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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Peer sharing session about online community engagement

By Robyn Kalda, HC Link

On November 23, I facilitated an HC Link peer-sharing webinar on online community engagement. I had the misfortune to lose my internet connection half a dozen times during the session, which is always exciting when one is facilitating -- a huge thank-you to the participants for your patience! And to Andrea Bodkin, HC Link's Coordinator, who stepped in as technical backup.

We left the definition of "online community engagement" open. Whether it's a community that wants to engage online, or an online community that wants to increase engagement, a community is the people involved and not the technology, so it's quite possible to talk about both at once.

We discussed creating a Terms of Reference for an online community -- the difficulty of drafting such a thing before discussing it with potential community members, yet the need for management accountability. The need for flexibility in the document was raised, so that the group can grow and change over time and feel ownership of the community.

Next, people suggested ways to pique people's interest in the community. Relevance was key here: connect people to content and expertise, help them with their work and goals. One participant was running a community that had recently added a feature that allowed users to tag others in discussions if their opinions or expertise would be helpful -- at which point they are emailed a notification, and their response (or lack thereof) is, of course, visible, providing some mild peer pressure to participate.

Participants felt regular updates helped a community both feel and stay active. A monthly newsletter via email, with links back to the community highlighting what's new / hot topics / upcoming events was one great idea, as were occasional face-to-face meetings (if possible).

Thinking about the technology itself, people generally suggested thinking first about what functions the community truly needs and where people are already. Can you start with a plain old email list? Or Facebook? Often, you can. It's easier for people to engage if it doesn't involve learning an entirely new tool.

The issue of moderation was raised. Moderation can be fantastically time-consuming and a source of contention, in my experience, so I suggested avoiding it if at all possible. Others pointed out that group culture, if developed carefully over time, often works well to counter or discourage inappropriate posts. Sometimes supporting people behind the scenes to post and model a desired behaviour -- social support of a good post, or respectful criticism -- can work well to get things going.

We finished by encouraging people to join HC Link's discussion list, Community-Links (, and to get in touch if they had questions that weren't answered in the peer-sharing session.

Thanks to all the participants!

Here are some of the resources that were shared in the session:

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Taking part in the holiday spirit of giving – Does food charity alleviate hunger?

This is a guest blog post by the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH).

With the holiday season upon us, charitable food drives are in full swing. It’s easy to throw a can of baked beans, a jar of peanut butter or a box of macaroni & cheese in the food bank bin. But does this really help to reduce hunger in our communities?

To start, let’s clarify some terms. ‘Hunger’ is a feeling of discomfort from not eating enough food.  ‘Food insecurity’ is inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints.  Poverty is the root cause of food insecurity. People experiencing food insecurity:

  • worry about having enough food
  • do not have suitable quality or variety of food, or
  • have reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns due to lack of food. (This extreme is how we commonly use the term ‘hunger’ when we mean severe food insecurity).

Food insecurity is a significant social and public health problem in Ontario.  In 2013, 1.6 million Ontarians or one in eight households did not have enough money to buy food. Click here for more information on how food insecurity is defined and measured in Canada.

How have communities responded to the problem of food insecurity?

With the gradual erosion of social programs, a variety of community-based charitable food programs have emerged. There are now food banks in every province and territory, with a network of almost 5,000 emergency food programs including food banks, soup kitchens and various meal and snack programs.

Food charity is very much a part of the problem of food insecurity in rich societies. While charitable food programs may provide short-term relief of hunger, they do not reduce food insecurity at all. Food charity is ineffective due to the following reasons:

  • undermines people’s dignity
  • has limited reach – 3 out of 4 food insecure households do not go to food banks
  • has limited operating hours and restricts the number of visits and the amount of food provided
  • does not meet people’s daily need for nutritious food

Food insecurity is a symptom of an income problem; it is not a problem that can be solved by redistribution of food by charities no matter how much we try to build better food banks. In fact, food banks are counterproductive because their existence creates the illusion that food insecurity is being taken care of in the community.  We’ve become so conditioned to raising more money and getting more food on to food bank shelves that we lose sight of poverty being the root cause of food insecurity. The prevalence of food charity allows governments to neglect their obligations to ensure income security for Canadians, leaving community-based charities attempting to fill the gap.

The media perpetuates this problem by drawing attention to food drives. By packaging a food drive as an integral part of the festive season, food insecurity is framed as an issue for charity, not politics, strengthening the public perception that food charity is acceptable, necessary and adequate to address the problem of food insecurity. High profile, public food drives use messaging that reinforces the notion that food charity makes a difference in the lives of those living with food insecurity. Calling on the public to participate in food drives in an effort to ‘give back to the community’, ‘join the fight against hunger’ and ‘participate in the spirit of holiday cheer’ feeds into the age-old philosophical ideal of feeding the hungry. High profile community members, such as politicians or celebrities, are often used to reinforce these messages and create a bigger media story.

If food charity is not the solution to food insecurity, then what is?

All sectors have a role to play in promoting income security as an effective response to food insecurity.

The media could focus on supporting campaigns and covering news stories raising awareness about the root cause of food insecurity, which is poverty, such as on implementing a basic income guarantee, a living wage, and affordable housing and child care policies.      

Individuals, community groups, and organizations can support ‘up-stream’ efforts, such as:

  • Becoming a member of, donating to, or volunteering with Basic Income Canada Network
  • Donating or volunteering with national, provincial or local poverty reduction advocacy groups, such as Make Poverty History or Canada Without Poverty  
  • Donating to or becoming a member of food advocacy groups, such as Food Secure Canada
  • Contacting or meeting with local politicians at all levels about their concerns with the food charity response to food insecurity and the potential benefits of a basic income guarantee
  • Supporting campaigns and signing petitions for adequate income security, affordable social housing and child care, enhanced mental health services, and development of national and provincial food policies

Federal and provincial governments must consider policy options that will enhance income security and reduce poverty levels to alleviate food insecurity.


The Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH) is the independent and official voice of Registered Dietitians working in Ontario’s public health system. OSNPPH provides leadership in public health nutrition by promoting and supporting member collaboration to improve the health of Ontario residents through the implementation of the Ontario Public Health Standards.

The OSNPPH Food Security Workgroup has developed a position statement (and French translation) and an accompanying infographic (and French translation) to increase awareness about the growing problem of household food insecurity in Ontario and the urgent need to advocate for effective responses. Since its release, the Position Statement has received official endorsements from these organizations and individuals. If you would like to endorse the Position Statement, please complete the form available here.

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What should we do? Reflections from the Vision Zero Summit


By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’sVision Zero Summiton November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’sVision Zeroapproach andParachute’s Canadianapproach.

Part of the afternoon session at the Vision Zero Summit was a panel discussion called “Vision Zero in Action”. The panel included speakers from Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto and focussed on what each city is doing towards realizing Vision Zero. One of the panelists was Greg Hart from Safer Calgary. Greg’s perspective was an interesting one as Safer Calgary is not part of the municipality; rather they are an outside agency working with the city of Calgary.  The Safer Calgary coalition is an alliance of individuals and groups that have a common interest of decreasing the potential for preventable harm and death in the city of Calgary.

Greg began his presentation by reminding us (as many speakers have today) that distracted driving is a huge challenge on our roads. There are four states in the US where texting is legal- but in the rest of the states, bans on texting have not reduced the number of distracted driving charges and fatalities. Why is that? Greg says this is because of our tendency to blame individuals for their behaviour. “He should know better than to text and drive because he’ll get a ticket” or “she should look both ways before crossing the street or she’ll get into an accident”. Statements that involve the word “should”, says Greg, raise a red flag. This is because in our brains, should statements – which are statements about our behaviour- are connected to punishment, as in my two examples above. To which our brains say, “…if I get caught”. We think that we’ll evade capture, we’ll escape an accident, that our actions won’t kill someone. Because we believe that we are smarter than we are.

VZ 2

The reality is that we’re not as smart as we think that we are. We think that we can pay attention all of the time, that we can multi-task and do all tasks equally well. This is not true. This is in part because of the role that our unconscious mind plays in our decision making. We make decisions based environmental cues that we’re not consciously processing.

Instead of thinking “should”, says Greg, we should rely on the design of our roads to guide the behaviour of the majority of road users, leaving enforcement for the 10% of underperforming road users. For example, Greg told us about an intersection in Calgary that had installed automatic ticketing, which resulted in $11 M in fines. There are two ways to view this: first that we take the money and fuel it into safety interventions or public transit etc. The second way is to realize that obviously, the intersection needs to be designed in such a way that $11 M dollars of laws are not broken. We need to create successful situations so that we criminalize fewer people and have fewer injuries and deaths.


I am positive that I am not doing Greg enough justice with this summary of his presentation. And frankly, I wish he could have spoken for at least an hour! Please visit the Safer Calgary website to learn more.

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero

Vision Zero: No more road deaths
Why I’m SO Excited about Vision Zero
Vision Zero’s approach to infrastructure: Making mobility safe from the start

Public Health and Vision Zero: What role do we have to play?

Working toward Zero—together

Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?

Sweden’s Vision Zero Website

Parachute’s Vision Zero Website

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Recap: Canada’s Vision Zero Summit 2016

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach.

We’re just wrapping up a terrific day at Parachute Canada’s Vision Zero Summit (#VZSummit).

After opening words from Parachute’s Pamela Fuselli (@PFuselli), City Councillor Jaye Robinson (@JayeRobinson), who is Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, spoke with both optimism and determination about Toronto’s progress towards Vision Zero. Some highlights: “watch your speed” signs near schools, red-light cameras at 79 priority locations, a plan to double bike infrastructure (hurray!), and a massive education campaign beginning in 2017. She noted that Vision Zero has had strong – and much appreciated -- support from the media.

A panel on Vision Zero around the world followed, moderated by Dr. Ian Pike. Dr. Pike enumerated five key areas for laws that help reduce road deaths: speed, drunk driving, helmets, seatbelts, and required child restraints.

Dr Mats-Åke Belin, speaking via video from Sweden and by a previously recorded presentation, noted that Vision Zero is a scientific, systematic approach to safety, putting responsibility on professionals instead of blaming road users. Implementation isn’t one-size-fits-all, however; and as more countries adopt the approach, we can learn from each other.

Dr. David Sleet spoke from his experience at the Centres for Disease Control in the US, noting that on the list of public health achievements of 20th century, #10 was advances in road safety: road safety is the intersection of transport and public health. As Europe saw 50% a reduction in alcohol-related and 47% in non-alcohol related road deaths over 10 years, he said, Vision Zero can be a philosophy, useful in keeping people’s eyes on the eventual goal of zero deaths. Implementation requires goals & targets to be set, the use of evidence-based strategies, and mechanisms to assess impact. Examples of interventions included rumble strips (which reduce run-off-road crashes by 40%) and graduated licensing, in particular reducing the number of passengers allowed in cars driven by new drivers. Each city’s mayor must commit to endorsing #VisionZero, among other requirements for designation – an interesting indicator!

Ian Grossman (@AAMVAConnection) from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (the body that represents US and Canadian driver authorities) spoke about the Toward Zero Deaths document (the US strategy on highway safety) and the Road to Zero Coalition. Toward Zero Deaths is a data-driven approach, with proven countermeasures listed in the report. Areas of emphasis in the report include drivers & passengers, vulnerable users, vehicles, infrastructure, emergency medical services, and safety management. He noted that trying to shift safety culture is the big game-changer: of course it isn’t easy, but it has been done – for example, motorbike helmets. He encouraged everyone to explore the clearinghouse for initiatives at

A question came up at the end of the panel: What should Canada do? Something at the national level? At the provincial level? City level? Answer: Yes, yes, and yes.

Ned Levitt of Parachute’s Board challenged everyone – in memory of his 18-year-old daughter, who was hit by a car while out running and died -- to never give up the fight for safer roads.

An award was presented to the Ambassador of Sweden, Per Sjögren, to recognize Sweden’s lead on Vision Zero.

The next panel, moderated by Dr. Marie-Soleil Cloutier, covered the Canadian road safety environment.

Christine Le Grand of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators talked about Canada’s Road Safety Strategy 2025. It focuses on a number of specific risk groups as well as the general population. A database of safety measures that have been proven or are promising is available at

The Canadian Urban Institute’s Glenn Miller (@CANURB) focused on seniors and mobility, because Canada is aging: 1 in 6 Canadians is over 65, and it will be 1 in 4 by 2041. The safety of all roles -- drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and people using mobility devices – is important (although he noted that cyclists mostly forgotten when talking about seniors' safety). The Age Friendly Communities initiative aims to reduce the need for seniors to drive. They define mobility as the ability to travel SAFELY where and when you want.

Tony Churchill (@CARSInfo), from the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals, gave us a spoiler alert: Vision Zero is NOT about cyclists and pedestrians, but about all road users. We need to make sure messaging reaches everyone, because people ARE traffic. Semantics are important: accidents vs. collisions, aspirational vs. realistic, target/goal vs. vision….

Finally, Traffic Injury Research Foundation President and CEO Robyn Robertson (@TIRFCanada) named drugs, distraction, and automated vehicles as the three priority road issues for the next decade. Drivers testing positive for alcohol have declined in recent years, but positive drug tests have increased. Issues in implementing drug-impaired driving interventions include both the complexity of the science and popular misconceptions about the riskiness of the behaviour. TIRF’s drug-impaired driving learning centre will be available in December. Distracted driving kills about 300 people per year in Canada, especially 20-34-year-olds; a national strategy is coming in January.

The after-lunch panel was moderated by Linda Rothman and talked on a more practical level about what Vision Zero efforts are happening in Canada.

Gerry Shimko from the Office of Traffic Safety in Edmonton opened the panel. Edmonton was the first city in Canada to approve Vision Zero as their road safety strategy in their 2016-2020 plan. Targeted implementations, including right- and left-hand turn alterations, have helped Edmonton reduce road injuries from 8200 in 2006 to 3800 in 2015. At one intersection there used to be 35 crashes a year and that has now dropped to only two. “You have to do something illegal to crash there now,” he said.

Roger Browne, Manager of the City of Toronto Traffic Safety Unit Toronto talked about Toronto’s new five-year, $80M road safety plan. It has six primary emphasis areas with specific countermeasures proposed for each: pedestrians, school children, older adults, cyclists, aggressive drivers & distraction, and motorcyclists. Many agencies were partners in creating the plan as part of a large working group – again, a theme of the day; virtually all successful Vision Zero efforts involve large, diverse partnerships or coalitions. Organizational transformation inside the City is key: there must be a fundamental shift from an opportunistic to a strategic approach. They also changed focus. Since 74% of fatalities were vulnerable road users over past 5 years, it made sense to focus on these serious crashes instead of on routine fender-benders. Browne’s key lessons: 1. Be data driven. 2. Be more strategic than opportunistic. 3. Leverage existing resources.

Greg Hart (@GregsThinking) of Safe Calgary talked a lot about the word “should” and how it’s a red flag. "Should" is a product of attention & willpower: to do something you “should” do, you must be paying attention AND have the necessary willpower, interest to act. But both attention and willpower are extremely limited, much more limited than we think, and so decisions about driving are made based on environmental cues you're not consciously processing. Instead, we need to use a high emphasis on design. Enforcement should be for the lowest-performing 10% of users because design should ensure normal users do the right thing. Since people who feel vulnerable drive more carefully, design can incorporate features that make people feel more vulnerable: novel, variable, ambiguous, complex, unauthorized, proximal, opaque…. In Calgary they are aiming for safe and smooth mobility for everybody. Smooth means presenting design so people do the safe thing -- you create more successful situations so we criminalize fewer people and have fewer injuries.

The working part of the day wrapped up with a forward-looking charrette session led by the George Brown Institute Without Boundaries to get people to tease out thoughts about actions, drivers of change, and more. They’ll pull the results into a report for Parachute.

The day ended with a very welcome reception – let’s hope everyone made good plans to #GetHomeSafe!

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero

Vision Zero: No more road deaths

Why I’m SO Excited about Vision Zero

Vision Zero’s approach to infrastructure: Making mobility safe from the start

Public health and Vision Zero: what role do we have to play?

Working toward zero - together

What should we do? Reflections from the Vision Zero Summit


Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?

Sweden’s Vision Zero Website

Parachute’s Vision Zero Website


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Working Towards Zero -- Together

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach.

It struck me that the first panel at the Vison Zero Summit this morning was really about partnership. Partnership, of course, is a topic dear to the hearts of health promoters everywhere, so to hear its critical importance emphasized by speakers as varied as City Councillor and Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, Jaye Robinson, event sponsor, State Farm, and transportation experts from Sweden and the USA was heartening indeed.

To reach zero road deaths, we need a collective effort. Every speaker this morning was clear: transport experts, planners, public health, educators, and all levels of government -- city, province, national (and even beyond) -- even car companies -- need to work together. Just as cooperation at every level was necessary for the near-elimination of polio worldwide, so too will it be necessary for Vision Zero to succeed.

Ian Grossman (@AAMVAConnection), of the Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, talked about the challenge they had in the US getting transport people and public health into the same room when they were working on the reaching consensus while working on the Toward Zero Deaths report ( Then they needed to decide whether to include only the small interventions that they knew would lead to large changes in road deaths or to have an all-inclusive document including smaller contributors to change, so that everyone could see themselves in the report. The all-inclusive approach won out and (as well as the report) they created an online database of resources and interventions ( at all levels, available to anyone.

Near the end of the session there was a question: What should Canada do? Should we work nationally? provincially? At the city level? The answer: Yes, yes, yes. We have to work at all levels, together, to reach zero road deaths – because one is too many.
This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach.

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero
Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?
Sweden’s Vision Zero Website
Parachute’s Vision Zero Website
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