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.

Faith-based Organizations Working Together to Combat Poverty

Faith-based groups have a long history of charitable work providing for the needs of those less fortunate. Historically, faith-based groups provided for the basic needs of those living in poverty and filling gaps in service delivery by running food banks, homeless shelters and community programs. Toronto’s Yonge Street Mission has been serving the poor since 1896 and now provides a variety of programs including services for homeless youth, supportive housing and community building. Holy Blossom Temple has been involved in social action since the mid 1800’s including advocacy, education, and direct services. The Muslim Welfare Centre provides services to those in need both in Canada and internationally. Programs include Halal Food and Essential Item Baskets, The Regent Park Lunch Program and Project Ramadan, a volunteer led group that provides families in need with food for a month.

Now numerous religious groups are coming together to combat poverty. Faith in the City, a multi-faith symposium for faith communities was held on April 30th 2015 at Toronto City Hall. Faith in the City began in 2013 and brings together faith leaders and city officials to encourage faith communities to work across boundaries with each other and with the City to address social issues. This year’s symposium was focused on poverty reduction, with a specific emphasis on child poverty. The result was Faith Communities’ Charter and Action Plan on Poverty Reduction. The action plan urges City Counsel to address:

1. Employment and Income Security
2. Affordable Housing
3. Affordable Transit
4. Access to Services
5. Food Security
6. Fair and Sustainable Taxation

Click here to read the full action plan.

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CCSA Releases Report on Cannabis Use in Youth

Cannabis is the most commonly used drug among Canadian youth, aged 15-24, and our previous work has revealed that many of these young people think that cannabis is natural and safe. Our latest report delivers a response to these findings and will be used to dispel this type of misinformation.  On June 17th, CCSA released the sixth issue in its signature Substance Abuse in Canada series, The Effects of Cannabis Use during Adolescence.  This report, compiled by well-known and respected experts in this field,

  • provides evidence that marijuana is not a benign substance

  • explains that regular cannabis use seriously disrupts the developing brain and is related to
    • poor academic performance and deficits in attention and memorysignificantly increased risk of motor vehicle collisions

    • significantly increased risk of motor vehicle collisions
    • experiencing psychotic symptoms and developing schizophrenia
  • reveals that cannabis can be addictive
  • discusses how primary care providers are optimally placed to screen youth for problematic cannabis use
  • outlines that therapies that focus on psychological well-being have resulted in reductions in cannabis use among youth as compared to use before treatment

To make informed decisions about cannabis use, youth and their support systems need to be aware of both the neurological and behavioural effects of cannabis.

Did you know cannabis could cause these harms, and even be addictive? Do your young clients? Do you have the information or resources to identify, treat, or refer youth with a cannabis use disorder? What would help you use this information?

Check out the report in short or the full technical report, if you would like to learn more about how cannabis affects a youth’s brain and the impacts on cognition, behaviour, driving abilities mental health, addiction and treatment options.

Contact me to chat about how you could use the findings in the report in your work - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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Webinar Recap: First Steps to FLS Planning

Recently HC Link presented the latest webinar in its French Language Services (FLS) Capacity Building series. We have delivered a number of these, on topics such as creating a bilingual organizational culture, recruiting and retaining bilingual staff, and engaging Francophone communities. While we’ve heard that this information is helpful, we’ve also heard that organizations need to get a better sense of where to START when planning FLS. To that end, we developed a new webinar called “First Steps to Planning French Language Services”, and will release a resource on the same topic later this summer.

Planning to deliver FLS can seem overwhelming, particularly if your organization is new to working in French/with Francophone communities. One of the important overarching principles to keep in mind is that you can start small, and grow delivery of French services over time. It’s also critical to work closely with partner organizations (be they Anglophone, bilingual or Francophone) who have close relationships with Francophone communities and deliver services in French.

Keeping those two things in mind, here are a few of the necessary steps to keep in mind as you begin your FLS journey. These steps will be expanded on in our upcoming resource on this topic.

FLS Planning Graphic

First Steps in FLS Planning Slides | Recording

Helpful Resources from HC Link

This new resource, Getting Started With……Planning French Language Services lists all of HC Link’s existing resources on FLS and engaging and working with Francophones.

Helpful Resources from our Members and Partners

HR Support Kit: Pathway to Bilingual Services developed by Risfssso

Moving towards a bilingual organization developed by Health Nexus and Reflet Salveo

Ontario 400 Website celebrating 400 of Francophone presence in Ontario



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Partnership Webinar Series Recap

On April 23rd, May 7th and May 28th, HC Link delivered three webinars as part of a series on Collaborative Partnerships. Hosted by HC Link’s Kim Hodgson and Gillian Kranias, every webinar offered the audience a mix of stories from the field, a bit of theory, and tips and tricks to optimize successful collaborative partnerships.

Each part covered one or more of the activities found in figure 1. These six activities work together with the model to create successful partnerships.


Overall, a major lesson to be learnt from the series is that there is no one-size-fits-all model to follow for partnerships. Even though hosts offered a model (figure 1), each activity is very adaptable and flexible to the unique needs of collaborative partnerships. Collaboration between organizations and community members vary depending on the nature and scope of the project. However, here are some key elements to keep in mind throughout every collaborative partnership that were highlighted in almost every webinar:

  • Communicate: this is key. In each webinar, all speakers spoke about the importance of communication. It is vital for all parties in collaborative partnerships to communicate their vision, expectations and their level of involvement in a project. Without clear and continuous communication, collaborative partnerships can become challenging and inefficient. Therefore, make sure to share with your partners your thoughts right from the start and throughout the collaboration in order to avoid future issues.
  • Listen: while communicating your perceptions is important, being on the receiving end is also essential. Listening is important throughout all collaborative partnership activities. You need to be able to listen to your partners when connecting, creating a common vision and fostering understanding. You need to listen to the community when figuring out what are the priority needs and where you should focus future efforts, as well as what is working and what isn’t of the current projects being carried out. As much as speaking up about your own thoughts and ideas is important, being open to receiving those of others are as equally crucial for successful collaborations.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: Not all partners in collaboration will have the same perceptions, expertise, resources and levels of involvement. This is why communication and listening is so important! Every partner needs to be understanding and flexible of other partners’ position in the collaboration. Doing so will avoid hurdles and unexpected loads of work.
  • Self-reflect: this key element was brought up several times throughout speakers discussions during the webinars. Self-reflection is not only important during the evaluation part of partnerships, but at the start and throughout. It is important to self-reflect on the position you want to take in collaboration at the start of a partnership and while preparing the work plan. It is important to self-reflect on the progression of the collaboration once the project is implemented. It is important to self-reflect on the deliverables of the collaboration at the end, and on future directions. Self-reflection should be integrated in all parts of the collaboration!
  • Commit: commitment from all parties of the collaboration is essential for the success of the partnership. All partners need to stay committed to the project to ensure success. This is where communication, listening and self-reflection are important players. Each partner needs to understand their own level of commitment within the collaboration and communicate these to other partners. Each partners needs to listen to other partners on these matters. By doing these, it will ensure that all partners are comfortable with their roles and levels of involvement, and ensure that each partner will stay committed to the partnership and the project.
  • Celebrate: while only the third webinar touched upon celebration in greater depth, every story from the field shared some form of celebration that they did towards a collaborative partnership project. Whether it was simply cheering the success of their collaboration or telling the audience of a gathering of the community to celebrate a project, celebrating the positives of collaboration was incorporated by all members. So remember, celebrate your successes, whether big or small!

 Learn more, listen to the webinars and access the resources!

Part 1: The Genius of Partnerships: New relationships & diverse perspectives within a common vision

Guest Speakers:
Joanne Dubois, Community Developer at Grand River Community Health Centre
Stephanie Glyon, works with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and is the Regional Implementation Coordinator with the Durham Service Collaborative

Part 2: An Eye on the Vision, an Eye on the Road: Working together for Change

Guest Speakers
Amy Mak, public health nurse at the Middlesex-London Heath Unit
Jane Harrington, Injury prevention specialist at the London Health Sciences Centre.

Part 3: Thinking Back, Moving Forward: Celebrate and Evaluate…to Renew

Guest speakers:
 Denise Bishop-Earle, works with Art Starts and is Co-Chair for the Lawrence Heights Inter-Organizational Network (LHION)
Owen Hinds, Pathways to Education at Unison Health and Community Services, and is a steering committee member for the LHION


Also check out our revised resource on Parternship Development


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Webinar Recap: YouthREX’s 10 Ways to Meaningfully Engage Underrepresented Youth

On May 28th, YouthREX hosted a webinar titled “10 Ways to Meaningfully Engage Underrepresented Youth”. It was a great learning event that included perspectives from service providers, social enterprises (such as Spoke N’ Heard), academia, and of course, youth!

Without further ado, here are YouthREX’s top 10 tips for meaningfully engaging underrepresented youth:

  1. Let youth self-identify. Labels like “marginalized”, “at-risk”, “vulnerable” can be strong words, and these labels are all circumstantial.

  2. One-off consultations with youth don’t create youth leaders. We need to embed youth in decision making, advising and brainstorming processes.

  3. Create the sandbox from the get-go. Give youth creative freedom to express themselves       

  4. Recognize your power and their power. Three powers are always at play – personal, local, and global. Power can come in the form of speaking English, being Caucasian, living in a developed country, and how you carry yourself. Be aware of micro-aggressions
  5. Experience is not a form of payment. Compensate youth for their time (ex. Public transit, food, snacks). Don’t expect young people have the time and resources to commit to meetings.

  6. Silence is a part of the conversation. Sometimes young people only speak when ask or are prompted to. So, ask for youth contributions. It can be intimidating to bring new ideas when you are the only young person in the room.

  7. Make all resources known. Marginalized youth may not always feel safe because of various forms of violence they have experienced in the past. Make them aware of the available resources before they have to ask, so it’s as safe a space as possible to work optimally. For example, tell youth if you will be paying for lunch or subway fare.

  8. Give a job title to youth who are involved in your organization. This clarifies responsibilities and helps youth in future jobs if they are able to say exactly what they did while working with you.

  9. Get to know the youth’s interest and goals. If they enjoy what they are doing, they will offer more to the organization.

  10. Appreciate and foster their intangibles. Marginalization prompts skills that may not be tangible, such as a distinct world view, knowledge of neighborhood experience, youth perspective, or creativity they may have developed due to lack of resources.

The second part of the webinar focused on an academic perspective on youth engagement, and was presented by Rebecca Houwer. Rebecca has produced a model of youth engagement on promising, evidence based practices to build leadership capacity of marginalized youth. She noted that structurally marginalized youth want opportunities to be part of their communities and have access to share in the work of addressing root causes of marginalization. When developing models for youth engagement, there is a danger of reproducing a patriarchal, euro-centric, adult-centric model that is exclusionary. Youth engagement needs to focus on skill development that moves young individuals, and although we may aim for a collaborative approach to leadership development, we also need to integrate personal and social development needs. Equally as important, Rebecca noted that it is important to contextualize programs within youths’ individual, cultural, political and gendered experiences. Lastly, I found it interesting that Rebecca mentioned the need to cultivate 21st century skills when working with youth, such as collaboration, innovation, and participatory practices, among others. With the world of work changing, developing these skills is crucial.

Overall, it was a great webinar jam packed with tons of resources and information. I’m definitely looking forward to attending YouthREX’s next webinar! 

You can watch a recording of the webinar here 


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Poverty Reduction Blog Chat

Poverty Reduction Blog Chat

June 4th 10:00am – 11:00am

Join us for an online discussion on reducing poverty at the local level. Learn tips and strategies to address poverty in your own community.

Guests joining us include:
Greg deGroot-Maggetti - People in Poverty Program Coordinator Mennonite Central Committee Ontario
Mary Lou Mills - SDOH Nurse, Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit
Lyn Smith - Coordinator, Renfrew Country Child Poverty Action Network

Facilitated by:
Suzanne Schwenger – Manager, Health Nexus
Lisa Brown – Communications Coordinator, HC Link

Follow this link to participate

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Today is Bike to Work Day!

Although many HC Link staff cycle for much or all of the year, it's nice to take time on Bike to Work day to celebrate our favourite mode of transportation. I asked a few HC Link staff and other colleagues for a few comments.

Toronto has several group rides that head downtown from various parts of the city, ending at City Hall for a pancake breakfast. Those festivities start too early for my night-owl habits, but lots of HC Link staff will be there.

What will you be doing for Bike to Work day?

Alison Stirling says: I'll be at CPHA in Vancouver this year and not on a bike! But if I were in Toronto, I would be riding my bike to work and all other parts.
Sam: I'm going to bike to work. Unless it's really pouring rain.
Sara: On Bike to Work day I will be riding with the pack and loving every moment of it.
Andrea: I will be biking to work- first ride of the season as I have been quite sick over the winter. I can't wait!
Amanda: I will be commuting into Toronto on the GO train...I would rather be biking but it`s too far!
Lisa B: I will definitely be biking to work and I am planning on attending the Bike to Work Day Group Commute & Pancake Breakfast at Nathan Phillips Square.

One of the advantages of living in Toronto is its transit system -- our buses, streetcars, subways, intercity trains, and ferries. Of course we all love to complain about it, but it gives us options that just don't exist in some other parts of Ontario. If the weather is bad or if we're tired or ill, we don't have to ride our bikes or resort to car travel.

How do you usually get to work?

Lisa B: I commute to work by bike in spring, summer, and fall weather permitting. If it is raining or too cold I take the TTC. I now work at PAD and bike from High Park to north of Keele and Wilson! I ride on main streets with heavy traffic but go out of my way to stay off of Keele, the ride takes me about 45 minutes each way.
Alison: To get to work I take my bike on the Toronto Island ferry and then head up Bay Street if I am in a hurry or further west to Simcoe where there's a bike lane -- a much safer way to go.
Sara: I usually walk, TTC or ride depending on the weather and my body.
Sam: Bicycle! Mostly main streets, like Bathurst and Bloor
Andrea: Usually I bike from March to December and take public transit the rest of the time. The nice things about public transit are that a) I live in a city with public transit and b) that it allows me to "bookend" transit trips with walking. The not-so-nice thing is how crowded it is. Biking is THE BEST way to get to work!

Once people start cycling, it's hard to get them to stop. But getting people to start can be challenging: it can seem scary and intimidating to put your small, squishy, un-armored self out there in traffic with large metal boxes on wheels.

Joanne: I just got a bike -- it's my mom's old bike. I think it has 21 gears. I just need to work up the nerve to ride it to work! I've never ridden in the city.

Matthuschka: I'd have to work my way up to it. We can get down to the waterfront easily but not into the core.

Remember, though, that downtown traffic moves quite slowly much of the time, so the speed differential between bikes and cars is very low. In fact, cyclists typically find they're faster from point A to point B than a car making the same trip.

What would you say to non-cyclists on Bike to Work day?

Sara: I would tell non-riders that riding in the city is not as scary as many believe. The benefits of riding extend beyond improving your mental and physical health, it is also great for getting to know your city, for reducing emissions and saving money. As well, the more cyclists there are, the better cars will get at sharing the road. Join the fun!
Alison: Try it, you'll like it! Cycling is fun, fast and a healthy way to get around.
Sam: since you have to go to work anyway you might as well exercise and get there for free!
Matthuschka: support the bike to work movement! even if you can't, make it so others can. If it's fear, then find ways to get over that fear -- work on creating a safe bike network in the core of the city.
Andrea: I'd say: be brave and give it a try. Bike to Work day is a great day to try it out especially if there is a group bike happening. Also the pancakes at City Hall are delicious. But really: map out your route and try it on a weekend; pay attention and be safe and: most importantly have an awesome ride!
Amanda: Share the road! Biking is fun and great exercise.
Lisa B: I would say try cycling! Especially if you live and work in the downtown core, it is not nearly as intimidating as you might think and a great way to get some fresh air and physical activity.

Want to give it a try? Here are a few resources to help you get started:

Yvonne Bambrick's book The urban cycling survival guide : need-to-know skills and strategies for biking in the city. Yvonne headed up Cycle Toronto for several years and is a sane, calm, and encouraging voice for beginning city riders.

The City of Toronto runs CAN-Bike courses which cover both the legal and practical issues involved in city riding.

Cycle Toronto has a Start Cycling site ( with stories and tips for new cyclists. Through Cycle Toronto you can keep up to date on cycling initiatives across Toronto or you can connect with your Ward group for more local updates.

Happy cycling!

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What is Food Insecurity?

Food security is the secure access to sufficient food (both in quality and in quantity) and is considered a basic human right (UN, 1998). At the World Food Summit in 1996 a widely accepted definition of food security was established and is used in Canada’s Action Plan for Food Security –
Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (1998).
Food insecurity is the lack of access to these resources and can range from worrying about being able to buy nutritious foods to not eating for an entire day because of inadequate funds to buy food.

Kids eating

 What does food insecurity look like in developed countries like Canada?

In countries like the US and Canada it is common practice to measure food insecurity at the household level. The most resent statistics from Statistics Canada show that 8.3% of Canadian households are food insecure. Food insecurity is much more common in low-income households - over 40% of people in low and lower-middle income households reported at least one aspect of food insecurity while only 11% of middle income households and 4% of high income households reported having problems.

People who are food insecure might:

  • Be worried about having enough money to purchase food
  • Have limited or uncertain ability to acquire food
  • Go hungry because they do not have enough income to buy food
  • Eat less nutritious food because it is cheaper
  • Not be able to provide balanced meals for their children

What impacts food insecurity?

Women report higher levels of food insecurity than men do, as do younger people. Some people live in geographical areas with less access to food known as food deserts. Families with children are more likely to be food insecure and Aboriginal households with or without children are also at an increased risk of food insecurity. Lone-parent led households have some of the highest rates of food insecurity in Canada, at 21.4%. Household food insecurity often begins when another person joins the family (such as a baby or an elderly grandparent), when a family member is ill, or when a job is lost.

Consequences of Food Insecurity

There are some very obvious consequences of food insecurity such as going hungry, weight loss, and stunted growth in children. However food insecurity affects overall health status in a variety of ways. Recent research suggests that early life circumstances can have a substantial affect on adulthood health. Food insecurity is also correlated with obesity and chronic diseases - possible reasoning for this includes the cheap “junk” food that is high in calories and carbohydrates and low in nutrients that many low-income (and food insecure) families eat.


Want to learn more about food insecurity in Canada? Check out some of these great websites -

Food Secure Canada 

Provincial Health Service Authority

Foodnet Ontario 

(Image credit, Flickr, USDA 20120907-FNS-LSC-0544


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Promoting healthy weights in children and youth – What are the impacts of childhood obesity?

The Ontario government’s Healthy Kids Strategy is well underway and HC Link is involved supporting the communities doing the Healthy Kids Community Challenge. Obesity in children and youth is a public health concern in Canada and globally. Currently one-third of children and youth in Canada are overweight or obese (PHO, 2013). Childhood obesity is a complex problem that is influenced by a wide range psychological, biological, and socioeconomic factors and is an important health equity issue. What are some of the impacts of unhealthy weights on children and youth?


Mental health challenges and bullying is one of the less talked about effects of childhood obesity. Kids who are overweight are at a much greater risk of experiencing bullying, being socially rejected, and having low self-esteem. In a recent study of high school students in the US 58 percent of boys and 63 percent of girls experienced bullying.

Kids who are bullied are at increased risk of mental health problems like depression and eating disorders, substance use problems, and of being bullies themselves.

Difficulty in school and behavioral problems

Stigma, social discrimination, and bullying can make it difficult for kids to function in school and hinder academic success. Overweight children are at risk of being held back a grade and poor test results in math. Kids may act out behaviorally or socially withdraw and miss classes.

Increased risk of disease in adulthood 

Kids who are overweight are at a significantly increased risk of becoming obese and developing metabolic syndrome and other physical conditions.

Physical complications in childhood

Complications of obesity that were typically not seen in youth are now being seen in children and include:

  •  Type II Diabetes 
  • High cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Asthma 
  • Early puberty 
  • Bone and joint problems
  • Fatigue
  •  Sleeping disorders

To read more about healthy weights in children and youth check out the report Addressing Obesity in Children and Youth from Public Health Ontario or check out our resource on the Health Kids Strategy.



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Mental Illnesses in Canada: Can Mental Health First Aid Training Help?

Did you know that in any given year in Canada, one in five people experience a mental illness? Further, one in three people will experience it at some point in their lives. Here’s something equally as shocking: according to CAMH, in 2013, 2.2% of Ontario adults seriously considered suicide, which is roughly 230,000 people a year. These are just some of the statistics that show the increased need for understanding mental illness, as well as public education around mental health. To address this need, Mental Health First Aid training is becoming increasingly common in Canada.

To learn more about this topic, I listened to Suzanne Witt-Foley’s radio interview ( about mental illnesses in Canada, and her experience running Mental Health First Aid training. Here’s what I learned. 

Public education about mental health is extremely important. Mental illness is common, and many times it begins during adolescence. Early interventions can produce stronger mental health outcomes in later years. If treatment comes too late, then ingrained brain pathways are developed and are much harder to change. Early intervention makes those pathways easier to shift, so it is easier to address mental health symptoms when they arise. Public education on mental health also reduces stigma. There are a lot of myths, and when we don’t understand something we tend to fear it. Suzanne believes that if we don’t understand mental illness, we fear, and that means we avoid it.

There are many strategies that exist to address mental health issues, and Suzanne believes these strategies are like ingredients for soup; you need a whole tool kit, and strategies that work for some people don’t work with others.

Mental Health First Aid training is one such “ingredient”. Mental Health First Aid training is a 12 hour course developed to help provide initial support for someone experiencing a mental health problem. It was developed in Australia in 2001, has been extensively evaluated, and is an evidence-based course with a certificate for participants at the end. The course has been shown to improve participants’ knowledge of mental health, and has also contributed to a reduction in stigma.

We take a physical first aid course so why not mental health course? When we think of prevalence of mental illness in Canada, it makes sense to learn about it. Topics in the Mental Health First Aid Training include:

  • Introduction to health and mental health
  • Substance related disorders, addictions, mood disorders, anxiety, psychotic disorders
  • Signs, symptoms, and risk factors for mental illnesses
  • Overdose, panic attacks suicidal behaviour, psychotic episodes
  • Action steps
  • Information about treatment and current resources

To learn more about Mental Health First Aid training in Canada, visit
Suzanne Witt-Foley is an HC Link Consultant. To learn more about HC Link Consultants or to request a service, visit

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Smart Growth 2015 Forum

On March 24, 2015, the Smart Growth 2015 Forum took place in Toronto. The Forum was hosted by the Ontario Smart Growth Networkork (OSGN), a project of the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition.

OSGNThe Forum built on the work that the OSGN had done over the preceding months, which included a survey on smart growth issues and a webinar on Smart Growth in Ontario and Why it Matters.

The Ontario Smart Growth Network (OSGN) is a non-profit network of organizations, businesses and individuals in Ontario that are working to promote a smarter approach to community design. Essentially, “smart growth” aims to reduce urban sprawl and promote the development of compact, livable communities. It encompasses complete communities, complete streets, transit-oriented development, new urbanism, resilient cities and walkable communities.

The purpose of the Forum was to bring government representatives, planners, community leaders, advocates, developers, educators and others together to share information about smart growth initiatives, strategies for engaging the public and ways to measure our progress. It was also an opportunity to hear from staff of the Ontario Growth Secretariat about the 10-year coordinated review of the Greenbelt Plan and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and the public consultation process that is now underway.

In the morning, two panel presentations featuring a number of speakers gave their thoughts on public engagement around smart growth and how to evaluate smart growth principles. One key thought that was raised was to consider how much has changed over the past 20 to 30 years in terms of politics, economics, demographics, amenities, and the environment and whether the current review of the Ontario greenbelt plans and Growth Plan will prepare us for the next 20 to 30 years. As well, participants also heard about the importance of the greenbelt to Ontario and Ontarians, the threats to the greenbelt, and the challenges that some developers have when trying to build smart growth developments.

In the afternoon, Walk Friendly Ontario announced their 2015 award recipients. Congratulations to the Town of Smith Falls and the City of Kitchener on being recognized as WALK Friendly Communities!

Finally, the afternoon session allowed for more intimate discussion as participants shared their own experiences and reflected on the challenges and opportunities to encouraging more smart growth in Ontario. Some of the top issues raised were: how language and terminology varied leading to confusion about what smart growth really means; the number of plans, government ministries, and legislation that has changed and continue to change over time creating uncertainty over who is in charge; and the age-old issue of political will and the influence of politics in planning decisions.

The Forum proved to be a great experience in bringing together a number of diverse stakeholders representing the provincial government, municipalities, non-profits, academics, and developers among others.

For those that were unable to attend, presenter slides as well as notes from the event can be found here.
Anyone can join the OSGN for free. Membership in the network will help you to stay up-to-date on the latest news, promote your own initiatives and share ideas with others. You can also follow the OSGN on Twitter (@OSGN1).

The OSGN is a provincial network of organizations and individuals working to promote a smarter approach to urban design.


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Community Forum: Breaking Down Barriers

On March 31st, the San Romanoway Revitalization Association held a community forum through their “Pathways to Health Choices” project funded by Health Canada. The event was titled “Breaking Down Barriers: Mental Health and Drugs Among Marginalized Youth”.

The keynote for the forum was Dr. Akwatu Khenti, the Director of Transformative Global Health at CAMH. Dr. Khenti’s presentation was titled “Drugs, Social Construction and Policing Unequal Justice and Health for Racialized Youth”. He started off his presentation by stating that race and the perception of race matters, because it drives public policy and the public agenda. He noted that racism impacts everyone, and that we are all part of the solution.

He spent much of his presentation going through Canada’s history with racism, and then discussed the history of Canada’s national drug strategy which started in the late 1980s. Because of the drug strategy, by the 1990s, Canada was number 2 in the worlds in terms of drug arrests. He made the point that the harms of cannabis in particular are negligible to the harms of incarceration. Dr. Khenti noted that between 2002-2012, Black incarceration increased by 75%, and “white incarceration went down… even though blacks and whites use the same amount of drugs” in Canada.

He argued that most people age out of cannabis use as they get older and take on more responsibilities such as jobs, university, marriage and children, but that Black people are more likely to get arrested before they “age out” of drug use. Further, Dr. Khenti argued that Black people are also perceived as older by the police, so if a 13-year-old is caught doing drugs, he (and Dr. Khenti noted that it is most often Black men who get stopped by the police) is more likely to be seen as age 16 and thus having more responsibility. Dr. Khenti repeatedly made the point that in order to make strong policies that help racialized youth, more race-based police data is needed.

After a Q&A, there was a panel discussion on Strategies to Reduce Drug Use and Enhance Youth Mental Health. There were five discussants from very different backgrounds ranging from a mental health/addictions case manager, a police officer, a lawyer, and youth outreach workers. The panel touched on issues relating to youth engagement, the importance of accessing resources for racialized youth, and a heartfelt story about one panelist’s experience in the incarceration system and how he changed his trajectory after being released.

The event closed off with a networking session and lunch. It was a great forum to bring together those working in the mental health and addictions sector, and a great learning event!

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

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

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

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


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

Promising Projects and Programs 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about SFPY, go to 

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Recapping HC Link’s Northern Gatherings

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

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

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

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

Here is a recap of each of the events: 

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

There are five main components of the project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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March 2 Health in All Policies Forum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to all attendees for their insight and enthusiasm!

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

Join the HC Link Policy Learning Community 

photo 1


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Learning from Indigenous Helpers and Scholars

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twitter Trends, Tips & Tools

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

Twitter logo blueTrends on Twitter

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

Tips for Using Twitter

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

Useful Tools for Twitter

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

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

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


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

Poverty and Health

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

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

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

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

Policy Recommendations

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

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




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