouraged to share some of their projects, programs, struggles or successes, and to ask others for comment. Fascinating to hear all the different sides involved in building healthier communities!

The morning workshops included sessions on food programs and networks, rights-based approach to working with persons with disabilities, and by-law development. I attended Paul Young's session on building environmentally and socially healthier communities, full of examples of what communities are doing across Ontario. I am finding myself increasingly interested in the built-environment and the health impacts of car-dependent communities and this session scratched my itch to learn more. (I'd love to get my hands on some of the stats Paul presented, and write a blog post solely on this presentation!)

The last workshops for the day were about the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, co-creating community change, tri-sector integration, with a panel on policy work. The day rounded out with a keynote presentation from Mary Lewis from the Heart and Stroke Foundation which served as a reminder about the influential role of advocacy.

HC Link's own Jeff Kohl closed the two-day conference with a spirited song summarizing some shared learnings. Jeff sung out tweets about the conference, and participant comments from our co-created paper quilt. A wonderfully creative closing to an engaging two-day boot camp of learning and networking. I can't wait for Linking for Healthy Communities 2015!

You can check out the full conference program here to learn more about the workshops and presenters that were at the 2013 conference Linking for Healthy Communities: Collaborating for Change.

1372 Hits

A Rights-based Approach to Engaging & Working with Clients & Communities of Persons with Disabilities

Laurie Letheren and Yedida Zalik from ARCH Disability Law Centre will be presenting a workshop titled "A Rights-based Approach to Engaging & Working with Clients & Communities of Persons with Disabilities" at the Linking for Healthy Communities conference on November 13th!

This workshop will be relevant to everyone working in healthy communities because as Laurie says in the video clip below - "Whether you realize it or not, we all serve people with disabilities in our work."

Check out this video below to find out more about what Laurie and Yedida will be talking about at HC Link's conference! (and remember, registration closes Friday November 1st!) - You can register here


2549 Hits

Highlighting the keynote speakers for our 2013 Linking for Healthy Communities Conference!

In anticipation of our 2013 conference, Linking for Healthy Communities: Collaborating for Change, we wanted to take this time to highlight our keynote speakers – Tonya Surman, François Boileau and Mark Holland.

Don't forget, registration for the HC Link conference closes THIS FRIDAY (November 1st). Register here

TONYA SURMAN   Founding Executive Director and CEO, Centre for Social Innovation
It's Up to Us: Collaboration, Social Innovation and our role as Community Animator

In her keynote address, Tonya Surman will inspire and delight as she explores how citizens are changing the world, how Community Animation is central to this work, and how, when we bring our passion and agency to the change we want to see, anything is possible.

Leveraging the power of Social Innovation, Tonya will reflect on the role of Community Animators to change the world.

smallsurmanTonya Surman is a social entrepreneur, community animator and network choreographer with a passion for bringing life to world-changing projects. Tonya is the founding executive director and CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation which catalyzes and inspires social innovation in Toronto and around the world. Tonya's work fundamentally embodies collaboration, entrepreneurship and systems change. Tonya has been creating and leading social ventures since 1987, and has built her body of knowledge around multi-sectoral collaboration and entrepreneurship for social change.


FRANÇOIS BOILEAU   French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario
Because Vulnerable Populations Will Never Complain

Ontario is home to many minority groups whether they are visible or not. These groups, including Francophones, must often assert themselves to claim their place in society.

Commissioner Boileau will remind us why we have to adapt our services to serve these vulnerable populations, such as children, seniors, people with mental health challenges and immigrants. He will also underline that many individuals hesitate to assert their right because they feel intimidated or worry such a request could bring about negative repercussions. For this reason we have to focus our efforts on "people that will never make a complaint because they are already in a vulnerable state of mind, so they're not confronting the administration."

In his presentation, he will also point out the first steps organizations should make in order to actively offer services to vulnerable populations and the importance of partnership and collaboration.

Mr. François Boileau is currently pursuing his third mandate as French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario. Since his appointment, Commissioner Boileau has worked to improve the quality of French-language services in Ontario in order to meet the needs of the Francophone community, ensure its full development, and preserve its culture.

MARK HOLLAND   Director, Health Promotion and Public Affairs, Heart and Stroke Foundation (Ontario)
How to Empower Communities Toward Positive Change

Advocacy is a lever through which we can influence public policy as well as community and corporate behaviour. Mark will demonstrate how advocacy can influence governmental public policy and ultimately aims to promote action on legislative, regulatory, program spending and public awareness initiatives at the local, provincial and national levels. The mobilization of communities to a cause strengthens the 'ask' and the level of engagement and commitment.

Having first-hand experience as a decision-maker, an elected MP and Council member, Mark will reflect on practical and impactful approaches to gain attention and make your ask a top priority on elected officials' busy agendas.


Mark Holland is the Director, Health Promotion and Public Affairs for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Ontario. He manages a portfolio which encompasses advocacy, the Health Promotion, Resuscitation, Public Affairs and Heart Health Children and Youth teams as well as community and health partnerships.

Prior to joining Foundation in 2011, Mark was the Member for Parliament for the riding of Ajax-Pickering from 2004 until May 2011. Previously, Mark served on the Durham and Pickering councils both as a Councillor and acting Mayor of Pickering.

1519 Hits

A Penny For Your Tweets: a Twitter Chat on policy basics

HC Link’s bi-annual conference, Linking For Healthy Communities: Collaborating for Change is in less than three weeks!  I am super excited for the conference, which I think (in my slightly biased opinion) will be a great one. image of a Canadian penny

One of the things that I’m really looking forward to is displaying my policy wonk side: I’m coordinating the policy stream at this year’s conference. Public Health Ontario will be presenting a workshop on developing municipal by-laws, I’m presenting a workshop on de-mystifying policy, and I’m also hosting a talk-show style panel featuring three fabulous women who are doing amazing local work in policy.

As part of our pre-conference activities, I’m hosting this month’s Health Promotion Twitter Chat (#HealthPromoChat) on the topic of policy basics. I hope that you can all join me on Tuesday October 29th from 3-4 pm to share your thoughts and ideas about policy work.

For those of you who have never participated in a Twitter Chat before, I’ll post a series of questions at #HealthPromoChat and participants post their responses quoting the hashtage (here’s a great post on Twitter Chats and how to participate

A Twitter Chat is really about generating a conversation, sharing ideas and back and forth discussion.

In this chat, I’d like to explore:
•    How you define, define and “sell” policy to your community and stakeholders
•    What barriers you’ve experienced in your policy work, and how you’ve overcome them
•    What policy resources you’ve found helpful

I hope to see you on Twitter on Tuesday! I’m looking forward to a great discussion.

1684 Hits

Harnessing the Power of Public Spaces: 8-80 Cities and their Make a Place for People Project

By: Alyssa Bird, 8-80 Cities

8-80 Cities is a non-profit organization based on a simple concept: if you build a city that's great for an 8 year old and an 80 year old, you build a city that's great for everyone. They specialize in transforming cities into places where people can walk, bike, access public transit and visit vibrant parks and public places. This was the premise of their "Make a Place for People Project."

On November 12th, 8-80 Cities will be hosting a workshop at the HC Link conference - Linking for Healthy Communities: Collaborating for Change, about their Make a Place for People Project that endeavoured to transform eight public spaces into healthier community places. These eight sites –from alleyways to parks to public squares - were selected to participate and undergo an intensive problem-diagnosis in conjunction with a creative community engagement process with the goal of re-imagining the potential of these public spaces.


Public spaces play a vital role in our communities - they create nodes where people meet, relax and play. Yet many in Ontario are under-performing. Harnessing the potential of public spaces is the low-hanging fruit in times when there isn't the funding to build new recreation centres or swimming pools. Parks, streets, and other public spaces can be incredibly valuable in the promotion of healthy active lifestyles with the proper management, design, and programming.


At the 8-80 Cites' workshop at the HC Link conference, you'll get to learn the components to creating an active and health promoting public space. In addition you'll receive an overview of the various tools used through the course of the Make a Place for People Project including innovative public engagement activities and site observation techniques. This presentation will also serve as a forum for conversation about challenges and opportunities faced in each case as well as how our unique engagement and evaluation tools contributed to the success of these projects. Hopefully it will inspire you to harness the power of public spaces in your community!


2175 Hits