Blog

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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Conference Workshop: Facilitating Community Conversations on Inclusion – Angela Connors and Kim Hodgson

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By Karen Scottie of OHCC

 

Full disclosure: I have worked with Angela Connors and Kim Hodgson on the OHCC/ONESTEP project Kitchen Table Conversations for Action on Inclusion. But because my role has been limited to tech support for webinars and making travel arrangements, I attended this workshop to experience the actual ‘kitchen table conversation’ aspect of the project.   

 

participants at the workshop

 

Angela and Kim began by acknowledging the territories of Indigenous peoples. They emphasized that the acknowledgement must be more than just a check mark on a to-do list. The acknowledgement is an act of reconciliation and a reminder that the land wasn’t empty when colonizers arrived. The acknowledgement to make visible that which for so long has been made invisible echoed through the rest of the workshop. Angela asked us to offer up a story about our names’ origins. Many of us, spoke of having to shorten our names to make it easier for those in power to say/spell them.  The workshop ended with a discussion of unconscious bias, microaggressions and how to become an accomplice to make change toward inclusion.

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Conference Workshop : Engaging Young People from Diverse Backgrounds

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by Aly Tropea 

Working with Young People means actually having to listen.

Do you ever think “Why ask me for advice if you’re just going to ignore it?”. Whether it be a colleague asking for your input on a group project, a friend planning a trip somewhere you’ve been many times before, or a spouse asking for your opinion on redecorating the house, it happens to us all at some point that you get asked for help but that advice you take the time to give back gets ignored. It can be frustrating when people seek you out purposefully for your input, only to completely disregard it in the end. 

I attended the workshop Actionable Knowledge & Helpful Tools for Engaging Young People from Diverse Backgrounds on the morning of day 2 of our conference and this was a theme that I think many people did not consider before. When working with youth, YATI presenters Garett and Leila explained that youth should be included in decisions, and not in a tokenism kind of way. For example, you want to include a young person on your board but don’t want to give them a vote? Unfair. What’s even more unfair is when you assume that that 1 young person can represent an entire community of young people. Integrating youth into more of your planning will make for better outreach. That doesn’t mean having to give them carte blanche, though. The role of the adult is still one of authority and security, but by giving them more time and guidance to develop their own process to problem solve ways to uphold community efforts, you may just be surprised by the outcome. 

To young people, they should feel like the sky’s the limit in their ability to grow their potential and excel in this world. So maybe you can provide them with a creative outlet to express themselves. Setting goals of achievement are important and adults can be consulted for direction on how to achieve goals, but youth should be able to come to the conclusion on what those achievements are by themselves. If in your diverse community, you want to instill a sense of ownership and responsibility among your teens, ask them to take charge in planning an activity or event that children will partake in and that the teens will have to plan from beginning to end. By offering leadership and guidance, but by also providing a safe space for creativity and ideas to flow freely, young people will become less apprehensive to breach more important subjects such as substance abuse or family issues with you later on. 

We explored Roger Hart’s ladder of participation (see below):

roger harts ladder of participation

We took a look at how adult influence in youth activities can range from manipulation to equality. Our goals should not and cannot always be to have to achieve younth engagement at the rung 8 level, but implementing the uses of a mixture of the top 5 rungs, young people should begin to feel a sense of confidence in their work and be able to take on more responsibility and autonomy. 

By allowing them this autonomy, they will begin to take charge and excel in new ways that you may not have thought up in your initial planning. Although certain barriers may seem to exist currently, such as the need to have set plans and timelines, a more effective strategy of engaging youth even in the planning process will reap better rewards. This may mean having to rework your planning and scheduling to accomodate more inclusive conversation around upcoming programs. It is sometimes hard to ask for several people's input on program development simply because of the "too many cooks in the kitchen" idealogy. But, the reality is that if programs are being developed for youth, they should be developed with youth in mind right from the planning stages -- and that means having to ask them. Once a new timeline and scheduling system is in place and youth are feeling more confident that they are being heard, programming for youth should come more naturally and you may find that having more hands on deck might actually be a great thing! 

 

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Linking for Healthy Communities: Day Two Reflections

It’s the day after our Linking For Healthy Communities: With everyone, for everyone conference. Aside from feeling exhausted, I’m thrilled that conference participants were engaged and excited throughout the conference.

Day Two began with two sessions of four workshops. I heard many people say that it was difficult to choose which workshop to attend as they all sounded wonderful!

day two sessions

Following the workshops and (yet another) magnificent meal (featuring the BMO Institute’s famous and unbelievably delicious) bread pudding, it was time for something a little different. When we first started planning this conference, and selected the theme of diversity, inclusion and working across difference, we wanted to provide an opportunity for small group conversations for conference participants to cultivate empathy, think from other people’s perspectives and co-learn. We came up with the idea to merge together a Living Library format with a World Café, where we would have table facilitators from a variety of life and lived experience work with small groups to deepen conversation and reflection. HC Link was very fortunate to work with consultant Sara Mohammed, who created an incredible “collection” of “Living Books” to help conference participants explore successes and barriers in this work. Throughout the Living Library Café, conference participants were engaged, open, and reflective.

living library

We closed our conference with something even more unique. Branch Out Theatre joined us to interpret our conference experiences through participatory theatre, music and movement. It was a wonderful way to digest the past two days and close the conference.

theatre

 

This was our third- and last- Linking for Healthy Communities conference. We have been thrilled to have hundreds of people join us over the years, to work with you, learn with you and celebrate. 

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Conference Workshop: Working with the Priorities of People Living in Poverty

There are a lot of workshops at this year’s Linking for Healthy Communities conference that I was excited about. But I think the one I was looking forward to most was Jason Hartwick and Gillian Kranias’ workshop Working with the Priorities of People Living in Poverty. The workshop provided a lot of open space for us to reflect on our own work and experiences, for us to discuss the values and principles of community development work, and for us to hear about Jason’s work and experiences (which frankly, I could have listened to all day). What I loved the most about the workshop was the opportunity to reflect on my own experiences and what I've personally learned. 

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One of the key messages from the workshop was about the assumptions and biases made about people who live in poverty. Societal reaction to those living in poverty is that “they” are handed everything that they need (eg social assistance), that they are responsible for their own conditions, and that they should “pull themselves up by the bootstraps”. But, as Josephine Gray says, “they” do not have boots. The reality is much more complex.

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People who live in poverty are often treated as if they have no value: the only thing expected of them is to live on social assistance and accomplish nothing. One workshop participant recommends using as asset-based approach: to recognize that communities have something inherently good and precious about them. Jason talked about the importance of pride, that communities who live in poverty rarely feel like they have something to be proud of.

Another take-away for me is how those of us who work in agencies come to the work with the agendas of our agencies: our mandates, our visions, our programs, our timelines. It’s important to keep those agendas slightly behind us (rather than pushing them in front of us) and use an open approach with communities. Rather than walking in and talking about he wonderful program that we have, we need to take the time to ask: what do you need? What do you want? Jason says communities do not have to own the problem, but they can be a part of creating the solutions.

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Built to Last: Sustainability Does Wonders!

(Or, "You’re taking away our hotdogs? This is supposed to be a democracy!”)

In the afternoon on the first day of our HC Link conference, the Local Project Managers for the Healthy Kids Community Challenge communities had a private session to chat and learn about sustainability. Between online and in-person participants, we had LPMs from about 2/3 of the projects present, which was a terrific turn-out!

LPMs arranged the content for the session – Cyndi (from KFLA), Fenicia (from Toronto) and Luke (from Sault Ste Marie) led the presentation. Naomi Giuliano shared a story about the Healthy Kids charter in the Superior North Greenstone HKCC region. HC Link provided space in the conference agenda, as well as the online connection.

LPM session photo

Key questions in the open discussion were:

  1. How has your HKCC operational structure supported the Program to be sustainable? What are some of the advantages or disadvantages?
  2. Are your key stakeholders committed to continuing the Program? If not, what's required for them to do so?
  3. What opportunities do you see? Are there any challenges?

Discussion flowed both online and in the room – sharing stories and challenges; making connections; and just enjoying the chance to be in the same space. LPMs can find the slides and continue the discussion in their private space on The Source.

Thanks for a great session, LPMs!

 

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Linking for Healthy Communities: Day One Reflections

We had a marvellous first day at Linking for Healthy Communities: With Everyone, For Everyone (in my slightly biased opinion!). Our conference began with Elder Whabagoon offering us the Strong Woman song and traditional water ceremony. Elder Whabagoon invited us to speak to water every day: love the water, thank the water, and respect the water. We then welcomed our incredible keynote speaker, Kim Katrin Milan, to the stage. Kim’s talk was called “Centering the Margins” and she spoke of the importance of reflecting and engaging people in conversations.

Kim

 

 

 Following the keynote, conference participants had small group reflection time to talk about the themes in Kim’s talk that resonated for them, and to identify questions to ask Kim. I was then lucky enough to join Kim on stage to moderate the Q&A session.

Day one Reflection

 

Throughout the rest of the day, everyone I spoke with talked about how Kim’s talk had impressed them, motivated them, and encouraged them to think differently. You can view Kim’s prezzie online.

Following an excellent lunch, conference participants chose from 4 workshops: a networking session for Local Project Managers involved in the Healthy Kids Community Challenge; a FrancoPavillion; what Successful Partnerships Do: an equity and inclusion lens; and Reflection and Action on the Impact of Power and Privilege in Health Equity Practice. If our twitter feed is any indication, the workshops were enthusiastically received!

This is a bittersweet conference for those involved (past and present) with HC Link. After nine years of working together, this is our last conference. We wanted to celebrate not only our work, but your work, and the work we’ve done together. We hosted a celebratory reception and heard brief remarks from each of the Executive Directors of HC Link’s three member organizations: Lorna McCue from the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, Joanne Brown from Parent Action on Drugs, and Barb Willet from Health Nexus. Around fifty people joined us to celebrate and share memories of what we’ve accomplished together.

reception

It’s now just before starting time on Day Two and we’ve got a lot to look forward to today: 8 concurrent session workshops, a Living Library Café and theatre event. We hope you enjoy the day!

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Tackling Substance Use Problems in Ontario

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by Jewel Bailey - CAMH 

It’s National Addictions Awareness Week, a perfect time to take a closer look at how to tackle alcohol and other substance-related harms. In Ontario, we’ve been grappling with challenges such as the opioid overdose crisis, alcohol-related harms, and the uncertainties surrounding the legalization and regulation of cannabis. These are complex public health problems that demand comprehensive solutions.

As a knowledge broker in EENet’s Health Promotion Resource Centre (part of the Provincial System Support Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), I’ve been working on various provincial mental health promotion policy initiatives. One consistent theme? We can’t keep focusing on treatment. We have to address risk and protective factors and create environments that support health and well-being.

Interestingly, when it comes to mental illness and addictions, research shows that people are more sympathetic and less stigmatizing to those with mental illness than those with addictions, who are often seen as having made an individual choice.  But let’s talk a bit about the role of the environment pertaining to the opioid overdose crisis.

Opioid medications are a type of painkiller. Some can be purchased over the counter, while others are prescribed by a dentist or doctor. In Ontario, there has been an overprescribing of opioids, the doses are high, and the period of use set by physicians is longer than needed. Some have argued that these factors have contributed to the opioid epidemic. According to Public Health Ontario, opioid-related deaths have soared to 136 percent since the early 2000s. In 2016, 865 Ontarians died from opioid-related causes. This is an example of how the practice and regulatory environment can contribute to poor health outcomes. However, the provincial government has created Ontario’s Strategy to Prevent Opioid Addiction and Overdose and has increased access to naloxone kits which are used to prevent opioid overdose.

Environment can also have an impact on harmful alcohol use. It is well established that increased physical availability of alcohol contributes to increased consumption and alcohol-related harms. Close to 1.5 million Ontarians (15%) reported consuming alcohol in harmful/hazardous ways within the past year, based on the 2015 CAMH Monitor report. The 2015 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey showed that hazardous/harmful drinking increases with grade. Harmful alcohol use is associated with a range of social, health, and financial costs and is the leading cause of death and disability in the province. 

Tackling harmful alcohol use requires a multi-pronged approach that focuses on building the skills of individuals, working with communities to address issues such as social norms around alcohol use, intervening in different settings, and influencing the policy environment.

Another substance of public health interest is cannabis. Some find the legalization and regulation of cannabis to be concerning, while for others, this is a welcome move by the federal government. After all, banning people from possessing, producing, and trafficking in cannabis, and criminalizing those who use it, have not stopped cannabis consumption. On the other hand, legalization with little regulation can contribute to increased use with significant social and health harms. The federal government has proposed a model which includes both legalization and regulation. Ontario is already thinking ahead, and created the Safe and Sensible Framework to Manage Federal Legalization of Cannabis. This plan outlines what the provincial government will do to manage the use and sale of cannabis.

Cannabis-related harms increase with use, and when a person starts at an early age. Frequent use is associated with dependence, mental health problems, and impaired driving. Adolescents who use cannabis often are also vulnerable to health harms. The CAMH Cannabis Policy Framework recommends a public health approach for preventing cannabis-related harms. This entails addressing the underlying determinants of health, and focusing on health promotion and prevention. I am really convinced as a knowledge broker in mental health promotion that these are some of the major strategies for tackling substance use problems.

As we discuss solutions to problematic substance during this week, let’s not focus only on individual-level actions, but let’s consider the multiple environments people are surrounded by (family, community, policy) and use these as intervention points. By positively influencing the environment we will certainly have an impact at the individual level.

PS: Here is a list of resources you can use when working with clients or program users, or for planning or policy development:

Alcohol

Opioids

Interactive Opioid Tool

Cannabis

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Conference Workshop Profile: Reflection and Action on the Impact of Power & Privilege in Health Equity Practice

Our 2017 conference is just 11 days away (I can’t quite believe it!) and the excitement among HC Link staff, volunteers and presenters is growing! On the afternoon of day one, Monday November 20, conference attendees will have a difficult choice to make between four excellent workshops. One of them, Reflection and Action on the Impact of Power & Privilege in Health Equity Practice, is being delivered by our colleagues Kim Bergeron and Samiya Abdi from Public Health Ontario. Learn more about this workshop- and why you should attend- by watching this short video that Samiya and I filmed.

 

Hope to see you at the conference! The registration deadline is November 13th and there will be a draw for a $100 Indigo gift card for registrants! Registere here

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10 reasons to attend Linking for Healthy Communities: with everyone, for everyone

HC Link’s bi-annual conference, Linking for Healthy Communities, is now less than a month away! Our theme for this conference is with everyone, for everyone. At the conference, we’ll link, learn and share about topics like equity, diversity, cultural humility, inclusion and allyship, with a focus on youth, ethnoracial, Francophone, and Indigenous communities.

The full conference program was released last week, which contains many reasons why you’d want to attend the conference. If you need even more reasons however, here’s what HC Link staff love about the conference, and why we think you should attend (in our slightly biased opinions):

Lisa Tolentino, Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition

I love that the conference is a place to meet dynamic people doing dynamic things - and also making new connections/developing new contacts. The ability to see things through a different lens and being better able to understand other peoples’ perspectives on issues is a huge benefit for me. I come away from the conference energized with optimism and ideas for creating change on both personal and professional levels. At least that was how I felt after the last conference, and I suspect that this one will be the same :)

Patrick Delorme, Health Nexus

To design this conference’s French offerings, I assembled an advisory committee of Francophone organizations and stakeholders to provide advice and guidance. The result is what we’re calling “Pavilion Franco”. It will be an open space to connect with Francophones and those who provide French Language Services (FLS). The Pavilion Franco will feature:

  • Mini-sessions on the priorities of Francophone communities

  • Marketplace of FLS service providers to share their resources and services

  • A wall mural for people to share what they have to offer and what they need, in terms of FLS services, resources, and expertise

We’ll also have two breakout workshops in French: one that I’ll co-present with Gillian, on working in partnership, and the other on systems of governance.

Gillian Kranias, Health Nexus

I’m really looking forward to this year’s conference. I couldn’t think of just one reason to attend, so I’m including the four things I’m looking forward to the most:

  • Expanding my networks of people who care about doing partnership work in new and more equitable ways.

  • Having space and time to talk about some of the difficult moments.

  • Reflecting on and improving my skills and approach in a supportive environment – both at workshops and over breaks/meals

  • Experiencing the speakers and facilitators – such a rich lineup in a mere two days!

Rebecca Byers, Parent Action on Drugs

This year’s conference, more than ever, provides time and space to explore important topics and have meaningful discussion with people from varied experiences/perspectives. The program includes individual reflection, interactive workshops, large group and table discussions, small group activities, as well as time for networking and informal conversation.

Robyn Kalda, Health Nexus

The BMO Institute for Learning is such a lovely venue! With so many conferences, you feel like you’ve been cooped up in a hotel basement all day (because you have) and you come blinking into the light at the end of the day like an animal emerging from hibernation. This place isn’t like that – it’s very welcoming, comfortable, full of light and a sense of space and pleasantness, and yet there are quieter spots too where introverts like me can sit and recharge our batteries (and drink excellent coffee).

Andrea Bodkin, Health Nexus

I’m excited about pretty much everything to do with this conference. Like Robyn, I adore the BMO Institute and their magic latte machines. I’m really looking forward to our keynote speaker and plenary sessions (after 8 years of HC Link we finally have interpretive dance on the program). I think I’m looking forward the plenary discussion opportunities, especially the Living Library Café, the most. After two days of talking about and thinking about diversity and inclusion and working across difference, how will people be reacting? How will people be impacted? What impact will the conference make when we all head back to work? That’s what I’m looking forward to hearing about!

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Looking at hospitals with a health promotion lens

This week I’ve had a slightly difference experience to the ones I usually blog about for HC Link. A close family member of mine has had surgery and is in the ICU. While I certainly have lots on my mind at this time, I also can’t help looking around me and noticing the ways that hospitals promote the health of their patients and their families.

My first experience of this hospital was when my family member and I met with the surgeon several weeks ago. A hospital fundraiser was underway. Understandable that fundraisers are necessary, but selling Krispy Kreme Donuts?

selling Krispy Kreme

Yesterday in the ICU waiting room, I noticed a series of wall displays of patient information. Good idea, as many people in that waiting room are there for hours at a time (as most of the time you can only visit your loved one for 10 minutes at a time). However this one gave me pause:

Empty isolation info rack

Social isolation is one of the factors that influences health -- social inclusion is one of the social determinants of health recognized in Canada -- and I can only imagine how feeling isolated and alone makes patients feel and affects their healing. The impacts of social isolation and the benefits of social inclusion aren’t always recognized. I think this empty display speaks to the lack of resources available not just in this display, but overall.

Now to the good news.The hospital does address isolation by allowing visiting at any time.

visitanytime

This hospital -- like many -- has a program to allow vulnerable-feeling pedestrians to walk to parking lots, bus stops and residences safely. A quick call to hospital security gets you a burly escort to your destination of choice.

walksafe

And here’s one from a BC hospital that HC Link’s Robyn Kalda took: humour and hand washing!

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I could go on, but I need to get back to the hospital. Healthy healing everyone!

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Playing Back Your Conference Stories

Playback for new parents

 

 

 

By Naomi Tessler, Artistic Director, Branch Out Theatre

 

Once Upon a time, there was a conference. A conference that aimed to explore issues of inclusion, equity and working across difference. A conference that created space for participants to critically reflect upon their role in co-creating community transformation: with everyone, for everyone. At this conference there were many moments of inspiration, mixed with conflicting points of view. The result: Two days of deep unpacking, radical learning and the etchings of a new road map to community change.

 

Let’s Watch! …

 

These are the magic words you’ll hear at the closing playback theatre performance by Branch Out Theatre for the upcoming HC Link conference. You and your fellow conference attendees will be invited to share your conference reflections, stories and experiences (like the summary painted above) and Branch Out Theatre’s playback theatre troupe will play those moments back to you- on the spot- through improvisation. Branch Out Theatre will co-create a space with you to harvest your learnings, deepen your understanding and strengthen your connections.

With each reflection shared and each story told, our actors will use different playback theatre forms to animate the experiences being recounted. Each form will vary in length and depth and serve to capture the heart of what each conference attendee shares. We’ll use sound and movement to play out a montage of feelings you’ve had throughout the conference. We’ll perform impromptu rants to help make sense of any conflicts or challenges. We’ll re-enact your full stories about the seeds of wisdom and the roots of support you’re taking back to your community practice.

Whether or not you’re up for being a teller: one who shares an experience or story, the whole audience grows more connected as each story is played back. A personal experience gracefully transforms into a universal experience as the audience witnesses the story unfold onstage. Watching your fellow conference attendee’s story played back, you will undoubtedly see speckles of your own experience within it. The chance to have your story played back is like a gift, and our Branch Out Theatre playback ensemble: Alicia Payne, David Jan Jurasek, Victoria Haist and Will Kwan, conducted by Naomi Tessler, looks so forward to helping you unwrap it! To see pictures of past playback theatre performances, click here.

Playback theatre is one of the applied theatre practices that Branch Out Theatre works with to facilitate community engagement, creative play and critical reflection. We also specialize in Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, which centralizes pertinent issues of injustice in order to empower individuals and communities to be agents of change.

Check out videos from our various applied theatre project’s and performances here. Through our participatory workshops, trainings, community arts projects and interactive productions, we aim to inspire personal and collective transformation, and set the stage to rehearse towards social change across Canada.

We look so forward to Branching Out through Theatre with you and playing back your stories on November 21st at 3pm. Let’s Watch!

To learn more about Branch Out Theatre, please visit: www.branchouttheatre.com

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How can we work “with” people in poverty?

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On November 21st, join Gillian Kranias and Jason Hartwick as they re-examine the way we work with people who live in poverty. They will host an interactive workshop at our conference about strategies for working with people living in poverty in ways that respect their priorities.

How is this important? When working with people who are different from ourselves, our charity-based culture often sets us up to work “for” community members. Following this habit, we can end up in a mess. We carry and create biases around people who live in poverty. We feel rushed to produce results that reflect organizational priorities, not community priorities. We assume things and overlook local knowledge and particularities. Often, for example, we see a “problem” and propose a simple “evidenced solution”, when the local reality is a complex of interrelated issues and options which need to be discussed, sorted through and prioritized with community leadership and ownership.

 

So, how do we shift into working “with” people? To begin: make sure community members feel on their own ground and comfortable. To begin: allow community members to co-lead the process. To begin: resource their leadership, and talk openly and ongoing about how to shift resources towards a more fair sharing of power and leadership.

There is a story of a low-income community which started organizing Friday night dinners at the local recreation centre, providing a safe space where community members could include their children (including teens), share food and dialogue about different community issues and priorities – all facilitated by partnership members.

In this workshop, on November 21st, participants will build awareness and skills through stories and a case study, community development values and principles, collaborative learning and reflection activities. Participants will leave with direction and hope for engaging better “with” people who live in poverty.

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Getting Under the Skin: What is the Role of Cities in Mental Health and Illness?

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By Jewel Bailey - CAMH 

Here’s a compelling fact: half of the workforce in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area is suffering from a mental health issue – that’s more than 1.5 million people! This begs the question: how does the place where we live, play, and work impact our mental health?

It’s well established by researchers that people who live in cities have higher levels of mental illness than their rural counterparts. The United Nations predicts that by 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. Currently 85 percent of Ontarians live in cities. As more people move to urban areas, the need for experts from different fields to focus on how city living impacts mental well-being will become increasingly important.

One of the international experts who has studied mental health and the metropolis is Professor Nikolas Rose from King’s College, London. He examined years of research on how mental health is shaped by city living. Rose says scientists have made the connection between mental illness and factors such as social exclusion, racism, and poverty, but what they have not determined is the process through which the “city gets under the skin”. He believes that as scientists from various disciplines work together they might be able to explain the process through which urban living affects the brain.

Other findings from Rose’s work include the following:

  • Cities should be viewed from an ecological perspective, with humans co-existing in a complex, ever-evolving environment. There is constant social stress produced by “noise, sprawling transport networks, the cacophony of diggers and concrete mixers, scaffolds and cranes”. Humans are not passive in these environments, but are always negotiating these spaces.

  • Researchers identified stress as one of the reasons for elevated levels of mental illness among urban dwellers. One group of researchers found that people who are born in cities, and continue to live in urban environments, process stress differently, which might be linked to why there are higher levels of stress in urban areas.

  • Stress is a subjective experience based on people’s perception of what is occurring around them. How a person interprets an element in their environment (e.g. crowding) determines whether it’s stressful or not; what one person considers stressful might not be stressful for another.

What is one of Rose’s more interesting points? He states that in the aftermath of a traumatic event, most people do well just speaking with family and friends. Only a few will require ongoing intervention by a mental health provider. This highlights the resiliency of humans.

While researchers such as Rose continue their work, policymakers are asking the question: what can cities do to improve the mental health residents? New York provides a good example of what can be done. The city has created a comprehensive mental health plan called Thrive NYC which is built on 6 principles. Dr. Gary Belkin, Executive Deputy Commissioner of Mental Hygiene in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and one of the leaders of the plan, notes that NYC had to rethink and restructure how mental health services were delivered, and also engage citizens in the process. One of the six principles is partnering with communities to improve mental health.

Thrive NYC’s work began by assessing where people go and how they access services. According to Belkin residents may not always access services in traditional mental health facilities so the system must reach people in their natural settings. For example, in this video, Thrive NYC worked with a Black faith-based organization to reach members of that community. The plan recognizes community stakeholders as “innovators in their own health” and builds the capacity of community-based organizations to increase access to programs and services. The success of Thrive NYC has sparked other international cities, such as London, to launch similar strategies.

Both Rose and Belkin were in Toronto recently, delivering talks on mental health and city, as part of a series hosted by the Provincial System Support Program at CAMH and the Wellesley Institute. You can find links to their presentations below.

As we turn the spotlight on the reality of mental illness during mental illness awareness week, let’s consider how we can build healthy, vibrant communities in rural and urban areas. Because more people are migrating to cities, where there are higher rates of mental illness, cities require unique attention. Cities touch the lives of residents in multiple and intimate ways. The urban environment can be a source of stress and happiness, but working to create supportive environments, and strengthening communities for action, as Thrive NYC has done, can impact the mental well-being of all residents.

Here are links to some resources:

  1. For more information on Thrive NYC and the principles click here

  2. To watch Rose’s presentation click here

  3. To watch Belkin’s presentation click here

  4. About mental health and mental illness

  5. Mental health first aid

  6. The friendship bench

Share your views - what do you think cities in Ontario can do to promote the mental health of residents and support those living with a mental illness?

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Measuring Partnership Effectiveness

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Measuring Partnership Effectiveness: evaluating partnerships

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This blog is one of a series profiling some of HC Link’s “oldie but goodie” resources from the past several years. This resource was published under HC Link’s previous name, the Healthy Communities Consortium, by former member organization OPHA.

Evaluate, celebrate and renew is one of 6 activities for successful partnerships, which Gillian Kranias and I presented in a June webinar. According to a survey conducted with participants of that webinar, it’s one of the activities that people find the most challenging. In 2008 I wrote that the world of evaluation can seem mystical, confusing and daunting. I will cheerfully admit that 9 years later, I still often feel like that! That’s why I delved back into a two-part resource that we published in 2011 on partnership evaluation, Measuring Partnership Effectiveness.  Part one provides and overview of partnership evaluation, including the benefits of assessing your partnership and principles to guide your partnership evaluation efforts. Part Two profiles a number of tools that you can use to measure the effectiveness of your partnership.

A simple way to think about evaluation that’s relevant to those of you who work in partnership, is the three levels to partnership evaluation:

  • Level 1: Measuring coalition infrastructure, functioning and processes: how well the partnership is working together. Level 1 evaluation is process evaluation that measures short-term outcomes.
  • Level 2: Measuring partnership programs and interventions: what the partnership is accomplishing together, such as the activities delivered and populations impacted. Level 2 evaluation is outcome evaluation that measures short and intermediate outcomes.
  • Level 3: Measuring community change and community outcomes: changes in health status, community capacity, the sustainability or institutionalization of programs and services. Level 3 evaluation is outcome evaluation that measures long term outcomes.

Conducting a Level 1 evaluation can provide valuable information on how your partnership is functioning, how each partner is contributing to the partnership, and the effectiveness and efficiency of the partnership. This information can be used to help your partnership improve and make adjustments over time, resulting in improved functioning and a greater likelihood of achieving the goals and activities of the partnership. Tools used to assess partnerships typically gather data on things like:

  • Purpose of the partnership: vision, mission, goals
  • Partnership structure and meetings
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Member diversity and involvement
  • Sense of community/cohesion and identify
  • Task focus and sustainability
  • Use of resources
  • Membership needs and benefits

So what does a Level 1 evaluation look like? Here’s a case study from HC Link’s efforts to assess and improve its partnership functioning:

As a partnership between three provincial organizations, HC Link understands the importance of assessing our partnership functioning as well as how we meet our goals and objectives.  Our Level 1 partnership evaluation focusses on measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of HC Link, how well we are structured/organized, how well we communicate, and the quality of our relationships.

We evaluate annually, using a mixed-method approach, with different approaches each year: surveys, key informant interviews, focus groups, analysis of service statistics and document reviews. One of the more innovative approaches we use is “Evaluation Day!” where HC Link staff are paired up and answer a series of questions in a dialogue. Immediately following, individuals answer an online survey. We found that the paired interviews develop relationships and understanding, and provide a richness that is then reflected in the online results. This would be a great approach for steering committee members! You can read more about “Evaluation Day!” in this blog post.

We use the results of our partnership evaluation to celebrate our accomplishments and highlight areas for improvement. When an area(s) for improvement is identified, we develop a strategy to help us strengthen this quality. Over our 8 years of working in partnership, we have made a number of adjustments based on the results of our evaluation. For example, we make changes to our meeting structure on an annual basis, and have made several rounds of changes to our structure to adapt to our changing environment/contexts. 

 

In addition to the ten tools analyzed in the Part Two resource, here are some additional resources you may find helpful:

The Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory has an online collaboration assessment tool with research-tested success factors.

Bilodeau, Galarneau, Fournier & Potvin have developed an 18 indicator tool: Outil diagnostique de l’action en partenariat. Currently the tool is available in French only, however Health Nexus is adapting the tool for English audiences.  

Collaborative Leadership in Practice(CLIP) was a project of Health Nexus and the Ontario Public Health Association. The aim of the project was to equip leaders to be able to collaborate with diverse partners and recognize the power structures that exist in our partnerships. On the resources page, you’ll find an excellent tool- with guide- called Equity Analysis Tool of Group Membership.

HC Link’s Participatory Evaluation Toolkit and The Power of Reflection: an introduction to participatory evaluation techniques describe techniques that can be used to help assess and strengthen your parntership.

This 2017 edition of HC Link’s Digest + is on evaluation, and contains many more helpful tools and resources. 

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Resource Profile: Engaging Marginalized Communities: Honouring Voices and Empowering Change

This blog is one of a series profiling some of HC Link’s “oldie but goodie” resources from the past several years.

Several years ago, we partnered with the Social Planning Network of Ontario (SPNO) to profile work they had been doing to engage marginalized communities within local Healthy Communities Partnership activities. engagingmargThe resulting resource, Engaging Marginalized Communities: Honouring Voices and Empowering Changeby Rishia Burke, has become a bit of a touchstone for me and the work I do with populations and communities across Ontario. Published in 2011 in English and in French, the resource summarizes the project, the engagement techniques used, and provides insights into the benefits and challenges of engaging populations who feel marginalized. 

The first lesson that I keep from this resource is the use of the term “marginalized”. Often in health promotion, we have cautions about the words that we use to talk about specific populations and communities. I often refer to the resource Let’s Talk: Populations and the power of language, which explains that the words we use to talk about communities (such as marginalized, at-risk, racialized etc) can have power implications for those who use the words as well as those who are being described. Rishia approached her work in Halton Region with that same lens: she was uncomfortable using the term “marginalized” until she understood that the community responded to this word: they wanted to be called marginalized because that’s how they felt: on the margins. Outside, excluded.

In my HC Link work I talk about building trust relationships a lot. What Rishia reminds me is that with some groups, building trust can take longer. With populations that have little power, feel like they are not heard or respected, and feel isolated, building trust before proceeding in any kind of engagement is critical. Rishia recommends going to where the people you are trying to reach are: in her case, Rishia went to food banks and chatted with those waiting in line. She went to community barbeques and coffee shops. Rishia shared information with those she was developing relationships: she talked about her own childhood, her parenting experiences, and her project. This is in stark opposition to our habit of inviting communities to our spaces, where they may not feel safe, where they may not be able to easily travel to, where they feel or fear they may not be welcomed.

The SPNO project recommends these key steps to engaging marginalized communities:

steps 2 engage marg

I hope you’ll be able to apply the learnings in this resource as I have. And if this topic is of interest to you, come to our November conference Linking for Healthy Communities: With everyone, for everyone where we will reflect, learn and share about equity, diversity and working across difference. 

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Re-framing The Golden Rule

It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that I’m really excited about this year’s HC Link conference. Because a) I’m nearly always excited about something, b) I work at HC Link and so I have a slightly biased opinion and c) the conference is at the BMO Institute, which has a specialty coffee machine whose decaf lattes I dream about on a regular basis. Beyond those reasons though, I’m excited about the conference because of the theme: equity, inclusion, and working across difference.

This is a theme that is exquisitely suited to the times that we are living in. We really want this conference to be a place where people from all walks of life, of all different identities and different experiences can come together to talk, reflect, exchange ideas and think critically about how we can transform our communities into spaces with everyone, for everyone.

KimMatrinTo compound my excitement, we have an amazing keynote speaker to kick off the conference. Kim Katrin Milan is writer, multidisciplinary artist, activist, consultant, and educator. She speaks on panels and keynotes and facilitates radical community dialogues. Her art, activism and writing has been recognized nationally. The foundation of much of Kim’s work is a re-working of The Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do to you. This, Kim says, assumes that everyone wants to be treated in the same way, and that we are the standard for other people’s needs. Rather, Kim advocates that we treat people the way that they want to be treated: which means that we need to engage in a conversation about the wants and needs of others. We need to ask about the gender pronouns that they want us to use; we need to ask what cultural sensitivity looks like to them; we need to ask what safety looks and feels like to them. It’s in the way that we ask and create conversations that we make communities where no one is left behind. This can, of course, seem very daunting. Kim also advises us to start where you are, with what you have, and do what you can.

In her keynote at the HC Link conference, Kim will talk about allyship, bias and its role in upholding inequities, and actions we can take (in our personal and professional lives) to do what we can. Kim’s keynote will be inspirational, practical, and though-provoking. Watch Kim’s video about her keynote. 

I hope you’ll join us at the HC Link Conference, learn and share about equity, inclusion, diversity, and working together across difference. 

Want to register now? Go directly to the registration page here. Our Early Bird pricing of $310 ends next Friday, September 15th!

See you soon!

 

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Safe BBQing techniques to enjoy a healthy Labour Day weekend

Screen Shot 2017 08 31 at 5.28.20 PM

 

With labour day just around the corner, I wanted to share with you some basic rules for food safety in meal preparation that was shared on on the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website.

According to Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins and Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, reminding Ontarians of proper food preparations is key to avoiding food born illnesses.

In the summertime, food poisoning increases due to more people preparing food on the grill, defrosting raw meats like burgers, and making more salads on flat surfaces. To avoiding cross contamination and food poisoning, follow these simple rules.

Clean you hands often when preparing meals, clean surfaces and utensils with soapy warm water. Bacteria loves getting onto hands and in cutting boards, kitchen ware, cloths, knives, etc.

Keep raw meat separated from ready to eat foods like veggies, fruits, breads, and salads. Keep the separate both when you’re preparing them and as you store them.

Thoroughly cook all your food, especially meats and poultry but also veggies if you’re cooking them on the safe grill.

Keep food and leftovers in the fridge and get groceries into the fridge within 2 hours of purchasing them - especially for meat, poultry and dairy products.

To ensure you’re following the guidelines above, you can take some extra precautions such as:

Using a food thermometer to test the temperature of your food as it cooks.

Never keeping food at room temperature for more than 2 hours

Don’t defrost your meat on countertops, rather keep it in a container and let it defrost slowly in the refrigerator or under cold water in the sink.

Keep packaging of your meat firm and tight, even double bag it to be sure no juice will leak onto your ready to eat foods.

Follow cooking instructions accordingly to make sure you’re preparing your food correctly and safely.

Following these tips can help you avoid the unfortunately symptoms of food poisoning that can range from mild to severe. If you do become ill and suspect food poisoning, consult a physician or go to your nearest hospital for urgent care if symptoms appear severe. By following these rules above, however, you should significantly decrease your chances of becoming ill due to food poisoning.

Enjoy your Labour Day weekend !

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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! 

 MG 4630

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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New Resource from HC Link: Effective Meetings

I spend a lot of time in meetings: up to 50-80% of my time some weeks. There is nothing worse than spending time in ineffective meetings- while your to-do list grows and grows.  Designing and holding effective meetings is hardly rocket science, however ineffective meetings are a world-wide phenomenon. To the point where you can even purchase ribbons congratulating you for surviving a meeting…..Consider this quote from the Harvard Business Review:

meetingquote

That’s why HC Link created this French resource, which my HC Link colleague Robyn Kalda and I just adapted into English. In this resource, we outline three simple steps for effective meetings:

meeting steps

While, as I mentioned, this is not rocket science, it’s still pretty easy to hold an ineffective meeting. Here are some of the common pitfalls that I often see, and my advice for avoiding them:

  • Holding meetings for the sake of meetings: Set a clear purpose for each meeting. Think carefully about what it is that you need to accomplish, then determine if a meeting is the right mechanism for that. For example, if you simply need to provide an update, that can be done via email. One-on-one conversations might be more appropriate. In other cases, a quick teleconference might be adequate.
  • Not getting the right people around the table: Carefully consider exactly who needs to be in the meeting, given the purpose of the meeting. If decisions are being made at the meeting, ensure that meeting participants are able to make decisions in the meeting. If the meeting is about the implementation of a program/service, ensure that those who are involved in the execution of the program are at the meeting. Also consider if people actually need to be in the meeting, or if you can touch base with them before or after the meeting to provide an update. 
  • Prep work isn’t done ahead of the meeting: If this is a working meeting that depends on meeting participants doing/reviewing work ahead of time, ensure that they have enough time to get their work done before the meeting. Involve participants in the setting of the meeting date. Be willing to postpone the meeting if work isn’t done in time.
  • Unrealistic agendas: I’ll often review agendas for meetings where I think “we’ll be lucky to get through half of these agenda items”. I once had someone tell me that agendas are aspirational – that there is no need to actually finish the entire agenda during a meeting. I respectfully disagree. Be very realistic when you are setting the agenda, and be sure to include timing for each agenda item. It is the chair’s responsibility to keep the agenda on track and on time. However, there is a balance to be struck here: sometimes unexpected discussions need to take place, occasionally I’ve had to toss out entire agendas and start again. It’s important to read the group and be flexible as well.
  • Technology: Technology is a double-edged sword: it can provide a way for participation from other locations; it can also waste precious time in meetings if you are struggling to get the tech working. If you are going to use technology in a meeting, be sure that you have tested everything ahead of time and that participants are familiar with how to use it. A backup plan is a good idea too.
  • Starting late- and often ending late too. Start and end meetings on time. The end.

Now go forth and hold effective meetings! If you need advice, call HC Link! Our consultants love to give advice on how to make your meetings efficient and worthwhile.

Helpful Resources

For a little fun – check out these videos Teleconferences in Real Life and Every Meeting Ever.

HC Link’s Facilitation for Healthy Communities Toolkit and The Power of Reflection: An introduction to participatory evaluation techniques provide many excellent tips and techniques that can be used in meetings.

This excellent article from the Harvard Business Review lists the 6 purposes of meetings and the different types of meetings.

This blog post from GovLeaders.org lists 6 Golden Rules of Meeting Management. 

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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: http://feeditforward.ca/

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