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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Shift the Conversation: Community Health & Wellbeing Week

By Sofia Ramirez, Association of Ontario Health Centres

To achieve its vision of the best possible health and wellbeing for everyone, the Association of Ontario Health Centres launched the Shift the Conversation: Community Health and Wellbeing initiative. This is an ongoing conversation and dialogue with people and organizations who share the vision: the best health and wellbeing for everyone.

Often, the way most people talk about health care doesn't capture a big enough picture. The conversation takes too narrow a focus on just treating illness rather that all the other factors that contribute to our wellbeing.

Community Health & Wellbeing Week 2014 #CHWW2014

Between October 5th and October 11th, 111 community-governed primary healthcare organizations across Ontario will take part in the national celebration of Community Health and Wellbeing Week (CHWW) using the theme Shift the Conversation: Community Health & Wellbeing.

Ontario's week of special events is coordinated by the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC), which represents organizations applying a unique and comprehensive approach, delivering medical services in combination with a wide-range of health promotion and community development initiatives.

#CHWW events spotlight the benefits of this comprehensive approach, especially in response to current stresses on health and wellbeing here in Ontario.

Please join us for this celebration. See last week's HC Link News Digest PLUS for a sample of #CHWW2014 Ontario Events and a link to the full listing of events across Ontario.

How can the Canadian Index of Wellbeing improve the quality of life in Ontario?

As part of the Shift the Conversation initiative and with a generous grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), an agency of the Government of Ontario, the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) and its member centres partnered with the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW). The CIW is one of the world's leading instruments to measure societal progress.

This project explores the different ways organizations can increase their capacity to address the root causes of illness and shift their work upstream to keep people well. It will support Ontario's Community Health Centres (CHCs), and other community-governed Primary Health Care organizations, to build on previous early CIW work they have conducted over the past two years.

Currently, over 20 of Ontario's Community Health Centres are applying the CIW in a number of different ways. They are using the CIW across the province to improve their capacity to tackle the root causes of illness, for example, as a tool to:

  • Decide what types of services and programs will have the highest impact improving community health and wellbeing.
  • Enhance dialogue and community engagement in the development of action plans to address some of the most important determinants of health in their community.

Measuring What Matters

Earlier this year AOHC also released a new discussion paper called: Measuring What Matters: How the Canadian Index of Wellbeing can improve quality of life in Ontario.

AOHC, together with HC Link, hosted an online discussion about the paper centering on the idea that the CIW can serve as a powerful tool to kick start a more effective community health and wellbeing movement in Ontario. You can view the online discussion here and comment on the paper here.

The CIW Ontario Composite Index Report

The Measuring What Matters paper's release coincided with the April 29 publication of the first CIW Ontario composite index report. This report tracked back to 1994, to provide baseline provincial data with respect to all eight quality of life domains that the CIW tracks.

The CIW Ontario composite report exposed a growing chasm between GDP and the wellbeing. It showed that people living in Ontario are an increasingly time crunched population, experiencing declining economic security, growing rates of long-term unemployment, and a widening gap between the rich and poor.

The CIW's recommendations included expanding access to Community Health Centres. CHCs look at the complete picture and connect the dots between the determinants of health and wellbeing.

Expanding access to Community Health Centres

Our wellbeing is shaped by a wide variety of factors, most of which occur outside of our formal health care system. The places and conditions, within which we live, learn, work, and play are the most important determinants of our health. In turn, our health is related to income inequality and education — it affects our ability to work, our ability to learn, to engage fully with our friends and in our communities. Regrettably, our current health care system was not designed to consider these. It focuses on a "downstream approach" to restore health once it has been lost, instead of an "upstream approach" that prevents illness and disease before they take hold.

Ontario's Community Health Centres (CHCs) have shown that the most effective, efficient, and affordable means of delivering primary health care is through an "upstream approach." CHCs partner with other agencies and with the community to fully integrate a wide range of health promotion and community development services. These services proactively help to overcome barriers to greater wellbeing attributable to health-related social and economic factors like income levels, access to shelter/housing, education, language, and geographic location.

While CHCs have been very successful in meeting the health needs of vulnerable populations and in managing complex chronic disease, many parts of the province do not have access to them. Currently, Ontario's CHCs only serve about 4% of the population.

To benefit the long-term health of people living in Ontario, we must:

  • Adopt a proactive and preventative approach to health care that addresses social and economic factors
  • Expand access to Ontario's Community Health Centres by creating a comprehensive network that enables people in all parts of the province — especially those facing barriers to better health — to access its benefits
  • Provide direct and targeted funding from federal and provincial governments to support a network model of community health centres throughout the province

This year, Community Health & Wellbeing events will highlight the need for healthier public policy and wider focus for health care system.

Please join us at a CHWW event near you:

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New Stats Can Report Shows 77% of Canadians Have “Complete Mental Health”

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

A new Statistics Canada report provides some highlights on the state of mental health among Canadians. The report called Positive Mental Health and Mental Illness is based on data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey. Statistics Canada was interested in measuring the mental health of Canadians as a positive concept where mental health is understood as feeling good and functioning well in life.

To determine positive mental health among Canadians, Statistics Canada used the complete mental health model which combines categories of mental health (flourishing, languishing or moderate mental health) with the absence or presence of six mental disorders (depression; bipolar disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; alcohol, cannabis and other drug dependence). Flourishing, languishing or moderate mental are assessed using 14 questions that looks at emotional, social and psychological well-being.

Using the complete mental health model, Statistics Canada identified that 77% have complete mental health meaning that they are flourishing and do not identify as having one of the six mental disorders asked about in the survey. It's interesting to note that the figure for complete mental health is notably higher than in other countries. The report's authors acknowledge that more research is necessary to explain why Canadians are more likely to report complete mental health than other countries. The reasons may relate to demographic and cultural factors or simply differences in how the survey was conducted.

And, while many readers of the report might focus on the prevalence of mental health among Canadians in this report, another significant outcome of the survey is the spotlight it places on the social determinants of health. Findings from the study show that mental health is associated with several social determinants including education, income and physical health. The study finds that those with complete mental health were more likely to be people with a partner (an indicator of social support), living in an urban environment, and had strong spiritual health. Canadians in the lowest household income quintile, without a post-secondary education, without a job or ability to work were less likely to report complete mental health. Knowing about the association of these determinants with mental health can help in identifying how we plan programs and policies to promote mental health.

Read the report here. What findings stand out for you?

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Webinar Recap: Working with Municipalities- Stories from the field

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Consultant

This week I moderated the second webinar in HC Link's Policy Webinar Series: Working with Municipalities- Stories from the field. As the title would suggest, the focus of the webinar was to discuss strategies and techniques for working with municipal staff. In addition to Paul Young from HC Link, we had 3 terrific community members share their stories: Jean Montgomery, a community volunteer from Haldimand-Norfolk; Melanie Davis from the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, and Janet Dawson from the Peterborough County-City Health Unit. The inspiration for this webinar came from a workshop in North Bay in November 2012 on the topic.

There were several themes that emerged throughout today's webinar that are important to keep in mind with working with municipalities (or for that matter, working with a sector other than your own). In no particular order:

  • Do your research: know what it is the municipality/partner does, how they are structured, what their mandate is. Be familiar with the legislation and documents that they deal with/produce, such as official plans etc
  • Educate: you can't assume that the municipality/partner knows what you do! Be prepared to make them aware of the role that you can play within their mandate or work.
  • Build relationships with individuals: have conversations, coffee, lunch with key people that you will need to know and work with
  • Identify win-wins: be clear about common ground where you can each get what you want. Also identify how you can help them: for example many municipalities find it challenging to engage their communities whereas it's in the mandate of public health to do so.
  • Leverage volunteers: volunteers who are not attached to a particular agency may have more freedom/latitude to build relationships
  • Say thank you and congratulations: it might seem very simple, but acknowledgement can go a long way. Take every opportunity to congratulate staff on their accomplishments and say thank you for a job well done.
  • Be persistent, be patient and don't give up!

Resources mentioned in today's webinar:

Communities and Local Government: Working Together. This resource manual from the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition is designed to assist local government and healthy community groups in working more effectively together.

Public Health and Land Use Planning: How ten public health units are working to create healthy and sustainable communities. This report examines the ways in which ten public health units in Ontario are working to influence land use and transportation planning processes to help create healthy and sustainable communities.


The Association of Municipalities of Ontario

The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities

Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Where to go to from here:

New to policy work? Check out our "Getting Started with Policy" resource to learn more about policy and how HC Link can help you with your policy development efforts.

Check out the recording and handout from the first webinar in our policy series.

Check out slides and handouts from this webinar.

Join HC Link's Policy Learning Community.


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Policy … not so scary after all

Last week I had the pleasure of attending HC Link’s introductory webinar on Policy aptly entitled: Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf? De- mystifying Policy.

As someone with little policy experience, the webinar offered me a down to basics approach to policy, and guess what? Policy affects every facet of our lives: the roads we drive on, the transportation system, the water in our homes, our workplace scent policy, and even home-based policies like bedtime and screen time. You name it, and it’s likely to be linked to policy.

Likely because of its strong relationship with government, policy is often seen as a huge process (a big bad wolf) that nobody wants to tackle. But by the end of the webinar, it was clear that we all can be active in influencing policy at many levels. The webinar gave some great examples of policy and of communities and individuals who worked toward building healthy policies for healthy communities. For instance, the current booster seat legislation in Ontario was the result of four hardworking community members in Haldimand-Norfolk. You can read more about how they did it in this resource.

One great quote to take away from the webinar speaks to the collaborative nature of policy development: “Policy work is like making stone soup. Everyone brings what they have- a little of this, a little of that, and before you know it, you have a rich, community-based soup where before you only had stones.”

You can view the recording of the webinar, and download the handout, here.

New to policy work? Check out our “Getting Started with Policy” resource to learn more about policy and how HC Link can help you with your policy development efforts.

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Back to School: Mental Health Promotion on Campus

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

This week, the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre (CAMH HPRC) co-presented a webinar with the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health (CICMH) looking at Mental Health Promotion on Campus as part of the Ask the Experts webinar series. Ask the Experts is a webinar series by CICMH which brings together specialists to share promising practices for promoting mentally healthy campuses with support from the CAMH HPRC and the Evidence Exchange Network.

Targeting student leaders and post-secondary institution administrators, this webinar offered an introduction to addressing mental health promotion on campus settings. Monica Nunes, a Research Analyst with CAMH HPRC, kicked off the webinar with a presentation that provided some basic definitions about mental health and mental health promotion. Monica described mental health as a positive concept that relates to our ability to feel, think and act in ways that help us reach our goals and cope with life's challenges.


Next, Dr. Su-Ting Teo, Director of Student Health and Wellness at Ryerson University, provided some practical examples of how to embed mental health promotion into campus settings. Su-Ting referenced a handbook from the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services and the Canadian Mental Health Association called Post-Secondary Student Mental Health: Guide to a Systemic Approach which outlines that mental health promotion can be applied in campus settings in three main ways:

  • Though institutional planning and policy;
  • By creating a supportive and, inclusive campus environment;
  • And, by building mental health awareness on campus.

The last presenters in the webinar were John Horrox, Research and Policy Analyst, and Veronica Barahona, Communications Manager, with the College Student Alliance (CSA). John and Veronica introduced an upcoming initiative from the CSA focusing on stigma reduction called the Yellow Umbrella Project. The Yellow Umbrella Project aims to increase awareness about mental health in post-secondary education and launches at the end of October.

Click here to watch the full webinar. And you can download the slides here. CICMH will also be posting answers to questions asked during the webinar. So check back on their website for continued discussion on this topic.

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Remembering Bob Gardner: A Tireless Health Equity Advocate

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

I often set myself with impossible tasks on this blog, but today's task is herculean: trying to come up with the words to describe a colleague of HC Link's and mine, Bob Gardner. Bob, long-time Director of Policy at the Wellesley Institute and life-long health equity advocate, passed away last week.

Image from:

I was lucky enough to sit at several roundtables and working groups with Bob, and I learned something from him at every single meeting. Things like "whatever you do, don't stop", "think big, but start concrete" and to ask yourself the simple question of "what else do you think might happen?" Bob had a habit of asking the wicked questions, and of reminding us that we need to invite people from "outside of the box" to ask those questions as well.

Bob was a bit outside of the box himself, with Harry Potter glasses and an easy- yet-academic manner. One of my colleagues told me a story of Bob attending a meeting of hospital executives: he arrived on his bike wearing sandals with bike helmet in hand and talked about health equity to execs in three-piece suits, who followed his advice. Another colleague talked of Bob as a connector: someone who always knew who you should talk to about your project and someone who always talked about your project to others. It seemed like Bob knew everybody!

We at HC Link will remember Bob as someone who contributed to our workshops and conferences over the years, most recently at our 2013 provincial conference, where Bob moderated a talk-show-style panel following our keynote speaker. We recorded a video interview with him following the panel, which you can watch here.

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Bob, with Barb Willet and Noor Din at our 2013 provincial conference

I will remember Bob as a fellow lover of all things policy, a tireless advocate of the social determinants of health and social justice. Bob made a real impact on our field, and things won't quite be the same without him.

I often set myself with impossible tasks on this blog, but today’s task is herculean:  trying to come up with the words to describe a colleague of HC Link’s and mine, Bob Gardner. Bob, long-time Director of Policy at the Wellesley Institute and life-long health equity advocate, passed away last week.

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Announcing the Re-Launch of the Policy for Healthy Communities Learning Community!

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

Just over a year ago, HC Link launched the Policy for Healthy Communities learning community. The Learning Community (LC) brings together community-based individuals, groups and networks that are working to develop, change and implement local policies for healthy communities. Since the launch, the LC has grown to over 122 members. More than 70 items have been posted on a variety of topics, such as news, events, questions and discussions.

With the first year of the LC under our belts, we wanted to take some time over the summer to find out how members were experiencing the community, what members liked and didn’t like about it, and what members want our of their community. With the help of MPH practicum student Louisa Pires, we conducted a brief literature scan, several key informant interviews, and a member survey.

Based on what we’ve learned, we’re making several exciting changes to the Learning Community.

The first is we are moving to a new platform! Ning is an add-free social networking site with more functionality. We’ve also added two important new features to the online platform:

  • Webwatch: Our Policy Webwatch scours the internet looking for policy related items on news sites, social media, journals and organizations that work in policy. Our Webwatch has several sources right now, and we’ll add to them as time goes on.
  • Think Tanks: we have two “Think Tanks” on the Ning site, one on food security and one on active transportation. Members can sign up for the Think Tanks, which will have discussion forums etc related to the two specific topics. The community-at-large will be more policy process oriented.

We hope that you will consider joining the Learning Community, and will pass along this information to your colleagues working in policy.

Learn more about the Learning Community in this 3 minute video.

Get an online tour of the new platform in this 3 minute video.

And to join the community, visit

We hope to see you on the new platform soon!

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Webinar Series Recap: Highlights of a 3-Part Implementation Science Webinar Series

By Linda Yoo, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

This July, the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre wrapped up its 3-part Implementation Science webinar series, in partnership with CAMH Provincial System Support Program (PSSP) and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF). With just under 900 stakeholders registering, this introductory series aimed to have participants from public health and health promotion settings in Ontario develop a working understanding of Implementation Science and the Active Implementation Frameworks developed by the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN).

The first webinar, Part 1 – Implementation Science: the What, the Why, and the How, walked participants through the various components of an Active Implementation Framework such as: Usable Interventions (What); Implementation Stages (When); Implementation Drivers (How); Implementation Teams (Who); and, Improvement Cycles (How). Presenter Alexia Jaouich (Director of Knowledge Exchange and Implementation, CAMH PSSP) highlighted that the gap from evidence to action in implementation occurs when what is adopted is not used with fidelity, and what is used with fidelity is not sustainable at the best scale or scope to make a critical difference.

The second webinar, Part 2 – Drivers of Implementation and Change, provided an overview of the drivers for implementing change based on NIRN's Active Implementation Framework. Alexia Jaouich provided a summary of the competency drivers, organizational drivers and leadership drivers. Next, Hélène Gagné (Program Director, Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation) and Peggy Govers (Manager of the Child Health Program, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit) had a conversation about Peggy's insights and learnings from her health unit's roll out of the Triple P Positive Parenting program. One insight Peggy shared was how leadership drivers provided opportunities for her health unit to start discussions and build a common language with other stakeholders.

In the third and final webinar, Part 3 – Implementation Science Tools, Alexia Jaouich provided an overview of various Implementation Science tools, some from NIRN and some that were adapted to support the Systems Improvement Through Service Collaboratives project that CAMH is supporting. The tools are meant to support movement through the various implementation stages of exploration, installation, initial implementation and full implementation. Alexia walked participants through the use of two tools, the Hexagon Decision-Making Tool and the Practice Profiles, which are both used during the exploration phase of implementation. Kim Baker (Regional Implementation Coordinator, PSSP, CAMH) joined Alexia to share how these tools were used to implement the evidence-informed Transition to Independence (TIP) model by the Hamilton Service Collaborative. To learn more about the tools of implementation, you can view the webinar recording and also download the presentation slides.


CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre is currently planning for more webinars on Implementation Science in the upcoming fiscal year, so stay tuned! To share your ideas and thoughts on potential topics that should be covered, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Working Together on the Healthy Kids Strategy Webinar Series #3: Create Healthy Communities

By Lorna McCue, HC Link and Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC)

On July 29th, HC Link hosted the final webinar of its series of three webinars based on the report of the Healthy Kids Panel "No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy", which was released in March 2013. The panel was convened to recommend strategies for keeping more kids at healthy weights. Each of the three webinars in this series were focussed on recommendations related to each of the three main prongs of the strategy:

1. Start all kids on the path to health.
2. Change the food environment.
3. Create healthy communities.

This webinar opened with a brief summary of the panel's recommendations on co-ordinating an "all-of-society approach to create healthy communities and reduce or eliminate the broader social and health disparities that affect children's health and weight".


The Healthy Kids Panel reported that parents want help encouraging their kids to be more active and engaged in their communities. The food strategies the panel recommended, which were discussed in our July 17th webinar, will be most effective when they are integrated with broader, community-driven efforts to raise healthy kids. Creating community environments that support healthy and active children is a complex matter, and the Panel carefully considered a number of areas, such as:

  1. The need for social change - we live in a time-stressed culture that has completely changed eating habits and activity levels. We're coping with unprecedented technological advances and many of us worry about financial stability, feel rushed, tired, socially disconnected and are experiencing high rates of mental health problems. We need to create supportive communities that promote and protect health, and help families find balance in their lives.

  2. The potential of a community development approach - a co-ordinated, community-driven initiative will have a higher impact on reducing child obesity than a number of fragmented programs. For example, EPODE (Ensemble Prévenons l'Obesité des Enfants – Together Let's Prevent Childhood Obesity) developed in France in 1992 and is now in use in 15 countries and has a highly successful track record.

  3. The role of schools and child care settings - the panel considered school food and beverage policies, the Daily Physical Activity guidelines, play-based learning and Healthy Schools.

  4. The importance of role models and champions - the panel stressed the importance of positive role models and champions in a child's life.

  5. The potential to leverage other strategies - other strategies are working upstream to address the underlying causes of unhealthy weights, such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.

  6. Access to timely support and treatment services - Ontario currently has a small network of pediatric weight management programs, but there may be more children who could benefit from these services.

The Panel made the following 8 recommendations relating to creating healthy communities:

  1. Develop a comprehensive healthy kids social marketing program that focuses on healthy eating, active living – including active transportation – mental health and adequate sleep.

  2. Join EPODE International and adopt a coordinated, community-driven approach to developing healthy communities for kids.

  3. Make schools hubs for child health and community engagement.

  4. Create healthy environments for preschool children.

  5. Develop the knowledge and skills of key professions to support parents in raising healthy kids.

  6. Speed implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy

  7. Continue to implement the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.

  8. Ensure families have timely access to specialized obesity programs when needed

Four guest presenters gave us some insight into the healthy community and capacity-building initiatives that they are working on.

Drew Maginn, Division Manager, and Margaret Good, Consultant, are working on the Healthy Schools & Communities program at Ophea to help kids develop the necessary skills to make healthy choices. They aim to create school communities that promote healthy, active living by developing and supporting the delivery of quality school-based health and physical activity programs and services. Drew and Margaret outlined a number of Ophea programs, and pointed us to the Healthy Schools section of the Ophea website which provides supports such as videos, planning tools, posters and research information, plus access to their consultation services and opportunities to partner on Healthy Schools initiaitives.

Tamar Meyer, Manager of the Health Promotion Resource Centre and Provincial System Support Program at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health explained that the CAMH resource centre can Provide system support, capacity building, content expertise and access to information and research for Ontario health promotion and public health audiences, related to mental health promotion and substance misuse. She talked about the "Connecting the Dots" report on how public health units are addressing child and youth mental health (see "suggested resources" in the links below), and described other mental health and healthy weight activities currently being undertaken.

Kayla Lee is the Coordinator of F.U.E.L, at Niagara Region Public Health. F.U.E.L. stands for Females Using Energy for Life. This is an innovative program that operates in several schools, with support from the Niagara Region Health Unit. Kayla noted that only 4% of children and youth meet physical activity recommendations, and that physical inactivity is associated with many physical and psychological health risks. This after-school, female-only physical activity program engages high school girls in non-competitve activities led by certified instructors, and is inclusive of any interested female student. It is peer-led and free of charge. Teachers are recruited to lead FUEL programs, with training and promotional materials provided by the Health Unit. Kayla reported that the program was very sucessful, and also told us about some of their challenges and a few things they had learned along the way.

In the Q&A portion of the webinar, an interesting question was asked by Michael Kerr, Coordinator, Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change:

"In order to achieve the desired equitable health outcomes - how do you go about ensuring coherent and consistent data capture ( by you, your transfer or other partners ) with respect to the demographic characteristics ( ethno-racial, gender, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, first language, faith-spirituality, gender identity, age, immigration or citizenship status, etc. ) of various sub-populations, program participants and relevant diversities of the clients served - particularly with respect to historically disadvantaged or equity-seeking groups and communities - we need a consistent template or protocol for the collection or capture of these demographic characteristics across all relevant and appropriate service delivery, program areas, regulatory platforms and policy environments?"

The presenters didn't respond directly to the question of disaggregated data collection within their programs, but they did explain their efforts to ensure that their programs were culturally sensitive and appropriate, and tailored to the specific needs and interests of the particular school or students.

Subsequently, Michael sent me some links to a new multi-dimensional disaggregated data collection template tool and OHRC data collection guidelines, which he thought might be of interest to others.

The Ontario Human Rights Code (the "Code") permits the collection and analysis of data based on race and other grounds, provided that the data is collected for purposes consistent with the Code, such as to monitor discrimination, identify and remove systemic barriers, address historical disadvantage and promote substantive equality. More information can be found at:

Count me in! Collecting human rights based data - Summary (fact sheet)
Count me in! Collecting human rights based data - Full Guide

This concluded the Healthy Kids Strategy webinar series, which was very successful. We have received a lot of positive feedback about the sessions and would like to thank all those that participated. I would like to stress, however, that there is much more in the Healthy Kids Panel report than was covered in these sessions. It really is worth your while to read the whole report from cover to cover.

Presentation Slides | Recording | Suggested Resources

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The Canadian Index of Wellbeing: Shifting the Conversation

By Gillian Kranias, HC Link

How do we shift the conversation - and the measurements – to really notice and foster wellbeing in our communities? Community Health Centres (CHCs) across Ontario, in collaboration with their Association of Ontario Health Centres, have taken bold and creative leadership on this topic, adopting and experimenting with the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW).

On Wednesday July 23, four CHCs shared their stories of adopting and experimenting with the Canadian Index of Wellbeing.

  • From Woodstock we learned how CIW fostered a "twinning" between public knowledge and expert knowledge.

  • From Woolwich we heard a story of how research with CIW's community vitality domain led to one new initiative supporting volunteer development at CHC partner organizations and another that will enhance welcoming activities for newcomers.

  • From Bourget, we gained mid-project insights on just how important each methodological choice can be along the way (and how early adopters must be adapters too!)

  • From Ottawa, we were inspired by a city-wide coalition that will use key CIW findings to inform and enhance civic engagement initiatives.

What we learned from the combined presentations was:

  • The CIW is a multi-purpose tool! ...and seeing others using the tool is a great way to build one's own capacity and confidence to do it yourself (DIY).
  • There are limitations with this tool – like any. It was great that the speakers were willing to articulate those limitations. With more information, we will know better how to meet some of them.
  • The language of CIW is as valuable as the indicators. Several stories spoke to how it fostered bridges across organizations and sectors, and most importantly between expert knowledge and community-based knowledge.

You can watch the videos yourself to take away your own learnings. You can also use these videos in conversation with your community. You can even join in "shifting the conversation" - check out AOHC's website for more resources.

At HC Link, we celebrate the collaborative leadership of Ontario organizations and communities who are ushering the Canadian Index of Wellbeing in to our ways of conversing, measuring, celebrating and acting: for healthier communities for everyone.

Here are some links to earlier dissemination events where HC Link partnered with AOHC:

The CIW Early Adopter story video footage was recorded at AOHC's Summer Institute titled "Community Health and Wellbeing: Moving from Information to Transformation" held in Orillia on July 23, 2014. This event was co-hosted with the Simcoe County Resilience Collaborative.

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Working Together on the Healthy Kids Strategy Webinar Series. Strategy #2: Change the Food Environment

By Lorna McCue, HC Link & Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC)

On July 17, HC Link hosted the second it its series of three webinars based on the report of the Healthy Kids Panel "No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy", which was released in March 2013. These webinars are focussed on the recommendations related to the three main prongs of the strategy:

  1. Start all kids on the path to health
  2. Change the food environment
  3. Create healthy communities

As with the first webinar of the series, over 100 people registered for this webinar. When we were planning this series we were concerned that attendance might be low if we held them in the summer, but that is clearly not an issue when there is such strong interest in the topic.

A blog recapping the first webinar on the first prong of the Healthy Kids Strategy: Start all kids on the path to health can be viewed at In the second webinar, we considered recommendations related to second prong of the strategy: "Change the food environment".


This webinar was organized in partnership with the Nutrition Resource Centre (NRC). NRC staff, and most notably Christina Tran, a NRC consultant , recruited and liaised with the guest presenters, and moderated the session. She opened the webinar with a brief overiew of the panel's recommendations for changing the food environment.

Sandra Laclé and Tracey Weatherbe of the Sudbury District Health Unit spoke on behalf of Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health for Sudbury District, who is a member of the Healthy Kids Panel. They explained the rationale for creating the Healthy Kids Panel and its role and process. The Healthy Kids Strategy calls for a 20% reduction in rates of child obesity in 5 years. The panel was brought together to service two main goals:

  • identify specific factors affecting childhood obesity rates, and
  • identify comprehensive, innovative, multisectoral interventions for sustainable childhood obesity rate reduction.

The panel's resulting 3-pronged strategy recommends practical actions to achieve this goal, along with ABCs of successful action:

  1. Make child health everyone's priority
  2. Invest in child health
  3. Use evidence, monitor progress, ensure accountability

Sandra and Tracey reviewed the panel's recommendations and provided examples of actions that address them. The ten recommendations are:

  1. Ban the marketing of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, beverages and snacks to children under age 12.

  2. Ban point-of-sale promotions and displays of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages in retail settings, beginning with sugar-sweetened beverages.

  3. Require all restaurants, including fast food outlets and retail grocery stores, to list the calories in each item on their menus and to make this information visible on menu boards.

  4. Encourage food retailers to adopt transparent, easy-to-understand, standard, objective nutrition rating systems for the products in their stores.

  5. Support the use of Canada's Food Guide and the nutrition facts panel.

  6. Provide incentives for Ontario food growers and producers, food distributors, corporate food retailers, and non-governmental organizations to support community-based food distribution programs.

  7. Provide incentives for food retailers to develop stores in food deserts.

  8. Establish a universal school nutrition program for all Ontario publicly funded elementary and secondary schools.

  9. Establish a universal school nutrition program for First Nations communities.

  10. Develop a single standard guideline for food and beverages served or sold where children play and learn.

Rhonda Hanning a professor at the University of Waterloo, working with the Waterloo Public Health and Health Systems, presented on her work with school nutrition programs in remote First Nation communities of the western James Bay region. Extensive health disparity has been identified between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations in Canada, with increased prevalence of obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, even in youth. The population has poor diet quality and a high level of household food insecurity. She described how their research program developed tailored approaches to assist communities in planning, implementing and evaluating student nutrition programs. Their research showed that School Nutrition Programs can support healthier food environments and sustainable improvements to the diets of vulnerable children.

Alexandra Lacarte of the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit discussed creating a healthy eating environment in childcare centres. She particularly focussed on the Healthy Eating Environment Toolkit (HEET) that was developed by staff at the health unit. They compiled best practice resources and provide training sessions to educate child care centre personnel, including supervisors, cooks and early childhood educators. She concluded that public health can support and help implement nutrition standards in partnership with early learning partners.

Gayle Kabbash-Cruikshank and Meaghan Richardson of the Halton Region food Council described their work with "Feeding Halton", a community food distribution program. Feeding Halton is a collaborative of social service organizations and the agricultural community working to create efficiencies in local food procurement. The Feed Halton collaborative members serve over 40,000 people a month.

A big thank you goes to all the presenters, for sharing their work with us, and kudos to Christina for her superb coordination of the webinar. A note of appreciation also goes to Hélène Lussier of HC Link for her professional management of the technical end of the webinars. The practice session she held with the presenters helped the webinar to run smoothly.

Links to the webinar recording and the presentation slides are shown below.

Stay tuned for a blog on the third webinar of this series, "Create Healthy Communities", held on July 29.

Presentation Slides  |  Recording  |  Suggested Resources

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Working Together on the Healthy Kids Strategy Webinar Series. Strategy #1: Start all kids on the path to health

By Lorna McCue, HC Link & Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC)

On July 8 HC Link hosted the first of a series of webinars based on the report of the Healthy Kids Panel "No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy". The registration for this webinar had to be cut off at 100, showing that there is great concern about the increase in childhood obesity and a strong interest in working to change this trajectory.

Intro slide

Obesity can lead to diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, and costs Ontario's health care system about $4.5 billion annually. In January 2012 the Ontario government announced an ambitious target of reducing childhood obesity by 20 per cent over five years. They then convened the Healthy Kids Panel to develop recommendations for strategies to meet this target.

When I read the report of the Healthy Kids Panel I was impressed with the thoroughness of the research and consultation process that went into developing it. Thus I was pleased to have the opportuntity to help organize this series of three webinars, each one addressing one of the three main prongs of the Healthy Kids Strategy. A similar series in French will be held in October 2014.

The first webinar opened with an overview of the report and its recommendations. Following their investigation of the subject, the panel concluded that: "No one policy, program or strategy will solve the problem of childhood overweight and obesity." They also recognized that health is about more than weight. "A child who is a little overweight and who is fit and active is healthier than a child who is the "right" weight for his or her age and height but is more sedentary." Focusing too much on weight is stigmatizing and will not address many of the factors that contribute to unhealthy weights.

The Panel developed a comprehensive three-pronged strategy to address this complex issue. They unanimously adopted a series of recommendations on how we can best promote the health and well-being of children and youth:

  1. Start all kids on the path to health. Laying the foundation for a lifetime of good health begins even before babies are conceived.

  2. Change the food environment. Parents know about the importance of good nutrition but while trying to provide healthy food at home, many feel undermined by the food environment around them. They want changes that will make healthy choices easier.

  3. Create healthy communities. Kids live, play and learn in their communities. We need a co-ordinated all-of-society approach to create healthy communities and reduce or eliminate the broader social and health disparities that affect children's health and weight.

This webinar focussed on the first prong "Start all kids on the path to health". Our first guest, Dr. Zach Ferrar, is a recognized leader in prenatal health and wellness and co-author the Best Start report "Obesity in Preconception and Pregnancy." He oberved that pregnancy is a critical period of growth, development and physiological change in the mother and child. Prenatal obesity, due to being obese prior to conception or gaining excessive weight during pregnancy, poses significant health risks to both the mother and baby during pregnancy and beyond.

Zach's talk centred around research findings related to gestational weight gain (GSW). One of the concepts he described was the "complexity energy balance", which identifies the many determinants involved in maintaining a positive energy balance and avoiding unhealthy body weight. He noted that 55% of North American women of childbearing age are overweight or obese, and that the situation is compounted by the weightism, bias and discrimination shown by society, including health professionals. He explained that as GWG increases so too does the proportion of neonates that are larger at birth; i.e. overnutrition in pregnancy may result in the fetus having an increased risk for obesity through life. He also talked about epigenetics, referring to genetic control by factors other than an individual's DNA, such as nutrition. These factors can affect future generations, creating intergenerational cycles. Dr. Ferraro also dispelled a number of myths about physical activity and food consumption during pregnancies, and stressed that during pregnancy is not a good time to try to lose weight. He concluded his talk by inviting participants to join the Canadian Obesity Network for free at and inviting them to follow him on Twitter at @DrFerraro.

The second speaker in this webinar was Hiltrud Dawson, a health promotion consultant with the Best Start Resource Centre (BSRC) at Health Nexus. Hiltrud provided an overview of the consultation services, resources and training available through the BSRC. She then described several current projects that are relevant to the recommendations of the Healthy Kids Panel, including :

  1. The development of an online learning module about healthy weights in children to increase the knowledge and skills of service providers in promoting healthy weights in children aged 0-12 in Ontario.

  2. Provision of consistent prenatal information to women in Ontario, including information that supports healthy weights before and during pregnancy, as well as for children, and the development of tools, resources and training to support the uptake of the key messages.

  3. Baby-Friendly Initiative Strategy for Ontario: This project involves several partners in creating engagement strategies, tools, resources and training to encourage baby-friendly policies, programs and locations.

  4. Breastfeeding Community Project: Since breastmilk is ideal nutrition for babies, and may have several mechanisms to prevent later obesity, the BSRC is providing small grants for community projects to reach and support populations with lower rates of breastfeeding.

Evaluations from the webinar indicate that it was well-received and provided important information to the participants. The webinar slides, recordings and a list of suggested resources are available below.

Stay tuned for a blog on the second webinar of this series, on "Changing the Food Environment".

Presentation Slides | Zach Recording | Hiltrud Recording | Suggested Resources

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Webinar Recap: The Drivers of Implementation and Change

Submitted by Linda Yoo, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Earlier this month, the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre hosted the second in a 3-part webinar series on Implementation Science called Part 2 - Drivers of Implementation and Change. Featuring presenters from CAMH's Provincial System Support Program, the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the webinar provided an overview of the drivers for implementing change based on the National Implementation Research Network's Active Implementation Framework (NIRN).


During the first half of the webinar, Alexia Jaouich, from CAMH's Provincial System Support Program, highlighted the three main implementation drivers: competency drivers, organizational drivers, and leadership drivers.

First, Alexia provided a summary of competency drivers such as the selection of staff, training, coaching and performance assessments. She noted that competency drivers are essential to ensuring staff have the adequate skills and on-the-job coaching to implement evidence-based practices with fidelity.

Next, Alexia spoke about organizational drivers such as decision support data systems and administration systems. She explained that organization drivers assist organizations in developing new ways of working as well as strategies for making continual improvements. Further, by developing new data and administration processes, organization drivers can help ensure new interventions are more likely to be sustainable.

In discussing leadership drivers, Alexia commented that leadership is critical for effective implementation at all levels and for all drivers. Technical leadership drivers are those that help establish internal structures and processes that keep all the moving parts of an intervention working together. On the other hand, adaptive leadership drivers help deal with recurring problems that are difficult to resolve.

Overall, Alexia stressed that driver-based action planning has multiple benefits. Some benefits include ensuring that necessary processes are built, strengths and processes get celebrated, next steps are planned, and results measured.

In the second half of the webinar, Hélène Gagné, from the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, spoke with Peggy Govers from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit about her health unit's implementation of the Triple P Positive Parenting Program. Peggy shared insights on the importance of implementation drivers in the roll out of Triple P. For instance, Peggy shared that leadership drivers allowed opportunities for her health unit to start discussions with other stakeholders, including building common language.

To view a recording of this webinar, please click here. You can also download the presentation slides here by clicking here.

Finally, there are still a few more registration spots for the third and final webinar in this series called Part 3 - Implementation Science Tools. We will take a closer look at some of the tools of implementation with examples of their use on the ground. Visit the registration page for here for more information.

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Latest OSDUHS Research Findings Shine Light on Student Mental Health, Physical Health and Well-being

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

About six months ago, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) released the latest student drug use findings from the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS). Today, researchers from the OSDUHS team are releasing findings specific to student mental health and well-being captured during the 2012-2013 school year from over 10 000 students in grades 7-12 in Ontario.


The latest findings provide a snapshot of major trends relating to student mental health, physical health and risk behaviours through student reports on:

  • Home and school life
  • Health care utilization
  • Physical health including body image
  • Internalizing indicators (e.g. self-rated mental health, self-esteem, psychological distress)
  • Externalizing indicators (e.g. anti-social behaviour, violent behaviour, violence at school, bullying)
  • Gambling and video gaming

In their latest report, the OSDUHS researchers identify both encouraging findings as well as areas of public health concern. Some selected highlights of these findings are below:

Areas of Public Health Concern

  • There are several stark concerns when it comes to student physical health:
    • 1 in 3 students reports texting while driving at least once in the past year. Among students in grade 12, 46% report this very dangerous behaviour.
    • In addition, 1 in 2 students report not always wearing a helmet while cycling, increasing the risk of brain and other injuries.

  • There are also several concerns relating to student mental health:
    • More students today, compared with a few years ago, rate their mental health as fair or poor. And, between 1 in 8 students (an estimated 128 400) report seriously contemplating suicide in the past year. What's more, female students are twice as likely as males to report contemplating suicide.
    • One in three students report gambling in the past year. While, 1 in 10 students report having a video gaming problem.

Encouraging Findings

  • A majority of Ontario students rate both their physical health and mental health as excellent or very good.
  • A majority of Ontario students get along well with their parents and they report a positive school climate.
  • A majority of students are not getting bullied. Since 2003, schoolyard bullying rates have fallen from 33% to 25% in 2013.

In the past, Ontario public health and health promotion professionals have used the OSDUHS findings to inform program planning and decision-making. To follow up on recent webinars on the OSDUHS drug use findings, this Fall, the CAMH Health Promotion Resource with be partnering with the CAMH's Evidence Exchange Network (EENet) and the OSDUHS research team to provide in depth presentations on the latest mental health and well-being findings through two provincial webinars. Stay tuned for registration details!

To read the full OSDUHS mental health and well-being report, please visit CAMH's website by clicking here.

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2013 OSDUHS Webinar Series Recap: From Evidence to Action

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

On June 17, participants from across the province representing various sectors like education, public health and policy attended the second webinar, Part 2 – From Evidence to Action, in a webinar series on the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS). The webinar was co-hosted by the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre (HPRC) and Evidence Exchange Network (EENet), both located in the Provincial System Support Program (PSSP) at CAMH.


This second webinar focused on bringing evidence from the OSDUHS into action. In addition to learning about the findings, participants learned how they apply to programming, planning and policy in health promotion and prevention. Presenters in this webinar included representatives from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) and Ottawa Public Health.

Public health nurses at Ottawa Public Health, Darcie Taing and Robin Ray, spoke about how the OSDUHS findings allow their health unit to monitor health trends in children and youth and make the case for evidence-informed programming such as Healthy Transitions, a program that promotes resilience in youth.

In addition, Michael Stephens of the CCSA spoke about the application of the Canadian Standards for Youth Substance Abuse Prevention in relation to the OSDUHS findings.

"This recent webinar series reflects an effective partnership between CAMH and other system partners, like CCSA. To apply evidence into action, we need to work together to produce reliable evidence and translate that knowledge in ways that are meaningful and usable to our community partners," said Stephens.

To view the recording from this webinar click here and to view the slides click here.

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Shining new light on tobacco prevention

By Jenna Chisholm, Youth Engagement Coordinator, Eastern Ontario Health Unit

On May 8th, 2014, OBO Studios and Love My Life explored tobacco's presence in social and physical environments through the eyes of youth. Many attended the mixed media sculpture exhibition to be inspired by the beautiful expression of the youth voice.

Love My Life...Tobacco Free (LML) is a youth led campaign engaging youth in creatively expressing how they love and celebrate their lives tobacco free. Keeping a positive approach, LML's goal is to increase tobacco free environments supportive of health living for the mind, body and spirit.

Ten talented and creative youth came together with OBO Studios and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) in a three month project to shine new light on tobacco prevention and advocacy by creating and thinking outside of the box. The opportunity to showcase their creations was an opportunity for these young artists to influence others and spark change.

Vincent Films captured the entire process in a short documentary (view below). Read the rest of the blog to learn more about the project and some of its key learnings.

How this project came to be:

In the fall of 2013, the EOHU approached OBO Studios with an idea to build on their connection with youth. OBO's practice of engaging young artists in teen workshops seemed like a beautiful fit for the EOHU's Youth Engagement focus. OBO had access to youth and public health had funding and a theme.

From the initial partnership proposal to the final commitment agreement, there were fruitful discussions to find a project centered on shared core values. Traditional tobacco prevention initiatives have had negative nuances with shades of black and grey. Understandably, OBO couldn't identify.

True to OBO's name, Our Beautiful Obsession, the studio and the EOHU found harmony in the beauty of positivity and loving life. With the core values of celebrating life and protecting life's breath, the LML...Tobacco Free Project was born.

By January 2014, the studio had recruited the 10 young artists whose parents/guardians signed commitment forms. February through April, artists were provided three full sessions plus two bonus studio days to complete their work. Sessions were themed on LML's 3 healthy living components: mind, body and spirit.

Respecting LML's culture of positive self-expression, the studio facilitated the project and provided the youth with the sculpted mixed media concept and vision of the project. From there, the youth had free reign to be as expressive and creative as they could dream. Results were phenomenal and the artists were eager to share their voice during the public exhibition.

Some key learnings from the project:

  • A post project debrief highlighted that the project was in fact double the work (hours, resources and effort) than initially quoted by the studio. Additional studio hours were needed in order to complete the project pieces. OBO recruited a seamstress to help; this was not in the quote/invoice. Luckily a local artist/seamstress was looking to barter with the studio in exchange for free studio time.

  • It also was outlined that IT help and resources would have been a necessary component of the project to facilitate certain processes. Because of this lack, there were difficulties with the slide show during the exhibit and personal time outside of the quote was put into simply making due.

  • The Exhibit was well attended however the media attention was underwhelming. Organizers used the EOHU media outlets to invite media to attend and pick up the story however it may have been better to connect with the media directly from the studio, using personal connections to solicit attention. Thankfully having documented the project on video allowed for the story to be shared with a wide audience online.

  • The short timeline for the magnitude of the project didn't permit for most of the pieces to be solid enough for transportation. For this reason, a graphic designer was hired to create a banner display in which each artist is featured. This display will act as a traveling exhibit of this LML project. Thankfully the pieces will also live on in the documentary which also captures their pure essence.

  • What is non-debatable is that the youth were amazed with how all of their individual voices came together for an explosion of beauty in the face of tobacco during the exhibit. Youth trusted the process and found out a little bit more about who they are. This is how we become critical thinkers with a good perspective; an important quality for young advocates.

  • This project was made not only possible but a success thanks to teamwork. Each partner played a vital role. From the youth and parents to the seamstress and filmmaker; lead and supportive roles were essential.

With public health's support, engaging youth through LML is a winning strategy. This beautiful expression of 10 young artists showcases how they 'LML' tobacco free: For more information on LML please visit or contact Jenna Chisholm, Youth Engagement Coordinator, Eastern Ontario Health Unit (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

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Saying When: New CAMH App Aims to Help People to Curb or Quit Drinking

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has launched a new mobile app, Saying When, which helps those who want to cut back or quit drinking manage their drinking habits in real time. Based on an established self-monitoring, but paper-based, program from CAMH, the audience is meant for individuals that are concerned about their drinking but do not have a severe substance use disorder.

Saying When

There are several key features of the Saying When app:

  • An introduction to the Canadian Low Risk Drinking Guidelines which are guidelines that help people moderate alcohol consumption
  • A function called "Taking Stock" which lets people identify current habits to help set goals
  • Infographics that describe and define standard drink sizes
  • Tracking features where people can enter the drinks they consume and then monitor the quantity of drinks.
  • A coping section that shows which approaches work best for the user when they are trying to cut back or quit drinking.

The release of this app is timely given recent reports that show alcohol consumption as a serious public health issue. According to the latest findings of the CAMH Monitor, an Ontario-wide telephone survey of substance use and mental health indicators 18 and older, 18.4 % of Ontarians exceed low-risk drinking guidelines. This is significant since exceeding low-risk drinking guidelines increases the risk of various social and health harms.

Currently, the Saying When app is available on iTunes and is another tool that public health and health promotion practitioners can add to their toolkits when working with community members that would like to reduce or quit drinking.

For more information about the Saying When app, visit the CAMH website.

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Webinar Recap: 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey Results – Part 1

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

On June 5, the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre and EEnet co-hosted a webinar to share the findings of the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) results. Conducted every two years since 1977, the OSDUHS asks Ontario students in Grades 7 to 12 about topics that include drug use and related harms, drug perceptions, mental health and physical health.

Led by CAMH, the OSDUHS is the longest ongoing student survey in Canada. Data from the OSDUHS is analyzed and shared as two different reports: one is the drug use report and the second is the mental health and well-being report. The focus of this past webinar was the drug use report.

The webinar began with Tamar Meyer (CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre) and Novella Martinello (CAMH Provincial System Support Program) sharing a summary of various drug use trends. Tamar and Novella reported on:

  • Overall drug use by students in 2013
  • Long term trends from 1977-2013
  • Early initiation in drug use trends
  • Some drug specific highlights
  • Vehicle-related risks associated with drug use
  • Drug use and the school context

Following their summary, Tamar and Novella led a panel discussion with members of the OSDUHS research team including Dr. Bob Mann (Senior Scientist, Social and Epidemiological Research Department, CAMH), Dr. Hayley Hamilton (Research Scientist Social and Epidemiological Research Department, CAMH) and Angela Boak (Research Coordinator and Analyst Social and Epidemiological Research Department, CAMH) as well as with Gloria Chaim (Deputy Clinical Director of the Child, Youth and Family Program ,CAMH). The panelists identified positive findings in the survey results as well as areas of public health concerns.

OSDUHS Presenters

(From left to right): Monica Nunes (HPRC-PSSP), Dr. Hayley Hamilton (OSDUHS team), Tamar Meyer (HPRC-PSSP), Novella Martinello (East Region-PSSP), Dr. Robert Mann (OSDUHS team), Angela Yip (EENet-PSSP)

Highlights of their reflections are below:

Positive Findings

  • There have been long term declines in alcohol use and tobacco use.
  • Use of illicit drugs such as cannabis is also on downward trend.
  • Prevention programs which aim to delay initiation of substance use have shown progress. For example, students today use substances starting at an older age.


  • A significant number of students are still smoking or using tobacco with devices such as hookahs or electronic cigarettes whose health impacts are not yet fully known.
  • Students that drink alcohol are drinking in hazardous ways such as by binge drinking or mixing alcohol with energy drinks.
  • More students are driving after cannabis use than after drinking alcohol.
  • Over-the-counter medications are the only drug that shows an increase in use since 1999. 10% of students reported using over-the-counter medications to get high in the past year.

To hear more about these drug use trends, you can view the full webinar recording here: and download the presentations slides here. You can also read about the latest OSDUHS findings and reports on CAMH's website.

Finally, join us for the second webinar in this series, Part 2: Evidence to Action by signing up here.

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Learnings from the OSNPPH Nutrition Exchange

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

There are two things I can say right off the bat about the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH) 2014 Nutrition Exchange – Laying the Foundation for Strong Communities; they had an excellent line up of speakers, and a room full of passion! With a health promotion background, I certainly have much common ground with that of Nutrition Professionals in Public Heath, however, not being so immersed in the Nutrition field, I realized how much work goes on behind the scenes, and was privy to some of the internal debates, that we just aren't that aware about at the public level. This was an invaluable experience for me. And while it will be impossible to sum up this whole experience in a single blog post, I will speak about some of my key learnings from this conference.

The biggest takeaway message for me came from Dr. Lynn McIntyre, Professor at the University of Calgary, who went through the history of how food insecurity has been framed in Canada –looking at the unique contribution of nutrition professionals. 1996 marked the beginning of Canada's commitment to food insecurity, and it was constructed as an income and social issue - We were on the right path! However, a whole bunch of other issues began to get mixed into the problem of food insecurity (a research term called conflation) – which actually made us lose sight of the root cause and focus on the issues that were easiest to solve. McIntyre believes that child feeding programs (like school breakfast programs) and food banks were the first wedge in killing the child poverty reduction movement. Now, food literacy is a hot topic being thrown into this bag of issues too, moving us farther from the real solution. This caused some discomfort in the room – we believe in the importance of food banks, child feeding programs, food literacy programs etc., and know about the great work and benefits of these programs. The problem is not these programs though, we have every reason to continue with these – McIntyre says "Just don't do it because of food insecurity and hungry kids." We need to recognize the importance of these programs, while also recognizing that it is not solving the root problem – poverty. What stood out to me after this presentation was the passion in the room and the desire for this issue to be tackled, even if it meant that as nutrition professionals, they may have less of a front and centre role to play in food insecurity.

Nick Saul, President and CEO of Community Food Centres Canada, brought in a perspective of how Food Centres can be a part of the solution. While Food Centres do provide emergency access to high quality food, they also can act as a space to bring people together to advocate and rally around the larger issues of poverty and food insecurity. As long as we are aware that Food Centres aren't providing a pathway out of poverty and are therefore not solving the root causes of hunger, we can recognize their benefit and understand how engaging the community in this issue is an important step.

Another really interesting presentation was given by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, widely known Obesity expert and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa. Freedhoff believes we have tied ourselves together too closely with the food industry, and their influence can be seen everywhere. While Freedhoff does think Canada's Food Guide is very important and beneficial to Canadians, he does question some of the recommendations and believes they can only be explained by politics and the food industry. He questioned chocolate milk as a healthy alternative to regular milk, and wonders how fruit juice can be considered a fruit (it is not considered as a serving of fruit in Australia for example). Contrary to the belief that all stakeholders involved in an issue should be brought to the table and become part of the collaborative solution, Freedhoff believes that we should not work with the food industry. He says we are making compromises that we should not be making, by giving them a voice at these tables. He suggests the only way to change the food industry is by creating an environment that causes them to change. I do see this as a very valid point, but I know there are likely pros and cons to each approach.

The last presentation I will touch on in this blog, was by Charlene Elliott, a research chair and professor at the University of Calgary, who spoke about food marketing to children. One important question she asked is "since when did food need to be fun?" Sure, eating food has always been a part of celebrations and bringing people together, but marketers have come up with a brilliant way of diverting attention away from unhealthy foods by creating the category of fun foods! Fun is not a social or public health problem that we need to solve, and everyone is entitled to fun. While fun and nutrition should be two distinct items, now people are asking themselves "Is this food healthy?" "Is this food fun?" and it is reconfiguring peoples relationships with food.

fun for you

Image from:

There were many other wonderful and knowledgeable speakers, and so many more learnings that I took home from this conference, but I thought I would just share a few of the highlights for me from this conference with you!

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Speaking Out For Change

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

Once again I have tasked myself, as regular blog readers will know, with the task of trying to capture an entire conference into a single blog post. In this case, the AOHC/alPHa joint conference, Prevent More to Treat Less, which brings together public and community health professionals. I have at least learned that not only is this difficult for me, but likely dull for you to read a catch-all post with a laundry list of themes.

AOHC conferenceImage from:

So, in this post I'm going to focus on a panel session that I just attended called "Speaking Out For Change: Health service providers and advocacy". Lori Kleinsmith and Rhonda Baron (Bridges CHC), Hazel Stewart (Toronto Public Health) and Monika Dutt (Cape Breton District Health Authority) have some excellent advice for those working to spread their message at the local level:

  • Consider a whole spectrum of activities, ranging from a quiet conversation to speaking out loudly. Advocacy is a dance with steps forward, back and sideways. Your commitment to the issue is what keeps it alive.
  • Working in partnership and engaging communities is critical. Never stop talking and never stop looking for ears to listen to you.
  • Data and evidence is important, but you need to know what the numbers mean, how to use them, and to combine data with stories of those with lived experience.
  • That being said, if you don't have data, don't stop advocating! If someone wants to know what the evidence is and you don't have it, be willing to say so and ask "how can we support you in getting the evidence you need?"
  • Working with the media is important. They are a way to get your stories out. You need to know how to pitch to them, to set up a healthy tension for debate.
  • There are some risks to advocacy. Consider what you do very carefully. Don't not do it- just think carefully. If the risk is too great for you, can you work collaboratively to find someone who can do it for you.

It was a truly inspirational session. I'll close with a couple of quotes from Hazel Stewart: "You'll never experience success without failure" and "Never give up. Keep talking. Find an ear to listen to you".

For more on the conference, check out the conference hashtag on twitter (you don't need an account to see it). You can also read my post on the Health Nexus blog.

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