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

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

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

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Fairness in Policy

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the prestigious Hastings Lecture, named for Toronto's first Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Hastings. The event was moderated by the current Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, who introduced Sir Michael Marmot as a "health equity rockstar." The title is a fair for the man who is currently Director of the Institute of Health Equity and a Professor in Epidemiology at University College, London, UK. Sir Marmot is best known for his work on the Whitehall II study, as well as leading the World Health Organization's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. Like the rest of the 350-person crowd I sat captivated, only breaking to laugh at Sir Marmot's well-delivered jokes – or at the panel's comments on local politics.


Sir Marmot opened with the bold statement that "social injustice is killing on a grand scale." He asserted that a society's success can be judged by the health of its population. Governments, however, tend to focus on only lowest end of the gradient in society, even though health inequality affects all of us. A health system for the poor is a poor health system. Sir Marmot stressed that while inequality exists on a national level, it can also be seen within the same city. In Glasgow, the life expectancy differs by as much as 28 years in different neighbourhoods. In the small town of Lenzie, the average male life expectancy is 82. In the district of Calton, the male life expectancy is only 54 years of age.

To counter this imbalance, Sir Marmot suggested that all ministers operate as ministers of health - as is the practise in Norway, where health performs as a social accountant. Governments should focus on policies which increase the standard of living for all:

  1. Give every child the best start in life.
  2. Enable all children, young people and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives.
  3. Create fair employment and good work for all. (Marmot shared some disturbing statistics about unemployment and the damaging effects of health – and on economics)
  4. Ensure healthy standard of living for all.
  5. Create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities.
  6. Strengthen the role and impact of ill health prevention.

Individuals can only be responsible (and be held responsible) when they have the conditions to do so. Fair policies create the necessary conditions. Fairness should sit at the very core of health policies. Ever the evidence-based optimist, Sir Marmot closed his lecture with words of encouragement, "Dream of a world where social justice is taken seriously. Then take the pragmatic steps necessary to achieve it."

Following the inspirational lecture, Sir Marmot was joined in discussion by Dr. Kwame McKenzie and Dr. Charles Pascal. Dr. McKenzie, the director of the Canada Institutes of Health Research Social Aetiology of Mental Illness Training Centre and a senior scientist of Social Equity and Health Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, used John David Hulchanski's theory of the three Torontos to draw local relevance to Marmots remarks. Dr. Pascal, a professor of Human Development and Applied Psychology at OISE/University of Toronto, bemoaned short term thinking about policy, and advocated for policies with "teeth."



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Good Ideas for Making Policy Succeed

Last Thursday, I joined roughly 200 policy wonks during a "lunch and learn" event with the Maytree Foundation's Five Good Ideas series. For each session, Maytree invites a different expert to share five practical ideas, and to discuss how these thoughts can be put into action. Sherri Torjman, vice-president of the Caledon Institute, presented the final session in the current series.

Sherri, drawing on her background in poverty eradication and disability issues, shared that the purpose of policy work is to improve the quality of life for all citizens. Policy work aims to effect change, in the public interest. Policy work promotes the inclusion of those who are under-represented in a community.


Policy development is a critical area for HC Link's clients. Last year, approximately 10% of our consultations concentrated on policy development. Even consultations that do not focus on policy work often have a small policy component.

I was reminded of some of HC Link's recent work as Sherri shared her thoughts. Earlier this year, HC Link worked closely with an elderly-friendly village initiative, which was having difficulty implementing an action plan that was developed several years prior. The village's aim is to improve the quality of life for elderly citizens by providing an inclusive and secure environment that encourages a vibrant and enriching life. HC Link was able to provide training sessions, which addressed motivation of volunteers in the development of community projects, how to recruit volunteers, how to access resources, and how to influence health promotion policies.

Sherri's good ideas hold true not only for policy work, but community work in general, and the principles can (and have been) applied to HC Link initiatives.

1. Trust your knowledge. In this case, our consultant Estelle Duchon's expertise in engaging Francophone communities was extremely valuable in revealing the community leaders' needs.

2. Dream big. Big ideas mean big results. As a partner mused "Crazy ideas are ideas that are destabilizing at first, but end up making a difference. They serve as a trigger in the community."

3. Go the extra mile. Implementing an action plan seemed particularly challenging to the involved committees. In order to ensure progress, they contacted HC Link for assistance.

4. Hold that thought. Timing is essential. Sometimes it's worth waiting for a ripe opportunity. In this case, the community was able to implement an action plan after several training sessions which equipped them with the right knowledge and tools for action.

5. Find your Karasima. Find inspiration in your work. In Sherri's case, it was a comment from Karasima, a women on crutches, which validated Sherri's work. In Noëlville and Verner, it meant understanding that addressing seniors concerns also meant addressing the needs of other vulnerable populations, such as children and people with disabilities.

HC Link has delivered webinars and created educational resources involving policy development. We also have a resource bank with a wide variety of relevant readings.

Selected resources include:

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Webinar Recap: Health Promotion Programming for Older Adults: Mental Health, Gambling, Substance and Alcohol Misuse

By Tamar Meyer, CAMH Resource Centre

Older adults (55 years and older) often experience health inequities and for this reason, have been identified as a target population within the Healthy Communities Fund Grant Program. According to a recent Statistics Canada report1, seniors (identified by Statistics Canada as 65+) are the fastest-growing age group in Canada representing 14% of the overall Canadian population in 2009 and expected to grow to between 23-25% in 2036. Between 2015-2021, and for the first time in the history of the Canadian population, a dramatic shift is expected to occur where the number of people aged 65 years of age and over is expected to surpass the number of children (14 and under). This dramatic acceleration combined with the health inequities that older adults often experience make it imperative to apply a health promotion lens to this “silver tsunami”. 


On March 28th, the CAMH Resource Centre, in collaboration with HC Link, held a two-hour webinar called: “Health Promotion Programming for Older Adults: Mental Health, Gambling, Substance and Alcohol Misuse”.Carolynne Cooper, social worker with CAMH's Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario’s Counseling Services and Marianne Kobus-Matthews, Senior Health Promotion Consultant, provided an overview mental health promotion concepts, and gambling, substance and alcohol misuse prevention strategies and programming directed towards older adults. Webinar participants and facilitators discussed risk and protective factors impacting the health and well-being of older adults.  The importance of social and emotional support to reduce social isolation, financial security, and senior-friendly environments – that is environments that are accessible, provide a sense of community, recreational activities, and a variety of different health promoting and prevention services and supports – were identified by presenters and webinar participants as key protective factors to promote the health of older people. 

Louise Daw, Healthy Communities Consultant with the Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC), also joined Marianne and Carolynne to share some information and resources highlighting the intersections between physical activity, and the mental health and older adults.  

To access the PowerPoint slides, click hereTo watch a recording of the webinar, click here.


Key documents:

Statistics Canada (2010) Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories: 2009-2036.  Minister of Industry: Ottawa.  Accessed March 29, 2012.
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Swimming Upstream: A Mental Health (Promotion!) Strategy for Canada

 By Tamar Meyer, CAMH Resource Centre


This week, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), chaired by CAMH’s Senior Medical Advisor, Dr. David Goldbloom, released Canada’s first National mental health strategy called Changing Directions, Changing Lives. Released during National Mental Health Week, the Strategy is the first of its kind in Canada.  Did you know that prior to the release of this Strategy, Canada was the only G7 country without a national strategy on mental health?

This 6-pronged strategy makes 106 recommendations that cover not only health care but social determinants of health and issues like affordable housing and the justice system; focuses on health equity by underscoring disparities and diversity; addresses the role of poverty and racism; and highlight priority populations like youth, minority official language communities, older adults, immigrants, refugees, ethnocultural and racialized populations, First Nations, Inuit and Métis and northern and remote populations.

“It is important that, in promoting mental well-being and reducing risk factors for every­one, we do whatever we can to reduce the gap between those who are thriving and those whose mental health is most at risk.” - p. 21

Mental health promotion figures prominently in the report and is highlighted in the forefront as Strategic Direction 1. The Strategy underscores that mental health promotion needs to occur across the lifespan and in a wide range of settings including schools, community organizations and workplaces. Mental health promotion efforts should include raising awareness on how to promote mental health, prevent mental illness and reduce stigma, and is most effective through initiatives that target specific groups and settings. 

Strategic Direction 1: "Promote mental health across the lifespan in homes, schools, and workplaces, and prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible.” - p.20

Beyond the first Strategic Direction, it is encouraging to see that mental health promotion is interwoven throughout the entire Strategy resulting in recommendations for action that directly correspond to the main determinants of mental health including: social inclusion and connectedness (see recommendations for action 1.4.2, 3.4.1); violence and discrimination (4.5.3., 5.4.3), and access to economic resources (2.2.1., 2.3.1., 3.5.3).

The CAMH Resource Centre is a great source for additional information and resources. It has hosted a series of mental health promotion webinars to better equip health promotion and public health audiences in Ontario.  These webinars include: 

- Introduction to promoting positive mental health  (slides, resources)

- Mental health promotion in action: reflections from Northern Ontario (slides, recording)

- Introduction à la promotion de la santé mentale positive (slides)

- Promoting positive mental health for immigrants and refugees (slides)

- Promoting mental health in public health (slides, recording)

- Health promotion programming for older adults: mental health, gambling, substance and alcohol misuse (slides, recording)

In addition, there are a number of different mental health promotion tools and resources.  Please visit the mental health promotion resources section of HC Link for more information. 


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Austerity and Innovation


I just returned from an exciting lunch event at MaRS in downtown Toronto (where incidentally, I had what were quite possibly the best cookies I’ve ever had in my life) that I thought might be of interest to HC Link’s clients. The speaker was Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive from the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) in the U.K. Geoff began his talk with a picture of a painting depicting a beautiful  1800s British wooden sailing ship being towed by a less-than-beautiful tugboat to the shore, where it would be destroyed. Innovation, says Geoff, can be painful as we make way for the new.  But innovation can yield exciting results, particularly in frugal times. Two examples of ‘frugal innovation’ that he used were the Aakash (a $60 tablet computer made in India) and Then Geoff challenged us to think: what are the public sector equivalents? How can we mobilize the creativity often seen in the private sector and by imaginative entrepreneurs in the fields in which we work?

In the private sector, 10-15% of budgets are devoted to research and development to foster innovation and new ideas. In the sectors that we – in healthy communities and health promotion – work in, we see far less (if any). To illustrate the effect of this, Geoff showed a graph (which I was not able to find on the internet, so use your imagination) that showed a correlation between health care spending and mortality over time. The more you spend, the more people die. Though slightly tongue-in-cheek, Geoff used this example to show what can happen when we use the same old techniques to cope with ever-changing and complex situations withoutUntitled innovating.
All over the world, countries, governments, organizations and businesses are facing massive cuts in spending/funding. Those of   you working in local communities are no strangers to this reality. But we can – as others have- use this as an opportunity to do things differently. To innovate. And see what happens.

Here are some examples. In Sutton, England the public library faced massive cuts and could no longer purchase new inventory. The solution: Sutton Bookshare – where people list the books on their own bookshelves via the library website that people can pop over and borrow. Now, using the existing infrastructure of the library’s borrowing system, not only has the library solved their problem, but the solution fosters a sense of community. Another example is Big Society Capital – a new bank that lends money to those creating socially innovative projects. The new bank is funded by the millions of pounds sitting in unclaimed bank accounts. Couch Surfing, and similar concepts for car-sharing in Europe also solve the problem of needing a place to stay or a car to drive, but not having the money for a hotel/car rental.

My brain is still spinning from the session. But I think the one take-away for me (other than the cookies!) is that - when you take the ‘problem’ of funding cuts (or the resulting cuts in service due to funding cuts) to the community, the solution can often be found. Many of you are doing just that in your community work – and are finding innovative, community-based solutions that are working for you. I invite you to share those ideas using the comment box below – let’s start a conversation about innovation!

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Whistle While You Walk

 By Andrea Zeelie, HC Link

The benefits of physical activity cannot be overstated. Physical activity is more than sweat-inducing high intensity exercises. Simply walking more offers reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer as well as improved mental health. An active lifestyle combats some of the worst habits for personal health, such as inactivity and a poor diet.

The recently published Road to Health advocates for use of “active transportation,” such as walking or cycling. But, as the report suggests, active transportation can be more challenging for those living in areas affected by urban sprawl or in neighbourhoods with low walkability. Barriers to active transport include usage patterns (such as trip distances), the built environment (such as pavement quality), education (such as understanding of physical health,) and weather (such as ice or snow). Walking may not be possible as a mode of transportation, but it is still an essential physical activity. A recent study by the American College of Sports Medicine reports that children and youth should take approximately 12,000 steps per day to sustain an optimal level of physical activity.

Ontario hosts several fantastic walking focused events which encourage individuals to actively explore their surrounding environment:

- Jane’s Walk celebrates the urban ideals of Canadian activist and writer Jane Jacobs. Jane’s Walk has grown into a global event, taking place on the first weekend of May each year. Community members lead walks in their local neighbourhoods, often around a specific theme. Jane’s Walk is an enjoyable and affordable way to learn more about your community or explore a new one – on foot!

- Doors Open Ontario gives the public access to both commonplace buildings and heritage sites that are not usually open to the public. Sites are open from 10am to 4pm, all weekend (exact dates vary by location), free of charge. Plan to walk to a few sites and make a day of it. This year’s Open Doors celebrates the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

- A number of private companies offer specialized tours, ranging from culinary adventures to mystery expeditions. But plenty of options exist for walkers interested in free tours year round:

  • Some towns and cities provide historical Heritage Walks.
  • Self-guided trails, such as Discovery Walks, encourage environmental exploration.
  • Art galleries and museums offer programming, such as the Royal Ontario Museum’s ROMwalk, which include guided excursions of notable architecture.
  • Ontario Walks is an initiative to encourage physical activity amongst Ontario residents.

To learn more about how physical activity promotes healthy communities, visit HC Link's resources.

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New @ a glance resources: Working Together with Francophones in Ontario

Supporting communities in meaningfully engaging Francophones in their initiatives and activities has been a priority for HC Link for some time. Last summer, we released a very comprehensive report, Work Together With Francophones in Ontario: Understanding the context and using promising practices in French and English as a primer for those seeking to engage the Francophone community. We have also had learning opportunities on this topic first at our November conference (English) and then via webinar (French) this winter. Now, we’re excited to release two issues of @ a glance that capture the essence of the full Work Together with Francophones report .

Working Together with Francophones in Ontario @ a glance: Part 1 Understanding the context discusses the history and statistics of Ontario’s Francophone communities and some of the effects that come from living as a minority group. Part 2: Legislation and institutional support discusses the rights of Francophones in Ontario and the laws which protect them and the roles of the French Language Services Commissioner and various government agencies.

For those of who are familiar with this information and are ready to move to the next step – working and engaging with the Francophone communities in your area- check out the Promising Practices section of the full Work Together with Francophones report. Stay tuned for an English webinar on this topic and remember to contact HC Link for individualized support on Francophone engagement.

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The Built Environment and Health: North Bay

By Paul Young, HC Link-OHCC Consultant

North Bay is working to improve its built environment and to create a healthier community. In March of 2012 the Healthy Communities Steering Committee, made up of staff from the City of North Bay, North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, Nipissing University, Canadore College, Chamber of Commerce, North Bay Regional Health Centre and members of the private sector invited HC Link-OHCC's consultant Paul Young to assist with a day-long Healthy Communities event.

The committee wanted to build bridges between various sectors so they personally invited people from education, health, culture, planning, community groups and works / infrastructure to attend and contribute to the event.

The morning consisted of presentations on

  • The Resilient City / Fit City by local architect Brian Bertrand.

Candore's hospitality program provided a wonderful lunch. This was followed by a World Café session led by HC Link-OHCC consultant Paul Young. The main objective was to start cross pollinating departments, find some common understanding of what makes a healthy community and set out some themes that will guide the group into the future.

After a lively discussion several themes began to emerge including the need for a culture shift, the need for better infrastructure (e.g., trails, walks, parks), more outreach to the general public and people using existing services, and a desire to meet again.

For more information on the group and their work go to or contact Melanie Davis This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If a workshop sounds like something your group or organization could also benefit from, please request a service from us!

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Promoting mental health in public health

Submitted by the CAMH Resource Centre and the Mental Health Promotion Program at Toronto Public Health

Despite its absence in the Ontario Public Health Standards, mental health promotion is a key issue of importance for Public Health professionals. 75 participants registered for the March 20th webinar "Promoting mental health in public health" (both slides and a recording of the webinar are available for those who were unable to attend). Presented by the CAMH Resource Centre in collaboration with the Mental Health Promotion Program at Toronto Public Health, the webinar explored the importance of promoting mental health within a public health setting and provided an overview of mental health promotion concepts, tools and principles relevant to Pubic Health audiences. Some time and discussion was spent looking at and identifying ways Public Health stakeholders could, and in some cases, were already implicitly (and for some, explicitly!) integrating mental health promotion in Public Health programming.

A webinar poll asking participants to identify "Which of the following mental health promotion activities is or has your Public Health Unit been engaged in?" revealed that despite the fact mental health promotion is not included in the OPHS, Public Health stakeholders were participating in a range of mental health promotion activities including:

  • Raising awareness in students, parents and community members of mental health (54%)


  • Facilitating small group support sessions (e.g. healthy relationships, anger management, positive parenting, etc.) (49%)

  • Providing in-service staff training on recognizing signs/symptoms of mental illness (MI), destigmatizing MI, and/or using appropriate intervention strategies when dealing with mental health issues (34%)

  • Assessment of mental health needs in school and/or community (29%)

  • Supporting school health committees in implementing "whole school mental health promotion" programs and enhancing protective factors (23%)

  • Providing school-based Public Health nursing services regarding mental health (i.e. dedicated time in schools for early identification, support and referral as needed) (14%)


With the growing recognition of the impact of mental health on public health issues such as substance and alcohol misuse, tobacco, injury prevention, healthy eating and physical activity, some Public Health Units have taken matters into their own hands and have started making mental health promotion explicit in Public Health. In addition, with current research telling us that freedom from discrimination and violence, social inclusion and access to economic resources are all strong indicators of positive mental health, Public Health has clearer objectives from which to focus their work. Jan Lancaster, Manager of the Mental Health Promotion Program at Toronto Public Health (TPH) provided an overview of mental health promotion activities and programs at TPH, including a history of the Mental Health Program. Jess Patterson, Health Promotion Consultant at TPH, provided an overview of some research TPH was undertaking on the intersection between public health and mental health promotion at Toronto Public Health that builds from the Ottawa Charter strategies for health promotion.

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New! Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Refugees


Best Practice Guideslines Refugees Cover

Canada's foreign-born population is unique and varied, with cultural groups represented from all over the world. For the majority, Canada is their choice of country for reasons that include seeking opportunities to improve the future of their families, to join friends or family living in Canada, and/or fleeing their country of origin and seeking asylum in Canada. As many health promotion initiatives do not reach this population, Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Refugees offers an opportunity to review current health promotion programs to improve their effectiveness in addressing the mental health and well-being of refugees.

As the third in a series of online guides for promoting positive mental health, this resource has been developed to support health and social service providers in incorporating best practice approaches to mental health promotion interventions focusing on refugees.

The resource includes:

  • Guidelines: 13 best practice guidelines for mental health promotion for the refugee population.

  • Background: Describes how refugees, as a heterogeneous population, are defined in this resource.

  • Exemplary programs: Describes several programs that incorporate good practice and exemplify the guidelines.

  • Outcome and process indicators: Provides examples of indicators for measuring program success.

  • Theory: Provides definitions and underlying concepts, with a focus on promoting resilience.

  • Resources: Provides a worksheet and sample to help plan and implement mental health promotion initiatives, plus a list of resources, and glossary.

  • References and Acknowledgements

The resource is available for download in PDF at:

The Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs is a joint project between the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto; and Toronto Public Health.


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A final blog post from the HC Link Team at OPHA

By the HC Link Team at OPHA

As you know from recent communications, OPHA has recently made the decision to end its formal partnership role in HC Link. This marks the end of a 19 year journey, which began in 1993 when the Ministry of Health asked the OPHA to host the Heart Health Resource Centre. Originally formed to support the ongoing implementation of the Ontario Heart Health Program, over the next 17 years the HHRC evolved from a program-support project to a capacity building resource centre. The HHRC provided expertise, resources, consultation, training and development to local community partnerships working within the Ontario Heart Health Program.

The HHRC was more than a resource centre that provided products and services. We were about relationships: creating them with those we support, building them with partners and stakeholders, and delivering excellent supports because we understood our clients. We knew their names, who they were, all about their partnerships and the contexts in which they worked locally. We understood their needs (and if we didn't, we were quick to hear about it!) and were able to pro-actively and re-actively develop tools, resources and learning opportunities to meet them. We have had a strong customer service ethic and have responded to our clients, taking their requests seriously. And we have been rewarded with respect and trust from our clients and stakeholders. They are willing and eager to pick up the phone and contact us, tell us what they need and trust that we will help them to the very best of our ability, and will often go above and beyond what they were looking for.

It is this background and expertise that provided the rationale for the Ministry to ask, in 2009, the HHRC to join with 3 other provincial resource centres to form what is now known as HC Link. Originally conceived as the resource centre to support the Healthy Communities Fund, HC Link works with community partnerships, groups and organizations working to build healthy, vibrant communities in Ontario.

The HC Link team at OPHA has been privileged to work with the organizations who make up HC Link, and their excellent staff and consultants. Everyone within HC Link shares the same commitment to relationships, client-centered service and excellence which have defined HHRC.

The most wonderful thing about this transition is that it does not mark the end of our individual involvement in HC Link. OPHA staff Andrea Bodkin, Rebecca Byers, Dianne Coppola, Kim Hodgson, Pam Kinzie and consultants Kim Bergeron and Rishia Burke will continue their involvement as staff or consultants with member organizations of HC Link. Each of us feel privileged to have been involved with HC Link, and glad that we can continue this involvement in the future. And we look forward to continuing to work with our amazing clients and stakeholders for a long time to come!

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Webinar Recap - Promoting Positive Mental Health for Immigrants and Refugees

On March 6th, approximately 35 health professionals from across Ontario joined the CAMH resource centre and HC Link for a webinar called "Promoting Positive Mental Health for Refugees and Immigrants". Participants came from a diverse range of organizations and agencies and included educators, policy makers, settlement workers, public health professionals and resource coordinators to name a few. Joanne Brown from HC Link introduced the presenters, Angela Martella, Community Engagement and System Planner at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and Marianne Kobus-Matthews, Senior Health Promotion Consultant, also from CAMH. Together, Angela and Marianne provided a review of key concepts related to mental health promotion; outlined mental health promotion best practices related to immigrants and refugees; described some exemplary programs working to promote refugee and immigrant mental health and lastly, introduced two resources to apply mental health promotion principles into practice.

These resources included the recently launched Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Refugees and the Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Immigrants (to be launched this spring). These guides are two new additions to an online series that present health and social service providers with evidence-based approaches to mental health promotion with various populations. The guides outline best practices and provide practical tools to assist service providers in integrating evidence-based approaches to mental health promotion in their work with immigrants and refugees. Each guide includes 13 best practice guidelines, outcome and process indicators, as well as a worksheet and a sample to help plan and implement mental health promotion initiatives with refugees and immigrants.

During the webinar, participants were asked to identify what the term "mental health" meant to them. Using the chat box function, participants entered words and phrases like "well-being", "trying to find a balance in life", "flourishing, living to one's full potential", "able to cope with stress", while another participant wrote: "mental health to me means fluidity, balance, connectedness, peace". This is well-aligned with Health Canada's definition of 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. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity."   Health Canada, 1997

Building on the importance of culture, equity, and social justice in defining mental health, Angela and Marianne discussed the impact of risk and protective factors on refugee and immigrant mental health, that is, characteristics that are associated with an individual or community that will make it more likely to either develop a problem or will reduce the likelihood that a problem will develop. Participants were asked to identify risk factors (including determinants of health) that contribute to poor mental health for refugees and immigrants and contributed the following: social isolation, language barriers, immigration status, being separated from one's family, discrimination and racism, experiences of war/torture/trauma, parenting in two cultures, and factors such as employment, housing, and access to health services.

Some of the protective factors for refugee and immigrant mental health that were identified by webinar participants included: social and community supports, culture, leaving traumatic environments, having a sense of identity, belonging to a faith community, social structures that accommodate diverse individuals, having knowledge of the system, settlement services, opportunity for civil engagement, and supportive policies. As both the participants and the webinar facilitators illustrated during the webinar, risk and protective factors for the mental health and well-being of refugees and immigrants are experienced and can be impacted at an individual, community and societal level and action needs to occur at multiple levels, using multiple strategies that are culturally appropriate.

Thank you to all participants for a dynamic webinar. For more information and to download a copy of the Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Refugees, please visit CAMH's Knowledge Exchange Portal:

Please stay tuned to HC Link for more information on the upcoming launch of the Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Immigrants.

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March 6th Webinar- The CAPTURE Platform: Communities sharing knowledge gained through local initiatives

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link


On March 6th, Dayna Albert, who works for CAPTURE as Manager of Practitioner Engagement, led a webinar hosted by HC Link on the CAPTURE Platform.

Over 45 participants who were eager to learn more about the CAPTURE platform- a freely accessible web-based repository for finding and sharing practice-based evidence in health promotion and chronic disease prevention, attended the webinar. This was the first time that I had heard of this platform, and was very impressed with this tool and the value it could bring to health promotion organizations. I thought about how this tool could be really helpful in sharing the work of healthy communities partnerships as well as local and regional groups. So, for those of you who did not attend the webinar, here is a brief summary of what was covered and how your work may benefit from this.

The CAPTURE platform allows you to find information and learn from health promotion and chronic disease prevention interventions (programs, projects, etc.) that are in the planning stage, in progress, or that have already been fully implemented. You can access information on approaches, activities, and lessons learned, and read information about the context and target populations of these interventions, to help you determine which are relevant and appropriate to your work.

Not only can you benefit from learning about other work being done in Canada (and in fact, across the globe), you can also benefit by entering interventions into the platform that you have been involved in. This tool provides the space for you to document your work, and asks you valuable questions that allow you to reflect on your learnings. Oftentimes we don't know what we know, until we start to talk about it and share our experiences and then we realize the knowledge we have actually gained. Another benefit for many groups is that this can be used as a tool in your knowledge exchange plan, often a requirement from funders.

Another neat feature of this platform, is that when you enter in an intervention, you can decide whether you want to just keep this information to yourself (and benefit from documenting and reflecting on your intervention), whether you want to share this information with colleagues and partners that you can invite to view or edit your intervention, or whether you want to share this information with everyone (which allows the most people to benefit).

One important question that came up in the webinar was, "How is this platform different than the Public Health Agency of Canada's Best Practice Portal?" With the Best Practice Portal, interventions must meet rigorous criteria and have undergone extensive evaluation, meaning that the interventions discussed have already been fully implemented. The CAPTURE platform allows information to be shared on an on-going basis so that useful information can be accessed in real-time and also allows interventions who may not have the resources to be rigorously evaluated to still share helpful information in the form of promising practices, as opposed to best practices.

This webinar concluded with information on how to participate in CAPTURE's 10-minute challenge. By contributing your program information to CAPTURE, either by filling out a 10-minute Challenge Entry Form, or by accessing the platform directly to enter an intervention, you have the opportunity to win an iPad 2. The deadline for this challenge is March 15th, 2012.

Learn more about the CAPTURE project

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French webinar - Promotion de la santé mentale positive

On February 24th, close to fifty participants from across Ontario participated in a French language webinar presented by the CAMH Resource Centre in collaboration with Réseau CS called « Promotion de la santé mentale positive« (Introduction to promoting positive mental health). Facilitated by Antoine Dérose, a bilingual program consultant from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, this webinar provided an overview of key mental health promotion concepts, strategies and best practices to promote positive mental health, and also provided examples of mental health promotion initiatives and tools. Participants included public health stakeholders, health care providers and professionals from a variety of community and social service organizations.

One of the resources that was highlighted during the webinar was the recently translated Directives sur les meilleures pratiques à appliquer pour les programmes de promotion de la santé mentale : personnes de 55 ans+. Also, available in English, the Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Older Adults 55+ is a guide that has been developed to support health and social service providers in incorporating best practice approaches to mental health promotion interventions for people 55 years and older. The resource includes 11 best practice guidelines, a list of exemplary programs, outcome and process indicators, as well as a worksheet and sample to help plan and implement mental health promotion initiatives.

During the webinar, one participant asked for more clarification on the difference between health promotion and prevention. In the context of mental health, health promotion builds from the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion as the process of enabling people to increase control over and to improve their mental health. While mental illness prevention is a complementary term alongside mental health promotion, prevention, in the context of mental health is more directed towards preventing the occurrence of poor mental health/mental illness. For more information, the World Health Organization has an excellent resource called the Health Promotion Glossary.

The CAMH Resource Centre looks forward to continuing to collaborate with Réseau CS in the development and delivery of French language webinars on the mental health promotion priority. You can look forward to future webinars in the coming fiscal year!

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In the News - February 2012

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting what's been in the news on various topics of interest to HC Link and anyone interested in Healthy Communities Fund priorities. I may not cover all priorities in each post -- it will vary depending on what's in the news.


Substance and Alcohol Misuse

The big story of the past while has been Ontario's decision to de-list OxyContin, a prescription painkiller, from the drug benefit program because it is commonly abused. OxyContin's new replacement, OxyNEO, designed to be harder to abuse (it resists crushing and so on) was also delisted. Several other provinces have followed suit.

The theory is that this will make it harder for people to acquire the drug, as presumably fewer pills will be prescribed and therefore in circulation. However, high addiction levels in some populations have some people worried about mass withdrawal or whether those populations will simply turn to alternative, potentially even more dangerous drugs.

Sample news stories:

Other substance- and alcohol-related health promotion news:

Mental Health / Mental Health Promotion

Some initial studies suggest ketamine might work very quickly on some people's depression:

Other mental health / mental health promotion stories of interest:


Injury Prevention

Aside from the usual raft of warnings and food/toy recalls this month, there's been increasing attention paid to concussions:

Other injury prevention stories:

And my favourite thought-provoking piece this month:


Healthy eating

No major stories recently, but here are a few interesting bits:


Physical activity, sports and recreation

Winter doesn't seem to be a prime time for stories in this area. Still, some items of interest:


And last, some light amusement:

A.J. Jacobs: How healthy living nearly killed me

"For a full year, A.J. Jacobs followed every piece of health advice he could -- from applying sunscreen by the shot glass to wearing a bicycle helmet while shopping. Onstage at TEDMED, he shares the surprising things he learned."



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Past webinar: Physical Activity 101 (Webinar In French)

On February 15th, HC link hosted a French webinar, which was presented by PARC. This webinar was an introduction to physical activity promotion: a tour through the new Physical Activity Guidelines and the support available through PARC.

PARC was established in 2003 and is managed by Ophea. PARC supports physical activity promoters and key community leaders working in public health, community health centres, recreation and sport organizations, and non-government organizations to enhance opportunities for healthy active living in Ontario.

For information on this webinar and the discussion that took place (in French), please see our Réseau CS blog.

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Working together with Francophones in Ontario

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

On January 26th, more than fifty participants from across Ontario joined Estelle Duchon and I for a French language webinar called Collaborer avec les francophones en Ontario (Working together with Francophones in Ontario). Professionals from community organizations, French language planning entities, and public health units learned (or refreshed their knowledge!) about the demographics and contexts of Franco-Ontarians, the history of FLS services in Canada and Ontario and what's working well regarding Francophone engagement.

Francophone engagement is an area in which HC Link has been working and supporting its clients for a number of years- in both English and French. This webinar (which will be available in English in the spring) builds on our earlier document entitled Work Together With Francophones In Ontario: Understanding The Context And Using Promising Practices (Collaborer avec les francophones en Ontario : de la compréhension du contexte à l'application des pratiques prometteuses). In just a few weeks we'll be releasing two @ a glance documents (in both English and French) which capture the highlights of the earlier, comprehensive resource.

During the webinar, we had excellent participation and discussion from the participants. One participant reminded us that these days, there really is not one Francophone community. Demographics show us that Francophones in Ontario come from not only Ontario and Quebec but also Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe and their faith practices include Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism as well as traditional and African faiths.

Another discussion point that surfaced (and surfaces in every Francophone engagement workshop or session I've been involved in) is that engagement is not simply asking people what they want, or consulting them in some way. Engagement is about providing opportunities for meaningful involvement throughout the entire process. It's about an openness to have others involved, a willingness to have them participate, and a recognition of the incredible benefits of doing so.

HC Link looks forward to continuing work in this area – and supporting you with your efforts to meaningfully engage the Francophone communities in your area. Keep watching for our new resources and English webinar!

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Using social media to promote your health campaign

By Zoë Siskos, Coordinator, Communications, Smokers' Helpline

If you work in the health care industry it's likely that your focus is trying to get people to change an unhealthy behaviour to a healthy one. For Canadian Cancer Society Smokers' Helpline, this time of year means that we are in the middle of our biggest campaign to help people try to quit smoking – The Driven to Quit Challenge.


The Challenge encourages people in Ontario to quit smoking for the month of March to win their choice of a Ford Fusion Hybrid or Ford Edge, one of two $5,000 vacation getaways, or one of seven regional $2,000 cash prizes.

You'd think with this kind of a structure it would be a breeze to get people involved.

Over the years we've inspired 165,000 quit attempts but smokers 15+ in Ontario account for 15% of the population. So, we still have a lot of people to reach.

The good news is that research shows that people want to change - In Ontario, 62% of smokers want to quit within the next six months. The concern is that most people don't have the support required to make changes. Or, worse off, the support is there but they don't know about it or can't access it.

This is why social media can be such an effective tool. It allows you to connect with people that you likely would never have connected with. Social media enables a two-way conversation; if you are listening properly you can adapt your support to your audiences' needs. And you can do it fairly quickly, too. But how do you ensure that you are maximizing the benefits of social media and not just hanging out on Facebook or Twittering all day?

What are your goals?

Smokers' Helpline has incorporated a dedicated social media plan to increase brand engagement, and traffic and registrations to Driven to Quit and Smokers' Helpline Online. Here are just a few of our goals that we've been able to accomplish:

  • Our Facebook page "Likes" grew 33% in 4 months (October to February)
  • The week of the campaign (January 3-9) we doubled the number of interactions on our Facebook page
  • Sent over 2,000 people to our Driven to Quit site in December and January
  • We've had over 400 Tweets with the #D2Q (our hashtag for The Challenge)

How do you reach your goals?


As with any other communications effort, you need a plan. In it you want to include what you want to achieve (objectives), how you are going to do it (tactics), and how you will know you've accomplished it (measurement). It's not about length or complexity; the plan will just help everyone on your team understand what is expected and what is to be put into action.

Once this has been done, create a content calendar that will outline, specifically, what is being posted and when. Your team should spend a lot of time crafting key messages that align with your organization's brand and overall objectives. Look at the months ahead and determine what activities your organization is doing that social media can help to support.

For example, January had National Non-Smoking Week. We tailored messages and links to promote that, since it ties in directly with our objectives.

The more you can plan in advance, the freer you will be to engage with other people more organically. You won't have to spend time each day thinking of what to write - instead you can spend time having real conversations and responding to comments and questions online.

Include social in non-social

Traditional means of advertising and promotion are not dead. Use them but include your social networks into them. Make sure your e-mail signature has links to your networks. Make Twitter logos more prominent on your website, not buried at the bottom.

When we notified people of The Driven to Quit Challenge in an e-mail blast, we had a prominent section directing people to our Facebook page - in one day we had 64 new likes! We also included a call to action in our press release, letting people know they could connect with us online. Because social media is gaining in popularity, many of the news sources published links to our networks.

We also get contacted by a lot of people asking for clarifications on the rules or some other aspect of The Challenge. In every reply, we always encourage people to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Focused efforts


Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to have a social network just because it exists. Social media is free but the time to manage it is not. Depending on what your knowledge base is, and what resources you have, few organizations can appropriately manage more than two social networks. Facebook and Twitter are the most common but take a look at all of them to see what most appropriately fits your objectives.

New networks, such as Google+, have different features that may be more beneficial (i.e. Hangouts, for example). Smokers' Helpline uses Facebook and Twitter to share messages but if you take a look you'll see that the content is different on each. This way, our audience has a reason to follow both accounts, rather than getting the same information on Facebook that they would get on Twitter.

Work with partners and influencers

Talk to the organizations you work with regularly to see who is online and connect with them. Make it a habit to retweet and share their messages and they will do the same. For our launch, we gave all of our partners a list of pre-written messages to announce the big event. Those that used them changed them just slightly to make it come from their own voice. Each organization was appreciative that they didn't have to do the work of thinking up what to write and we were happy that a consistent and accurate message was getting shared.


In the months prior to the campaign, we worked diligently to build online relationships with others in this industry, people we might never have worked with. When D2Q began, we started reaching out to people and asked them to help promote the campaign.

Of course, it wasn't some blanket statement and we didn't ask everyone. Each message was tailored to that organization and we ensured the messaging was relevant. We were flexible when anyone had specific asks of their own and gracious when they said "no".

We also looked for opportunities for organizations to use our hardcopy materials (posters, registration forms, etc.). Remember, just because we built these relationships online, it doesn't mean the promotions can't extend offline. Being creative and nimble in this industry will allow you to maximize your return.


If you're interested working with us in promoting The Driven to Quit Challenge or have any other questions, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or reach out to us on our Facebook page or on Twitter. Registration ends February 29!

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Fostering Resiliency in Children and Youth

Submitted by CAMH Resource Centre and Parent Action on Drugs (PAD)

Imagine two rubber balls: The first ball is properly inflated with no holes or cracks. If you throw it against a wall it makes a loud BOING!! and returns with the same force that you threw it with. Now imagine throwing a rubber ball that is partially deflated due to a small crack, allowing air to seep out of it slowly over time. If you throw that ball against the wall, it makes a dull thud and lands only a few feet from the wall. It might roll back to you but it will take much longer than the first ball. "Resilience involves being able to recover from difficulties or change – to function as well as before and then move forward. Many refer to this as "bouncing back" from difficulties or challenges" (CAMH, 2009).

When we – as parents, caregivers, service providers and communities – foster resilience in children and youth, we are helping that rubber ball stay inflated. Building protective factors makes sure those holes and cracks are fixed so that young people can face life challenges and bounce back.

Resiliency has been steadily gaining attention as an important aspect of mental health promotion/mental well-being for children and youth by health professionals, researchers, government ministries and programs (including the Healthy Communities Fund grant program). As an important aspect of mental well-being, promoting resilience in individuals and communities is an essential component for all mental health promotion programming. Although individuals across the life spectrum benefit from improved resilience, children and youth are particularly vulnerable to risk factors that may affect their ability to respond to adversity and stress.

There are a number of excellent resources on resilience that can help Healthy Communities and public health stakeholders (e.g.: health promoters, educators, programmers, planners, etc.) better understand and integrate strategies to promote resiliency in children and youth in mental health promotion programming.

Growing up Resilient: Ways to build resilience in children and youth, written by Drs. Tatyana Barankin and Nazilla Khanlou (CAMH, 2009), reviews the latest research and developments on resilience in children and youth in a way that is relevant for a diverse audience. This resource considers the development of resilience and risk and protective factors that affect young people at three levels:

  • Individual factors: temperament, learning strengths, feelings and emotions, self-concept, ways of thinking, adaptive skills, social skills and physical health
  • Family factors: attachment, communication, family structure, parent relations, parenting style, sibling relations, parents' health and support outside the family
  • Environmental factors: inclusion (gender, culture), social conditions (socio-economic situation, media influences), access (education, health) and involvement. Tips on how to build resilience in children and youth follow each section.

Building Resilient Youth: Practical Tips for Helping your Teen Make Healthy Choices (PAD, 2011), is a brochure from Parent Action on Drugs aimed at parents and other significant adults in the lives of adolescents. It also addresses the individual, family and community risk factors that challenge youth, and gives specific tips on how to increase the protective factors in these areas. The brochure addresses substance use, mental health, gambling, internet gaming and gangs specifically. It is available for public health, education and other community workers to distribute to their parent audiences.

In partnership with HC Link, PAD and the CAMH resource centre is offering these resources free of charge. (Please see details below*).

For more information on each resource please click on the links below:

Growing up Resilient: Ways to build resilience in children and youth (CAMH):

Building Resilient Youth: Practical tips for helping your teen make healthy choices (PAD):

*To receive these complimentary resources (shipping included), please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject line: "Resiliency Resources". Please note that this offer is only available to those working in Ontario. Due to limited quantities, this offer is available on a first-come-first-serve basis with a limit of one complimentary copy per organization. Please include the following information in the body of your email: 1. Your name; 2. Occupation; 3. Organization; 4. Complete mailing address, phone number and email address.

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Past webinar: Working together with Francophones in Ontario (Webinar in French)

January 26, 2012

10:00am - noon EST

This webinar is an introduction on how to engage Francophone communities. Given that our communities often contain a moderate-to-high population of Francophones, we need to engage our Francophone partners and community members in our work. In this session, we will review background information about the social, economic and political context for Franco-Ontarians and share their experiences, successes and key learnings in three areas: What are the strategies we can use to engage Francophone populations? What are the benefits to our community and our work when we do so? What practical ideas and steps should we take in order to engage Francophones?

Estelle Duchon joined the HC Link team at Health Nexus as bilingual health promotion consultant. She holds a Master's degree in project management. Her passions include engaging Francophone communities and supporting organizations in developing French language services.

Andrea Bodkin joined the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) in 2006 and currently is the manager of the OPHA HC Link team. Andrea has an extensive background in physical activity and health promotion and has worked in local recreation centres and public health units as well as provincial NGOs and agencies.

This webinar is now over. To inquire about a repeat, please email Estelle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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