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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Activating Your Conference


We, at Ophea’s Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC), are excited to be the physical activity partner for the 2017 HC Link Conference,  Linking for Healthy Communities: With Everyone, For Everyone.

As we draw nearer to the conference, we got to thinking about some ways that have helped us be more active at past conferences and events. Here are 5 tips to get active throughout the conference:

1. Take advantage of active breaks and opportunities throughout the event.

Ophea, through PARC will be offering energizers and active movement options through this exciting two-day conference. Come prepared to move! 

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2. Use the standing tables or open space to move and/or stand during the conference sessions.

HC Link will provide standing tables in the main conference space and these can be used to change your movement patterns!

3. Ensure you include movement between sessions.

Whether this is taking the long way around the conference setting, or changing the movement pattern (ex. skipping, rolling, etc.) to get from lunch to the keynote, making the most of the transition times and breaks can mean more physical activity!

4. Participate in the active opportunities before and after the conference.

Moving before and after the conference can also ensure a well rounded day, provide you an opportunity to meet and network with others and keep you refreshed for the sessions. If you will be staying over, this could include accessing the Wellness Center which includes a Fitness room, accessible 24 hours a day with your guest room key, or the pool area, which is open Monday – Friday 6:00 am – 10:00 pm

5. Make the most of the lunch break.

The BMO Institute for Learning has green space available if you would like to go for a walk or roll, if the weather is not ideal, you could also move around the building to keep the blood flowing.

You can also check out the PARC Blog, Energizer: Conference Setting for some additional ideas if you are planning your own conference or event!  If you have suggestions to share, feel free to Tweet us @parcontario. We would love to hear from you!

We look forward to moving with you at the 2017 HC Link Conference, Linking for Healthy Communities: With Everyone, For Everyone!

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"Pay-what-you-can" meals change the world.

soup bar by feed it forward

Image Source: The Toronto Star


Jagger Gordan, Canadian chef and founder of Feed it Forward has recently opened "Soup Bar", a pay-what-you-can soup bar located in downtown Toronto. 

The soup bar caters to people of all economic means. Chef Gordan’s concept for Soup Bar is to provide hot, healthy, and balanced meals to anyone who wants one. For every $2.50 spent, a token is placed in a jar so that those who cannot afford to pay what they can may take a token from the jar and use that as payment for their meal. 

Chef Gordan began Feed it Forward to help reduce the amount of food being wasted in supermarkets and sent to landfills. The Soup Bar provides several types of soup and a side order of bread to all that would like it. He gets his supplies from grocery stores that have planned to throw food away as he believes wasting copious amounts of food is unacceptable. Referencing France’s new law, which bans supermarkets from throwing away good unsold food, forcing them to donate it to charities and food banks, Gordon has begun an online petition in hopes of achieving similar results here in Canada.  

The Soup Bar is located at 707 Dundas Street West. For more information on Jagger Gordon and Feed it Forward, visit:

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Recap: Central East Regional Gathering - Community Connections Count!

Submitted by Kathy Wong, Health Nexus

On March 20, 2013 HC Link together with YWCA Muskoka hosted an one-day forum on strengthening community connections and working on the social determinants of health in Muskoka, Simcoe, Haliburton, City of Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland County and Peterborough regions. The event took place in Gravenhurst and despite the snowy weather we had a great number of participants. The purpose of this gathering was to bring health and social service providers to explore ways to foster community connections, learn how the social determinants of health affect our health and well-being, and understand why women are at particular disadvantage. The day started off with a keynote presentation that was delivered by Dr. Rosana Pellizzari, the Medical Officer of Health in Peterborough County-City Health Unit, which was very powerful and inspiring. Here are some key points that stood out to me during the presentation:

  • 20% increased health care spending is due to income disparities alone.
  • There is a lack of access to dental benefits in Peterborough region.
  • Adequate housing is an issue in Peterborough region.
  • People living with a family income of less than $30 000 face more health problems, are more physically inactive and engage more in unhealthy habits such as smoking.
  • Regulation and legislation are important and effective tools in health equity work.



In the afternoon, participants had the chance to attend 3 out of 7 World Café Sessions that provided them with more opportunities to share knowledge and stories, and build connections and collaboration. The conversation tables included topics such as the Strengthening Families program, Bridges out of Poverty initiative, Food Security Initiatives in Haliburton County and many more! As part of the building community connections theme, this forum ended with a drumming circle, led by Barry Hayward. For many participants, including myself, it was the first time to experience something like this. A drumming circle formed by a group of people playing hand-drums, percussion and other instruments in a circle. The drumming circle offers equality because there is no head or tail, and the purpose of it is to share rhythm and get in tune with each other and form connections. What I learned was that only with collaborative efforts can we achieve our goals. It was very inspiring, engaging and fun!

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Health Nexus - Example of the successful implementation of the French Language Services Act

On Feb. 23, as part of the Health Leadership program, Reflet Salvéo organized a full day of training on the Ontario French Language Services Act.

The meeting was held at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Toronto. As part of the program, Reflet Salvéo had invited HC Link to present the history of Health Nexus, an organization officially designated as bilingual.

About 40 people, Francophones and Francophiles of the Greater Toronto Area, professionals and stakeholders involved in the Francophone community, took the opportunity to better understand and experience their 'francophonie'. It was an opportunity to discover or improve their knowledge of the law's context, its application and impact in their lives.

During the afternoon, several speakers presented different aspects regarding the implementation of the law, including Mohammed Ghaleb from the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, Julie Lassonde from the Association of French Speaking Jurists of Ontario, Tharcisse Ntakibirora from the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network, and Ronald Dieleman of Health Nexus.

In his presentation about the history of Health Nexus, Ronald indicated that the organization was founded 26 years ago (1986) and has officially been designated bilingual since 1996. From the outset, Health Nexus has evolved in a bilingual culture, developing a bilingual reflex that shapes its approach to translating and adapting its resources, adjusting its human resources, building relationships with the Francophone community throughout the province and creating a sense of belonging where all employees get their due.

Through HC Link, Health Nexus continues to carry the torch and share its leadership in assisting both Francophone and Anglophone community organizations to develop their bilingual culture. We know language is an important factor, and indeed a determinant in health promotion.

On this occasion, Ronald presented How to Engage Francophones... When You Don't Speak French!, a HC Link @ a glance resource.

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Save the date: November 12 and 13, 2013!

HC Link invites you to join us on November 12 and 13, 2013 to learn and share strategies to build healthy, vibrant communities

HC Link's biannual conference is a chance for people working in a variety of sectors across the province of Ontario to come together to learn and share experiences and strategies for building healthy, vibrant communities.

This event will be of interest to individuals who work in community development, policy development, and healthy communities, as well as those addressing the root causes of health (social determinants of health). It will be relevant to those from various English and/or francophone settings, such as:
· Public health, community health and health care
· Recreation
· Social services, housing and settlement
· Municipal planners and officials

The event will be held at the Novotel Toronto Centre.



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Season's Greetings!


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HC Link’s East Regional Gathering: “From Knowledge to Action: Moving Forward on the Social Determinants of Health”

Submitted by Lorna McCue, HC Link

  • Are you concerned about the inequities in our society, especially in relation to our children?
  • Would you like to better understand what the social determinants of health are and how they impact the overall health and wellbeing of everyone?
  • Would you like to see how you can make a make a difference in the lives of those who are struggling in our society?

These are the questions that were posed to participants of HC Link's East Regional Gathering: "From Knowledge to Action: Moving Forward on the Social Determinants of Health", held Tuesday, November 6, 2012 in Renfrew County.

The gathering was initiated by HC Link, as one of four regional gathering undertaken this year.  Other regional gatherings are being planned in the northeast, central east and southwest regions of the province. Through Lyn Smith, Coordinator of the Renfrew County Child Action Poverty Network, HC Link staff connected with and worked with others to plan and event that would focus attention on the social determinants of health.

HCL Kara


Sixty-two people gathered to listen to panelists that inspired us with their stories and creative practices, and to engage in dialogue with each other to share, plan, and come up with creative solutions to take back to their community and/or place of work. The gathering was facilitated by Jeff Kohl, of HC Link and was organized around four specific topic areas:

  1. Social Determinants of Health, with Suzanne Schwenger of HC Link and Karen Woods, of the Parent Resource Centre;
  2. Mental Health Promotion, with Greg Lubimiv, Executive Director of the Phoenix Centre for Children & Families and Tom Sidney, Youth Crisis Intervention Specialist for the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board;
  3. Community Food Security/Systems, with Lorna McCue of HC Link, Nancy Wildgoose, Executive Director of The Table Community Food Centre and Shawna Babcock of KidActive;
  4. Housing/Homelessness, with Dave Studham , Executive Director of Renfrew County United Way, Arijana Tomicic, Executive Director of Family & Children's Services, Lina Farias, Psychotherapist, Shelley VanBuskirk, Housing Services Branch, City of Ottawa and Tom Sidney from the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board.

Please click on the speaker name to access their presentation

All speakers shared valuable information and perspectives, as did many of the participants. Karen Wood, assisted by Shawna Babcock, used humour to illustrate various facets of the social determinants of health by re-writing the letters of children's book The Jolly Postman. Greg Lubimiv shared a story of transformational change in the way he viewed what "helping" can mean for clients. Tom Sydney spoke about the importance of creating resiliency within our youth, so they can learn to cope with the difficulties they face in life. Participants were impressed by the story of the transformation of the Perth Food Bank into The Table Community Food Centre, which offers a comprehensive range of community food programs, a peer advocacy office and an 8,000 sq. ft. community garden, with the help of over 100 volunteers.



Throughout the day the room was often buzzing as participants caught up with colleagues and talked about the common issues they are facing. Throughout the day participants suggested potential topics for the conversation café, held after the final panel presentation. During the ensuing conversation, quite a bit of interest was shown in the concept of "radical efficiency", aimed at creating different, better and lower cost public services.

At the end of the day, participants were asked what they saw as being the most important role for HC Link. There were many nods in the crowd for the suggestion that, just as our name indicates, our primary function should be to connect groups working on similar projects, so they don't need to re-invent the wheel and repeat the mistakes of others. From the evaluation forms and the feedback we heard at the event, it seems that this regional gathering was a success, and was seen by participants as an important opportunity to update their knowledge and network with each other.

Related Documents

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Engaging Patients in the Healthcare System: lessons learned from community engagement

HC Link welcome guest blogger Farrah Schwartz, Manager, Patient and Family Education at the University Hospital Network. Farrah writes on the topic of patient engagement, which has many similarities to community engagement.

Earlier this month, health care leaders descended on Toronto for the 88th annual HealthAchieve, one of North America's largest health care conferences. The conference focuses on all topics related to leading healthcare organizations. Among this year's top themes, patient engagement featured heavily in the discussion.

So what is patient engagement?


stockBarbara Ficarra writes: "Patient engagement is a connection between patient, caregiver and health care provider. An empathetic and trusted relationship forms and mutual respect is fostered. Patients and their families are empowered and they are active in health care decisions."

Angela Morin, a Family Advisor at Kingston General Hospital, describes patient centred-care as being about dignity, empathy, communication and common sense.

Yet, healthcare has traditionally been an institution that has been slow at engaging its users. Healthcare as a system was created in the 1890's to deal with infectious diseases. Now, with growing rates of chronic diseases, the need to focus on health promotion and increasing self management taking place outside of the hospital, the system hasn't kept up. As Don Berwick, formerly of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement stated: "Each system is perfectly designed to achieve the results it gets." Healthcare was never designed to be handed off to its users to manage themselves.

So why the change now? How is patient engagement finally seeing its due recognition in more traditional organizations? Based on the sessions and discussions at HealthAchieve, technology and social media are two key areas that have driven change in how users are incorporated into their own healthcare experiences.

On the technology side, Eric Topol, author of 'The Creative Destruction of Medicine' kicked off the discussion. He highlighted how digital technology, smartphones and genomic sequencing will give individuals control of their own information and health. As individuals can access technology directly that will lead to customized medicine, they will have less need for traditional healthcare: Dr. Topol states: "The idea of going to the doctor's office will feel as foreign as going to the video store".

The discussion continued with a session on healthcare and social media. Michelle Hamilton-Page from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health described how CAMH is using social media to learn, listen and engage with the community. In the last session in the E-HealthAchieve stream, The Agenda's Steve Paiken moderated a panel of physicians. Using text message voting on such questions as 'What do we need in order to drive technology change at the provider level?', the panel discussed the inevitability of patients demanding access to their own information. Also, how healthcare needs to adopt the technologies needed for people to own their own health information.

In addition to the sessions on technology and social media, the conference featured some standout examples of patient engagement taking place across the province. Cathy Fooks from the Change Foundation described the evolution of the patient experience, from doing TO patients, to doing FOR patients, to doing WITH patients. Northumberland region's PATH project (Partners Advancing Transitions in Healthcare) is a cross-continuum project funded by the Change Foundation to impact seniors' transitions in healthcare, from hospital to community and in between.

Eleanor Rivoire from the Kingston General Hospital described their journey of creating a Patient and Family Advisory Council in the hospital. She was joined by Angela Morin, one of the family advisors, describing her own experience with care at the hospital and her engagement with the program to help create positive change.Although community engagement is a core component of public health and has been in practice for many years, the idea of patient engagement has been slower to evolve in hospital-settings. Often engagement is called critical but not implemented in a meaningful way.

The discussion at this year's HealthAchieve points to the fact that engagement truly is happening at all levels of healthcare. As healthcare system workers and planners, we can share examples of how we've been able to effectively engage our users. Others who are just starting this journey can benefit from hearing about the many and rich ways that we can channel the patient experience into a better system for everyone.

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Community Engagement Webinar Series

CEWSHC Link is hosting a series of four webinars on community engagement. The webinars are organized around the following themes:

Part 1: From Informing to Empowering: An Introduction to Community Engagement (October 18, 2012)

Part 2: Engaging Rural Communities (November 13, 2012)

Part 3: Engaging Communities in Policy Change (January 10, 2013)

Part 4: Engaging Marginalized Communities (February 27, 2013)

Each webinar will feature two or more presenters with a wide range of hands-on community engagement experience, and will cover a mix of theory, best practices, strategies, tools and success stories from across Ontario.

The webinars may be taken individually or as a series. Individuals who participate in three or more webinars and who submit their evaluation forms will receive a Certificate of Completion from HC Link. Certificate information will be released following the first webinar.

Registration is now open for all webinars.


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Green Space, Parks and Healthy Communities

Submitted by Parks and Recreation Ontario (PRO)

June was Parks and Recreation and Parks month, and to reflect, Parks and Recreation Ontario (PRO) has profiled some important new research into the effects of green space and parks on the health of our communities, and those who live in them.



Parks and Mental Health

Dr. Marc Berman of Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute published a study on the positive effects of walking in nature for people who suffer from depression. His research is part of a cognitive science field known as Attention Restoration Theory (ART) which suggests that people concentrate better after spending time in nature or looking at scenes of nature.  

This theory is supported by an overwhelming amount of research. Dr. Frances Ming Kuo of the University of Illinois published a monograph in 2010 to summarize this research. Its an essential read for anyone who is making a case for more parks and natural spaces. Find Dr. Kuo's paper (along with four other great reference documents about recreation, parks and physical activity) here.

Parks and Physical Activity

In another study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers studied neighbourhood park size, proximity and features and their effect on physical activity levels. The study, conducted by faculty at the University of South Carolina, the University of Waterloo and the University of Washington, found that the more features a park had - such as playgrounds, ponds and trails, the more it was used. It turns out that proximity and size of the park had less of an impact on use. The researchers conclude that a system of attractive, natural parks interconnected by trails may be more effective for promoting physical activity. 

Parks and Healthy Communities

The healthy cities movement has been around for almost 30 years - and it had its genesis right here in Ontario with the work of Dr. Trevor Hancock. We know a great deal about what the components of a healthy city should be, but less is known about how to deliver the potential health benefits and how to ensure that all citizens reap those benefits. A new study in the medical journal The Lancet focuses on the complex issues of health and environment. One size won't fit all communities, especially in under-resourced areas. The article looks at different aspects of the built urban environment from wastewater to active transportation and physical activity. The authors promote a collaborative approach between planners and health professional and the involvement of many stakeholders. 

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Summer Long Weekends

By Patricia Scott-Jeoffroy, Parent Action on Drugs

As the July long weekend approaches, our thoughts turn to an extra day off work, fun with family and friends, and celebrating Canada. Another common association with summer long weekends is the use of alcohol. It is hard to watch TV without seeing the joy of the "beer commercial lifestyle" where revellers are depicted having a great time, courtesy of a cooler full of beer. The message is clear: part of having the great cottage, the newest boat, and a houseful of friends is also having an abundance of alcohol. I am concerned that our culture seems to have embedded the use of alcohol with the celebrations of our summer long weekends. 


Police will typically increase their surveillance of the highways and increase RIDE checks during a long weekend, and hospitals tend to increase staffing for emergency rooms. It appears that those who deal with the consequences of excessive drinking know the other side of long weekend drinking. 

As adults we may have an understanding of the role that drugs and alcohol are playing in our lives, but do our actions send conflicting messages to youth? The baseball tournament where you over-indulge after the game and wake with a pounding headache, family gatherings where your uncle falls in the pool but manages to keep this drink above water, the T.G.I.F parties after work soaking up some sunshine with co-workers, the association of the May 'two-four' weekend... what culture are we creating?

Over the next several months, Parent Action on Drugs and HC Link will be hosting a series of webinars focused on youth and substance use.  For additional information and programming options on youth and substance use please access our website.


Related resources from the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse:

Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm in Canada: Towards a Culture of Moderation

- National Alcohol Strategy: Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm in Canada

Alcohol and Health in Canada: A Summary of Evidence and Guidelines for Low-Risk Drinking


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

By Tamar Meyer, CAMH Resource Centre

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


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

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

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


Key documents:

Statistics Canada (2010) Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories: 2009-2036.  Minister of Industry: Ottawa.  Accessed March 29, 2012.
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New @ a glance resources: Working Together with Francophones in Ontario

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

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

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

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The Built Environment and Health: North Bay

By Paul Young, HC Link-OHCC Consultant

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

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

The morning consisted of presentations on

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

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

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

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

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

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A final blog post from the HC Link Team at OPHA

By the HC Link Team at OPHA

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

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

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

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

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

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Using social media to promote your health campaign

By Zoë Siskos, Coordinator, Communications, Smokers' Helpline

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


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

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

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

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

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

What are your goals?

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

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

How do you reach your goals?


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

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

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

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

Include social in non-social

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

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

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

Focused efforts


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

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

Work with partners and influencers

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


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

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

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


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

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John Ott Explains the difference between Kronos and Kairos time


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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.

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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.

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