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.

Highlights and Interpretation of the Resource - Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts

By Kyley Alderson

Resource- Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts (Mikkonen, J. & Raphael, D., 2010)

Overview of this document:

This document promotes awareness about the health inequities that exist here, in Canada. It explains various factors present in our society, and how exactly they contribute to poor health (i.e. the Social Determinants of Health). For each of these determinants, statistics are given to compare how Canada is doing compared to the rest of the developed Nations. As well, public policies are suggested for how we can begin to improve our health. These policies focus on the source of the problems (such as living conditions) rather than just dealing with the symptoms, which is where we usually tend to focus (such as diet and exercise, or chronic disease management). This document not only shows how important policy decisions are for our heath, it also emphases that it is up to us, as Canadian citizens, to remain informed on how these policies affect our health, and how to support candidates of political parties that are receptive to this.

As such, this resource is intended to act as an agent for political change, by informing and encouraging the general public to act on the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). If you have time to read the full document, I highly recommend it, especially if you are not familiar with the SDOH. However, if you are like most people and don’t have time, here is a brief summary I have pulled together.

Also, here is a diagram I created on the major policy implications suggested in this document as ways to improve the impact of the SDOH. Increasing minimum wage and social assistance programs affect all of the SDOH, but there are also policy implications more related to specific determinants:




In this document, I was surprised to read that:

  • While Canada is one of the biggest spenders in health care, we have one of the worst records in providing an effective social safety net. How much sense does it make to spend all of our money on treating illnesses, when we send people back to the same conditions that made them sick? Furthermore, why not spend more money on trying to prevent illness in the first place?
  • Canada is even worse than the United States on supporting childcare and early childhood education. On a list of the 25 wealthiest developed Nations, Canada ranks 24th out of 25 Nations on public expenditures on Childcare and Early Educational Services, whereas the US ranks 16th. There is a strong relationship between a parents socioeconomic status and their children’s developmental outcomes, and one way to weaken this relationship would be to provide high quality early childhood education regardless of a parents wealth.

I think most Canadians are not aware that:

  • Social exclusion (specific groups being denied the opportunity to participate in Canadian life) is a big reality in our society today. Excluded groups in Canada (listed by Mikkonen and Raphael) include Aboriginal Canadians, Canadians of colour, recent immigrants, women, and people with disabilities. We can see social exclusion in our society by the segregation of these groups into certain neighborhoods, as well as disproportionate unemployment rates, and employment in lower-income sectors and occupations for these populations. This document contains shocking statistics on the importance of gender, race, and Aboriginal Status on average income:
    • Women tend to earn less than man regardless of occupation. Men working in management earn an average of $1261 per week and women $956.

    • The average income for all Canadian men is $36,800, compared to the average income for men in the Haitian community is $21,595.

    • The average income of an Aboriginal man is only 58% of the average income of a non-Aboriginal man.

An important consideration this document highlights:

  • The manner by which some social determinants influence the population’s health is shaped by our current public policies, and therefore the SDOH are not going to be the same for all countries. For example, if adequate income and necessary services, such as childcare, were provided to all in Canada, the health threatening effects of education would be much less.

Now what?

Unfortunately, the people most affected by the SDOH, generally, have the least amount of power in society, and their voice is not the one being heard by most political leaders. It is up to all of us to put health on the political agenda. One can’t simply blame political parties for their decisions when these decisions are based on the values of Canadians who elected them in the first place. We must demand that elected representatives commit themselves to address these issues, and that we elect those who will promote the health of Canadians through Healthy Public Policy. After all, it is not just the health of those with the least amount of resources that will be improved; everyone’s health improves when the gap in health disparities is reduced.

However, the people who hold the majority of power in society and who may not understand the social determinants of health, most likely are not reading this document. I only heard about this document through a health promotion listserv that I am on. So, the question remains, how do we get this information out to those who currently don’t understand the impact of the SDOH, and how do we convey to certain populations (who may not be adversely affected by the SDOH) to still get involved in these discussions? Furthermore, how do we get those who may not currently be holding the power in society to get involved in these discussions? How do we switch the thinking of the greater population from an ideology of individualism to one of cohesion and solidarity?

Lastly, I would like to mention that this document shed light on many of the things Canada is doing wrong, however, I hope there are some indicators related to the SDOH that Canada is not ranking so poorly on compared to other developed Nations. While sharing the negative may get some people heated and ready to act, we must make sure to focus on the strengths of Canada’s heath and public policies as well, so that we have a good place to begin working from, and can leverage support that way.

I welcome any comments and would love to discuss this further with you!

3154 Hits

John Ott Explains the difference between Kronos and Kairos time


5187 Hits

Looking Back Before Looking Ahead

By Dianne Coppola

For many of us, December is a frenzy of holiday activity where the days never seem quite long enough to plow through our "to do" lists. I find myself saying things like... "Where did the day, week, month, year go?" Unfortunately, the quick answer is never all that satisfying!

As someone who is committed to lifelong learning and self-improvement, I regularly read books, blogs and e-news bits on leadership, facilitation, and planning. I particularly enjoy Kevin Eikenberry, Chief Potential Officer (isn’t that a great job title?) of the Kevin Eikenberry Group ( and author of Remarkable Leadership.

This week, Kevin wrote about the importance of taking time to reflect on the past year in order to inform planning and goal setting for the coming year. This is an important but often neglected activity for both personal and professional renewal. After all, how can we determine where we want to go if we don’t know where we’ve been, what the journey has been like and what we accomplished?

I encourage you can take a few quiet moments amidst the holiday festivities to reflect on a few of the questions Kevin posed to his readership, before dashing into 2012! I think you’ll find it’s one of the better gifts you can give yourself.
Happy Reflections!

  • What did I accomplish this year?
  • What accomplishment am I most proud of?
  • Knowing what I know now, what would I do differently?
  • How did I contribute?
  • What were my biggest challenges or obstacles?
  • What did I overcome, and how?
  • What did I learn?
  • Who are the most interesting people I have met, and why?
  • What else do I want to reflect on?

Bonus: These questions can also be applied to the organization you work or volunteer with and/or the community partnership you are a member of.

3043 Hits

Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) released the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) on November 29th, 2011.  Led by Dr. Robert Mann, CAMH Senior Scientist and Principal Investigator on the survey, the OSDUHS is the longest running school survey of adolescents in Canada and one of the longest in the world.  This year, 9288 Ontario students in grades 7 – 12 participated in the OSDUHS survey.  The survey is conducted every two years to measure drug and alcohol use (including tobacco), mental and physical health, along with risk and protective factors.  Results are compared across four regions in Ontario: Toronto, Northern Ontario, Western Ontario, and Eastern Ontario.  This year, the report focused on alcohol, tobacco, illicit and non-medical use of prescription drugs.  Between 2009 and 2011, there was no observed increase in any drug use.  Between 1999 and 2011, drug use, including alcohol, binge drinking, cannabis, opioid pain relievers, cigarettes, appears to have significantly decreased, with no differences for gender and grade levels.  OSDUHS also reported on long-term trends for grade 7, 9 and 11 students only, from 1977-2011.  From this data, the present prevalence of cigarette smoking is at an all time low, with generally low level use of alcohol, binge drinking, and other drugs (similar to early 1990s).  There were reportedly fewer students using drugs and alcohol at an early age. 

Current levels of cigarette, alcohol, cannabis and prescription drugs use were also reported. 

  • Smoking: 9% of students (an estimated 88,000 students) in Ontario smoked, with 4% on a daily basis.  Smoking increased with grade level, and no differences were observed between males and females.  Northern regions reported more smoking than other regions.
  • Drinking: 55% of students (an estimated 551,400 students) reported drinking alcohol last year.  Drinking, like smoking, increased with grade level, and no differences were observed between males and females.  Similarly, students in Northern regions were more likely to drink.  For binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks on one occasion, 22% of students (an estimated 223,500) reported having engaged in this behaviour at least once during the four week weeks prior to the survey.   
  • Cannabis: 22% of students (an estimated 221,900 students) report cannabis use in past year.  Cannabis use increased with grade level, and both females and males were equally likely to use the substance.  Students in Toronto were the least likely to use cannabis, compared to student in the North, who were most likely to use. 
  • Non-medical use of prescription drugs: about 1% of students (an estimated 12,500 of students) reported using OxyContin, and 14% (an estimated 140,100) reported using any prescription painkillers.  Use increased with grade level, but no significant gender differences were observed.  There were no significant regional variations.

The full report is available for download from CAMH

Look on HC Link for news of an upcoming CAMH webinar in the New Year on the OSDUHS results, including a Q&A session with the OSDUHS research team.

1975 Hits

Past webinar: Moving Forward with Injury Prevention: What Does it Take?

December 7, 2011

1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. EST

This webinar is now over. Please visit our Slides from Events page for the slides.

This webinar will provide an understanding of injury as a Population Health problem and discuss the approaches to preventing injury.

Phil Groff is the President and CEO of SMARTRISK, a national, not-for-profit, organization dedicated to preventing injuries and saving lives. He also serves as Director of the team at SMARTRISK responsible for the Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre. Phil has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Toronto with a specialty in Human Neuropsychology and Cognition.

2775 Hits

Past webinar: So What's the Big Deal about Alcohol? An Introduction to Effective Community Alcohol Policy Development


November 29, 2011

10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. EST

This webinar is now over. Please visit our Slides from Events page for the slides.

This introductory webinar will review prevalence rates, incidence rates, harms and costs associated with alcohol in Ontario. The importance of a comprehensive, policy-led approach to community alcohol problems will be outlined. Internationally recognized alcohol policy levers will be discussed and how these relate to local community-based or public health initiatives throughout Ontario. A case study will be presented to illustrate local alcohol policy development, from committee development to policy evaluation.

Benjamin Rempel is the Program Manager of the Alcohol Policy Network, Ontario Public Health Association. Currently, his main areas of work consists of research and analysis on the effectiveness of alcohol policies in Ontario, with some of his work published in academic journals. Benjamin is currently completing a Masters in Public Health from the University of Waterloo.

2736 Hits

Past Webinar: So What's the Big Deal about Alcohol?


So What's the Big Deal about Alcohol? An Introduction to Effective Community Alcohol Policy Development

Tuesday 29 November 2011, 10:00 - 11:00

This introductory webinar will review prevalence rates, incidence rates, harms and costs associated with alcohol in Ontario. The importance of a comprehensive, policy-led approach to community alcohol problems will be outlined. Internationally recognized alcohol policy levers will be discussed and how these relate to local community-based or public health initiatives throughout Ontario. A case study will be presented to illustrate local alcohol policy development, from committee development to policy evaluation.

Benjamin Rempel is the Program Manager of the Alcohol Policy Network, Ontario Public Health Association. Currently, his main areas of work consists of research and analysis on the effectiveness of alcohol policies in Ontario, with some of his work published in academic journals. Benjamin is currently completing a Masters in Public Health from the University of Waterloo.

This event is now over. The slide deck is available for download.

3191 Hits

Linking for Healthy Communities Wrap-Up


By Andrea Bodkin

Well, we’ve just finished HC Link’s first conference, “Linking For Healthy Communities: Building from within”. It was a fabulous two day event, held at the BMO Institute for Learning, attended by more than 130 participants, staff and speakers.

Our keynote speaker was John Ott, co-author of The Power of Collective Wisdom and the trap of collective folly. Not only was John our keynote, he also worked extensively with the planning committee to shape the event as well as with the many speakers of the breakout sessions to ensure synergy in themes. John also provided many opportunities for reflection throughout the two days, which gave participants a chance to really take in and process what we were hearing.

After attending such an event, I always like to spend some time absorbing what I heard and learned. I thought I might share these thoughts with you. In fact, one of the first things that John said to us on Tuesday morning is that the most important moment of the conference is Thursday at 8 am. After the conference is all over: how will you carry the work forward? So the following is my attempt to carry what I learned forward. And yes, at time of writing it is 8:15 Thursday morning!


Continue reading
4698 Hits

The Use of Behaviour Change Concepts to Move Policy Forward

By Kim Bergeron, HC Link Consultant

On Friday October 21, 2011 24 participants from public health, municipal services, crime prevention, training and non-government organizations from across Central East Ontario came together to learn about the use of behaviour change concepts to move policy forward.

Traditionally, behaviour change concepts such as attitudes, beliefs, subjective norms, have been used to move individuals towards healthier lifestyle choices such as encouraging individuals to eat more fruit and vegetables or quit smoking by understanding their attitudes or beliefs about their food or smoking choices and consumption.

This workshop took a different twist on the use of behaviour change concepts by applying them to understand the behaviours of community decision-makers such as elected officials, executive directors or other community leaders whom participants want to support healthy community policies. Therefore, the focus was for participants to understand community decision-makers motivation, intentions and behaviours in order to develop strategies to change their behaviours so that they support healthy community policies such as access to recreation, access to healthy foods etc.

As the facilitator, I highlighted three traditional health behaviour change theories: transtheortical model, social cognitive theory and theory of planned behaviour and showed how concepts within these theories can be applied to community decision-makers to move policy forward. The focus was on identifying the desirable behaviours of community decision-makers and then understanding how to influence these behaviours to elicit supportive action. For example, when trying to influence elected officials to support a policy change, an elected official must make the motion for the policy and other elected officials must support the motion. Therefore, the types of behaviours of interest are ‘making the motion’ and ‘supporting the motion’.  

Through this interactive workshop, policy work was reframed and presented as ‘changing the status quo’ and participants were challenged to apply the information presented by answering questions on worksheets and engaging in group discussions.

Two examples of the types of group discussions are:

1.    Moving Forward Healthy Food and Physical Activity Policies in Regional Child Care Centres
The community decision-makers were Regional Child Care Providers (Executive Directors and Staff). The plan was to measure their knowledge and awareness of their role in providing healthy food and physical activity environments within their centres. The idea was to develop a scenario that models child care centres that have healthy food and physical activity policies and develop questions that measure if they felt that as regional child care providers they have a role to create this type of environment within their centres.   

2.    Moving Forward Healthy Mobile Food Vendor Policy
The issue was the provision of healthy food choices from mobile food vendors. The community decision-maker to be targeted was elected officials who set out the bylaws for mobile food vendors. The concept to be measured was their attitudes to changing by-laws to allow mobile healthy food vendor licenses.

At the end of the workshop, participants shared some ‘ah-ha’ moments that included: human behaviour is complex; time needs to be invested to ‘break it down’ behaviours in order to understand how to influence those making the decisions; and developing relationships is key when doing this type of work not only with community partners, but with those you are trying to influence.

 This workshop is now over. Slides of the workshop are available.

4682 Hits

Past workshop: The Use of Behaviour Change Concepts to Move Policy Forward


HC Link in partnership with Healthyork, present:

The Use of Behaviour Change Concepts to Move Policy Forward

Presented by Kim Bergeron, Healthy Communities Consortium Consultant

October, 21, 2011
9:30am to 12:30pm
Maple Community Centre
10190 Keele Street
Maple, Ontario L6A 1R7

This workshop will focus on identifying ways to use behaviour change concepts such as attitudes, values, beliefs and social norms to influence community decision-makers (i.e., elected officials, civil servants). A number of behaviour change theories such as Transtheortical Model, Social Cognitive Theory and Theory of Planned Behaviour will be highlighted to show how their concepts can be used to influence and move forward policy options related to creating healthy communities. This workshop builds on the ‘Beyond Policy Development to Policy Uptake’ resource.It will enable you to:

  • Understand behaviour change concepts and how they can be used to influence community decision-makers;
  • Engage in discussion with other’s who are working to create healthy communities through policy; and
  • Source some relevant resources.

This learning opportunity will be of interest to those who want to influence community decision-makers to create healthy communities where people work, learn, live and play

This session is now over. Write This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to inquire about a repeat.

3105 Hits

Past webinar: Mental Health Promotion in Action: Reflections from Northern Ontario

September 26, 2011
12:00-2:00pm (CDT)/1:00-3:00 pm (EDT)

This webinar, presented by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), will profile Strengthening Families for the Future (SFF), a best practice mental health promotion program for families with children (7 -11), who may be at risk for substance use problems, depression, violence, delinquency and school failure. The program is specifically designed to reduce risk factors, build individual resiliency, and enhance family protective factors. Program implementation considerations, tools and relevant materials will be highlighted.

This will be followed by a panel discussion that will explore integrating and coordinating mental health promotion programming in Northern/remote settings. There will be an opportunity for webinar participants to share their own experiences and knowledge in order to identify programming opportunities, challenges and strategies for integrating mental health promotion programming in Northern Ontario.

Spaces are limited. Preference will be given to residents of Northern Ontario. PowerPoint slides will be made available on the Healthy Communities Consortium website at a later date.

Susan Lalonde Rankin has been active in the area of health promotion and capacity building for the past 20 years. She started her career as a Public Health Nurse, then after completing her Master’s of Health Science in Health Promotion at the University of Toronto, she worked as a Health Promotion Consultant. She also has experience at the provincial level as a Policy Analyst. Since joining CAMH as a Program Consultant in 1994 she has worked in partnership with community agencies on public awareness initiatives, training, policy and program development.

Continue reading
3697 Hits


This is a pretty exciting day.

This is the day that we get to share with you our new name and brand: HC Link (Réseau CS, in French)!

Like most healthy communities and health promotion work, this celebration isn’t so much about one day as it is about the months and years of work that have led up to it. Today really is about the journey that we, HC Link, have been on — and that many of you have been on with us.

Our journey started more than two and a half years ago when our funder, the Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport, asked us to form a virtual consortium to support its new Healthy Communities Fund. Since that time, we have journeyed from four resource centres working together to one strong collaborative organization with four provincial partners: Health Nexus, OHCC, OPHA and PAD. We have brought our history, our expertise, our passion for working with communities together under one brand: HC Link.

The re-branding alone has been a journey in itself! Several months ago, we hired Fingerprint Communications to do our re-branding. As part of this process, Fingerprint consulted with several of our clients from a variety of regions and sectors to get a clear sense of the positives and negatives of the name Healthy Communities Consortium and our work. The results were really interesting… there was a split perception of the Consortium where clients felt that the Consortium was credible, expert, helpful and a go-to source but at the same time disorganized, chaotic, confusing and a mish-mash. Fingerprint’s mission became to select a new name and identity that described not just who we are (as the name Healthy Communities Consortium does) but what we do in an understandable and simple way. After a lengthy process to identify potential names, Fingerprint conducted focus groups with our clients in French and in English to test the name. Our new logo and communications materials were also focus tested.

As a result, we have our new name. HC Link represents how we — as four separate organizations — have created new linkages with one another and how we’ve linked with clients over the past two years.  While “Link” describes the connecting function that we have, we added a further descriptor “HC” (healthy communities) to anchor it. The tagline “your resource for healthy communities” defines what we do: we provide supports for those working in the field of healthy communities.  

In our logo, the person icon represents the people function of HC Link — that we are people that are open to receiving information, ideas and people and that we also transmit thoughts, ideas and resources (represented by the bubbles and squares).

Our new communications materials are all clean, simple, ordered and structured to try to address the concern around confusion. On our new website, there is reference to the four member organizations that make up HC Link, but it is not highlighted to prevent confusion and create the sense of one organization.

One of the key challenges Fingerprint experienced was in trying to describe our services using language that would be accessible and understandable to the broad range of audiences that we serve. We’ve selected these four categories to describe the types of services that we deliver, in both languages:

  • Consultation
    ….. “how to” advice and support on issues that concern you
  • Learning and Networking Events
    …..  webinars and workshops on relevant topics
  • Resources
    ….. links and articles on tools and methods for developing healthy communities
  • Referrals
    ….. linking you to the right information source

We hope that you like our new name and brand and enjoy our website and new materials. Our services and our commitment to you, our clients, remains the same even though the name is new!

In ending….a little story. At the end of August we held a meeting for all of the staff and consultants who work with HC Link, and in conjunction with this meeting we launched our new name and brand internally. As part of the celebration we had balloons in our new blue colour with our logo in black, with which we decorate

d our meeting room and the door opening into it. To open the meeting, we asked each staff and consultant to share a peak experience from working with HC Link over the past two years. Anderson Rouse, Finance and Administration Coordinator with OHCC, shared the following:

“I arrived at the building this morning without really a sense of where I needed to go. I couldn’t find a map or a room directory so I just wandered through the building feeling a little lost. When we have one of these meetings the room could be booked under any name….Consortium or one of the four organizations in it. You never really know what to look for. Finally, I saw the HC Link balloons on the door and I thought “That’s where I belong!”

After two years of ambiguity, our new name on a balloon is what made Anderson feel like he was a part of something concrete and real.

Finally, with our new name and brand the staff and consultants at HC Link know who we are and what we do. Now we can go out into the healthy communities and health promotion world, confident with our image and our services, and meet your needs. And we can’t wait to do it!

3382 Hits