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!

To view past blogs, please click on the home icon below left.

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.

781 Hits
0 Comments

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.

visionzero

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 Websitehttp://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/

Parachute’s Vision Zero Websitehttp://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero



121 Hits
0 Comments

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 http://www.towardzerodeaths.org/resources/.

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 http://crss-2025.ccmta.ca/en/road-safety-measures.

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

 

73 Hits
0 Comments

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 (http://www.towardzerodeaths.org/). 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 (http://www.towardzerodeaths.org/resources/) 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 http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/
Parachute’s Vision Zero Website http://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero
70 Hits
0 Comments

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

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

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.

Today I’m live tweeting and blogging from Parachute’s Vision Zero Summit. It’s not quite 11 am but already I’m on fire for Vision Zero and everything that it stands for. In particular, I’m really reflecting on the role that public health can play within an initiative such as Vision Zero. Today’s conference opened with a video address by Dr Matts-Ake Belin from Sweden, where Vision Zero originates. Dr Belin proposed that public health and Vision Zero take opposite approaches: that public health starts with a problem that needs to be solved and applies intervention to address the problem, whereas Vision Zero starts with the vision of what needs to be achieved. Dr David Sleet, formerly from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and now a consultant, spoke about the role for public health in Vision Zero. Dr Sleet believes that traffic injuries and deaths are the number one public health issue of our time. Advances in road safety is listed as #10 on the CDC’s list of 10 Great Public Health Achievements in the 20th Century.

Dr Sleet asked the audience who among us work in public health. While about 10 percent of the audience raised their hands, Dr Sleet told us that today, we all work in public health because what we are doing here at the Vision Zero Summit is public health’s mandate the save lives and prevent deaths. Dr Sleet proposes that public health approach road safety in the same way as we do infectious diseases- like infection disease on wheels- by bringing the epidemiological and education lenses that we apply to outbreaks such as e-coli and Zika. In fact public health has a history of initiatives that focus on reducing to zero, such as polio.
 
VZ 1

While fellow panelist Ian Grossman from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators stated that one of the challenges in the US has been to form connections between those who work in road safety and public health, here in Ontario public health professionals are used to working intersectorally and making a difference in their communities.  While there is a role for public health, Dr Sleet stated that Vision Zero should be everyone’s vision and should involve every sector.

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

Sweden’s Vision Zero Website http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/
Parachute’s Vision Zero Website http://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero
109 Hits
0 Comments

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

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

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.

Vision Zero involves planning, designing and building roads and infrastructure to increase safety and reduce fatal accidents. Vision Zero believes that safety aspects must be built into the system and included when planning new infrastructure projects. The ultimate goal is to build roads and infrastructure that meet capacity and environmental challenges without compromising traffic safety.

In 2008, Montreal set a goal of reducing serious accidents by 40 per cent over 10 years. Between 2003 and 2015, the island of Montreal has seen the number of accidents causing injury or death drop by 26 per cent, to 5,203 accidents. In roughly the same period, the population has grown by four per cent, the number of cars by 12.5 per cent, and the number of people who cycle regularly has doubled, rising to 116,000 a day. Montreal’s Vision Zero plan pledges to:

  • expand photo radar speeding sectors to eight from the current five
  • reduce speed limits on certain main streets to 40 kilometres per hour
  • reduce limits on local roads to 30 km/h (where boroughs accept the change)
  • update traffic lights
  • further improve security measures at 57 of the city’s underpasses, in some cases by adding cycling lanes
  • mandate city standing committees to study the idea of prohibiting trucks of a certain size from driving in heavily populated areas, or limiting the hours when they can make deliveries
  • look into having reserved bus-taxi lanes that can also accommodate bicycles, which is presently illegal under the highway code in most cases
  • increase the number of bike boxes, putting cyclists ahead of vehicles at intersections; installing priority lights for cyclists; adding cycle lanes and boosting knowledge of the dangers of dooring.

What happens however, on existing streets, where these changes have yet to take affect? As a full-time cycle commuter in a large and busy city, I know what it’s like to bike in an environment that’s not built to keep me safe. At times like these, vulnerable road users take matters into their own hands to try to make the environment safer.

One of my favourite examples of this is Warren Huska, who Toronto cyclists have dubbed “Noodle Man” after media attention in Toronto and internationally. A year and a half ago Ontario introduced Bill 31, which requires drivers to keep at least 1 metre between the motor vehicle and the bicycle when passing cyclists on Ontario roads, where possible. Despite a $110 set fine and two demerit points, few motorists are following the law. Warren took the law into his own hands by attaching a pool noodle to the back of his bike, a visual representation of the 1 meterpassing law.  Effectively, Warren makes his own bike lane where there is no bike lane, resulting in motorists giving him the space the law requires. Warren’s desperate move has hit a nerve, as the 1 million + hits to the Toronto Star video showing Warren’s noodle hack attests. Warren hopes that his pool noodle will keep the conversation about cycling safety going and influence the thinking of motorists. Colin Browne, a spokesman for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, quoted in a Washington Post article about Warren,  says “it’s frustrating that we’re relying on hacks from cyclists when really it’s a driver behavior problem,” Browne said. “The law (in Washington) says to pass beyond three feet. You shouldn’t have to attach a pool noodle to the back of your bike to make people do that.”

Warren

Photo from the Toronto Star Toronto Star

This is where initiatives like Vision Zero should come in. If the built environment makes the safe choice the only choice, wouldn’t this increase the chances of everyone using roads safely? While Colin Brown applauds Huska’s homespun approach, he said cyclists really need more bike lanes and off-road trails, more physical buffers between them and cars, and better police enforcement of safe-passing laws.

I consulted my fellow cyclists to find out how they try to be safe when the built environment doesn’t support safe cycling. 

Many of them shared stories of being passed to closely by car drivers and lack of enforcement – or even awareness- of Bill 31 by police officers. Jess Spieker shared her terrifying story of being T-boned by a car driver at an intersection in an area that has no bicycle infrastructure. In addition to safer infrastructure, Jess is calling for a Vulnerable User Road Law which would have car drivers sentenced appropriately. 

Chloé Rose bikes through parks even though there are perfectly good (if more dangerous) roads beside said parks, or adding kilometers to her route because it's safer than going straight along an arterial road. Not only does this add time onto cycling journeys, this also directly impacts businesses located on main arterials who lose out on having cyclists as a customers. Other cyclists take advantage of flex hours, changing the times of day where they travel in order to avoid high traffic times.

Another unfortunate side effect of lack of safe infrastructure is that cyclists resort to “illegal” measures such as riding on the sidewalk or riding the wrong way down one way side streets (salmoning) because it feels safer. Says Toronto cyclist Gerry Brown “my belief in the ability of Vision Zero to reduce road injuries and deaths is because of its focus on design changes that will make people do that. I have very little faith in our ability to change behaviour with education and PR campaigns, but with sound and proven design changes we can make everyone safer.”

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero

Vision Zero: No more road deaths

Why I’m SO Excited about Vision Zero

Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?

Sweden’s Vision Zero Website http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/

Parachute’s Vision Zero Website http://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero

Montreal’s Vision Zero Plan https://mairedemontreal.ca/en/vision-zero-commitment-pedestrian-and-cyclist-safety

Canada’s Road Safety Strategy 2025 website features a Road Safety Measures Database

465 Hits
0 Comments

Why I’m SO EXCITED about Vision Zero

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

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. 

On November 29th, my colleague Robyn Kalda and I will be attending Canada’s Vision Zero Summit in Toronto as part of the Social Media Team. We’ll be live tweeting and blogging away and sharing the learnings from this national conference. As health promoters, it makes sense that we’d believe that our roads should be safe for all road users: pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers/occupants. As proponents of healthy communities we believe in the many benefits that occur when people can walk, bike, roll and dance through their communities. So of course we love Vision Zero’s philosophy: that no one should be killed or seriously injured within the road transport system.

On a personal level though, I’m excited about Vision Zero because I want to live.

Yes, it may sound dramatic. And also, hopeful……because I am a vulnerable road user. I live in Toronto, where I am a full-time cycle commuter (10 months of the year) and daily pedestrian. The reality is, in the city that I live in, that the number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths is just shy of the homicide rate. In the first 6 months of 2016, there were more than 1,000 cyclists and pedestrians hit on Toronto streets. I once met a Toronto cyclist that referred to her daily commute as “my daily meditation on death”. I do have at least one “OMG” moment every commute, and what I’d call a close call once or twice a week. Even as a pedestrian, I’m scared. One of the most dangerous parts of my regular walk to various errands is a pedestrian crossing- you know, the one with the flashing lights where, by law, car drivers and cyclists are supposed to stop and stay stopped until I’ve reached the sidewalk on the other side? I’m nearly struck by a car driver at least half of the occasions that I use that crossing.

cycling

My sister and me (left) cycling on the Bloor Viaduct during Open Streets Toronto.

Given all of that, why do I risk my life every day just to move around the city? Well, I’ll bet you can guess some of the reasons. Cycling to work is more convenient and less costly that taking public transit. I get 40 minutes of physical activity every day just by going to work! I arrive at work flushed, with my blood pumping and brain working. It makes me smile to speed past the cars in traffic and whiz down hills. I recently purchased aBike Share membership and I giggle every time I’m on one of those bikes, they are so big and stable and Mary Poppins like. It’s amazing what cyclists will put up with just to get that daily dose of biking awesomeness. Once you try it, you will never go back.

That is also one of the challenges- getting people to try it. And one of the ways to get people to try cycling is to make it as safe and convenient as possible. That’s where Vision Zero comes in. One of the things that I love about Vision Zero is that it is a comprehensive approach that addresses:

  • Reducing impaired driving
  • Implementing safer speed limits
  • Increasing the use of seatbelts
  • Introducing safer car design
  • Improving road infrastructure
  • Enhancing pedestrian and cyclist safety

In a Vision Zero community, there is advocacy for policy change, enhanced regulation, road infrastructure changes and information is provided about dangers of risk factors. The Vision Zero philosophy is one of shared responsibility between those that design the roads and those that use the roads.  The emphasis is on designing streets that result in the behaviour that you want to see, rather than simply trying to legislated and enforce behaviour change. By remembering that all road users are humans- and therefore make mistakes- we can engineer around mistakes and therefore avoid them.

visionzero

Screen capture from http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/

Vision Zero in Canada

Vision Zero began in Sweden, where it’s had astonishing success. Vision Zero is starting to make inroads in North America, including several Canadian cities:

In Toronto, the city’s Road Safety Plan includes the Vision Zero vision to reduce the number of road fatalities and serious injuries to zero, with an initial target of reducing fatalities by 20% by 2026. I hope that next week’s Vision Zero Summit will help to shift this target!

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

302 Hits
0 Comments

Vision Zero: No more road deaths

What's more important: letting cars move quickly, or keeping everyone (inside and outside cars) safe? Is risk of death or injury the price we have to pay for mobility? As health promoters, we see injury prevention (as well as pollution and healthy neighbourhoods) as a key component of healthy communities, and road safety as surely something worthy of serious design efforts that mitigate danger. The international Vision Zero movement agrees.

"No loss of life is acceptable. In every situation a person might fail -- the road system should not. This is the core principle of the Vision Zero concept." -- http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/

In essence, Vision Zero works to design transportation systems that compensate for human error. Whatever mistake you might make as an imperfect and distractable human, the systems around you should protect you. It's an approach that puts much more emphasis on design and much less on the behaviour of the system's users. When health promoters talk about lifestyle issues we often say "make the healthy choice the easy choice" -- it's easy to see how Vision Zero is doing exactly that.

On November 29, HC Link Coordinator Andrea Bodkin and I are excited to be covering the Vision Zero Summit on social media. Organized by Parachute, the Summit will look at how Vision Zero is being implemented in Canada, drawing on examples from Canada and beyond. Watch for our tweets and blog posts!

As Edmonton, which was the first Canadian city to officially adopt Vision Zero, says:

"Why should you get behind Vision Zero?

We all want our loved ones to get home safely."

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

More information:

Vision Zero (Sweden)

Vision Zero Canada

Parachute Canada - Vision Zero

Canada's Vision Zero Summit

Summit hashtag: #VZSummit

166 Hits
0 Comments

Working together in a Good Way

By Stephanie Massot, HC Link

Last month in partnership with Timiskaming Best Start, HC Link delivered a webinar called ‘What we are doing in a good way: A cultural competency framework model’. Working in a ‘Good Way’ means doing things in a principled, holistic way with kindness, caring, patience and, respect and is a term commonly used by many First Nations and Métis to describe a way of thinking, being and doing that is rooted in Indigenous values.i During the preparations for the webinar, the Indigenous women I worked with taught me what it looks and feels like to approach a webinar in a Good Way.

For instance, holding meetings in a Good Way meant that our conversations went at a comfortable pace and were not rushed. This usually meant that meetings took longer than the time we had planned for and as a result I started to leave an hour available after each meeting in case that time was needed for further discussion. I valued having that flexibility in my own work schedule because I learned that when there is an opportunity to circle back and work in a non-linear way, more ideas are heard and new developments can emerge.

When working with Algonquin Elder, Grandma Marilyn, I learned that she wanted to smudgeii while drumming. As she says in the Implementation Toolkit for the Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework, “Be aware of the frame of mind you’re in, not having negative thoughts: the smudge and the drum are there at the start for a reason, to calm us down.” We learned that the fire code of the building where Grandma Marilyn and the other presenters were supposed to gather would not allow for smudging and so another meeting space was found and we planned for other tech checks to occur there. As well, a smudging is typically never filmed. However, Grandma Marilyn offered to have a smudging she was doing in the community be filmed before the webinar and we included that as a video during the beginning and ending ceremonies of the webinar.

Opening and ending a webinar with an Elder was a powerful experience. In the community, Grandma Marilyn usually has from sunrise to sunset to sing and drum and is not constrained by the timelines of a webinar. Grandma Marilyn and her team of helpers practiced to ensure that everyone felt comfortable for the webinar and that all attendees would be able to participate in these ceremonies for Giving Thanks. Grandma Marilyn shared her wisdom with everyone and helped us all connect to each other even though we were all virtually attending. Participants from the webinar shared how they felt more interconnected with everyone and were thankful for this experience. Captured in the image below is Elder Protocol/Etiquette that should be considered if you would like to ask an Elder from your community to join an event that you are organising.

elderprotocol

This handout was developed as a promotional tool highlighting key elements of the Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework.
To download a copy of the Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework go to http://www.timiskamingbeststart.ca/resources_en.html.


The presenters encouraged all attendees to drop in, say hi and have a coffee at the band offices of local Indigenous communities. I also learned from the team that learning and using the language of the people you are working with shows respect for the language and culture. I learned that Chi-miigwetch means “big” or extra special thanks in Ojibwe and followed the advice of one of the presenters and started to use it wherever I would consider saying thank you – in my meetings, emails and the webinar. As a settler on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Métis, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, I learned so much about working in a Good Way and I can’t say miigwetch enough to everyone who taught me during this webinar.

_________________________________________________________________________

i Chansonneuve, D. & Hache, A. (2016). Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework Implementation Planning Guide. Page 3.

ii Native Women’s Centre (2008). Traditional Teachings Handbook. Page 7.

 

 

118 Hits
0 Comments

Improving Primary Health Care by Reducing Stigma – Webinar Summary

By Jewel Bailey, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre


The stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness and substances use challenges experience on a daily basis can lead them to avoid seeking help. When it occurs in a primary healthcare setting it can be felt even more deeply, and can have especially negative effects.

camhblogoct25

Primary healthcare providers can play a key role—they can cause stigma or be powerful agents against stigmatization.

In 2010, the CAMH Office of Transformative Global Health (OTGH) partnered with three Toronto-based Community Health Centres to develop and implement an anti-stigma, pro-recovery intervention among primary healthcare providers. On September 29, 2016, the CAMH Provincial System Support Program and OTGH hosted a webinar: “Improving Primary Health Care by Reducing Stigma.”

This webinar explored:

  • the development of the anti-stigma, pro-recovery project

  • the components of the intervention;

  • changes in attitudes and behaviours of the providers who took part in the pilot project.

The presenters were:

  • Akwatu Khenti, Director, OTGH, CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research

  • Jaime Sapag, Project Scientist, OTGH, CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research

  • Sireesha Bobbili, Special Advisor/Project Coordinator, CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research


Watch the webinar and see the presentation slides

 

 

157 Hits
0 Comments

Q: What do SFPY Program Families and the Toronto Blue Jays have in common?

By Jane McCarthy, Parent Action on Drugs

 

A: RESILIENCY!

Photo credit: Mark Blinch/Canadian Press

bluejaysAs the Toronto Blue Jays recently headed into the post-season with a series of phenomenal wins on the heels of a dreadful September performance, we heard the word, “resilient,” used to describe them. The media used it, colour commentators used it and even the players, when interviewed after the big Wild Card Game win attributed their come-back to being a “resilient” team. We heard it again after taking down the favoured Texas Rangers in three straight, high-drama games. You can knock’em down and just before you count them out, they bounce back better than before! That... is resiliency... in elite sports.

Resiliency to bounce back from adversity of a far more “real word” and uninvited nature, is something we all need to acquire to reach our peak potential. Youth in particular need to be equipped with the ability to cope with less than ideal situations, problem solve and learn from experiences to successfully and safely navigate their way through the ups and downs of life. Research shows that a resilient youth is less likely to become involved in problems such as substance use, gambling or other anti-social behaviours. But, like the Blue Jays, they can’t do it alone. Developing skills from within to build self-esteem, to be your best self, and to stay positive, all components of resiliency, must be paired with external support.

I believe the fact that the Blue Jays had an entire country rallying around them, not something experienced by any other team, gave them an extra boost in their confidence and will to persevere despite the odds, injuries and seemingly insurmountable September slump. For youth, their families, peers, schools and communities are highly influential in helping them become resilient, believing in themselves and making healthier choices regardless of what life throws at them.

sfpy logo 2Parent Action on Drug’s Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth (SPFY) program is an excellent opportunity for both parents and their teens to become resilient as a team and as individuals. While there are external forces beyond the family, the program focuses on strengthening the most direct relationship, that of parent and child. SFPY is a nine-week skill-building program for families to raise resilient youth. The program takes a ‘whole family’ approach that helps parents and teens (12-16 years) to develop trust and mutual respect. It is a shortened, adapted version of the 14-week Strengthening Families Program (SFP) developed by Dr. Karol Kumpfer of the University of Utah.

If you are with an organization that works with youth and families interested in promoting healthy outcomes, consider implementing the SFPY program now. Through the SFPY curriculum (and optional support package) your organization will provide families with a complete research-based approach to improving parent-teen relationships, and to helping youth build resilience that will support good decision making and mental health.

Resiliency just may lead the Blue Jays to championship success this year, but it will certainly lead parents and youth to realizing peak performance in family functioning and pursuing lifetime success in whatever is meaningful to them!

For more information on programs and resources for parents and youth on substance misuse prevention visit www.parentactionondrugs.org and www.parentactionpack.ca

 

 

263 Hits
0 Comments

Healthy Kids Community Challenge: “Water Does Wonders”

By Robyn Kalda, HC Link

As a member of the Healthy Kids Resource Centre, HC Link is proud to support the Healthy Kids Community Challenge program. This program promotes children’s health by focusing on a healthy start in life, healthy food, and healthy active communities. After nearly a year on the first theme of the program “Run. Jump. Play. Every Day.”, in July the 45 participating communities launched into the second theme, “Water Does Wonders”.

 
waterdoeswonders


The principal message of this theme is to encourage kids to drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages when they are thirsty. Sugar-sweetened beverages are completely unnecessary as part of a healthy diet. The Heart and Stroke Foundation says:

“Consuming too much sugar is associated with heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancer and cavities.”

How can we encourage children (and their families) to drink more water, and to drink water instead of sugary drinks? The 45 participating communities have lots of ideas.

A popular idea is distributing reusable water bottles to kids. A number of communities encouraged families to photograph themselves with their reusable water bottles while engaging in various physical activities, and to share their photos on social media.

When one has a reusable water bottle, it’s important to be able to refill it. To fill this need, various communities are installing refill stations.

As another idea to illustrate “Water Does Wonders” for health, in the summer various communities sponsored free swims – water in enormous quantity!

For other participating communities, clean, drinkable, safe water is not easily available. In these communities, participants are working to improve access to clean water as a necessary co-requisite to encouraging children to drink more water.

Follow the participating communities on Twitter in English #HealthyKidsON and #IChooseTapWater and in French #enfantsensanteON.

 

194 Hits
0 Comments

Happiness Matters

By Rebecca Byers, HC Link

It’s about this time of year that we at HC Link start thinking about plans for our next conference. So when I received an invitation to attend an event hosted by the National Speakers Bureau, I decided that listening to six inspiring people over breakfast refreshments would be a great way to spend the morning (and the refreshments were delicious!).

JenMoss2One of the speakers was Jennifer Moss. Jennifer is the Cofounder and Chief Communications Officer of Plasticity Labs, a Waterloo-based research and technology company that is on a mission to give 1 billion people the tools to live a happier, higher-performing life. The company’s software measures employee’s social/emotional intelligence and harnesses this valuable data to improve psychological fitness. Jennifer speaks and writes in the areas of positive psychology, psychological fitness, emotional intelligence and positive habit building.

I’ve been reading a lot about positive psychology and gratitude lately and so was keen to hear what Jennifer had to say. She spoke about the impact of happiness in our world and workplaces and presented a number of thought-provoking trends, stats and stories to illustrate her message. Here a few of the interesting perspectives I took away from her talk:

  • There is some confusion and debate over the meaning and importance of happiness in our lives. The problem is that people don’t know what happiness means to them. Happiness is not the absence of suffering but the ability to bounce back from it. As we improve our psychological fitness and emotional intelligence, we are better able to recognize happiness when it is in front of us.

  • Millennials are the largest generation in history and are driving change to societal and workforce culture and norms. They are making employers pay closer attention to things like work-life balance, workplace happiness and our work-life continuum.

  • A number of successful organizations have identified a clear connection between employee (and organizational) productivity and their workplace culture and perks to support employee well-being and happiness. In fact, after a 4-year study, Google found that their innovation can be attributed to these “nice” things.

  • Over-stimulation from constant digital connection leads to stress and affects our mental health. This can be countered by building up our psychological fitness and emotional intelligence (through things like mindfulness and practicing gratitude) which help protect us from these stressors in the workplace and in life.

  • Having stuff can make us feel comforted and happy but we are starting to see “enoughism” (love this term and have ordered the book from the library!). Acquiring things (like cars and homes) is not part of the new generation’s desires. But when they do make purchases, young people want to connect with a brand that has social consciousness and is doing good things (think: TOM shoes, Lululemon, Whole Foods).

JenMoss
 

In her wrap-up, Jennifer shared a moving personal story of the power of positivity, gratitude and happiness which was the beginning of her journey in this work. In closing, she told us that “Happiness is a choice and is fundamental in how we think about or lives. I choose happiness.”

The other five speakers were equally engaging and while I’m not sure I made any headway in conference planning, I definitely left with my mind abuzz with ideas and a list of further reading!

166 Hits
0 Comments

Investigating Youth Sport as a Place to Promote Youth Substance Use Prevention


By Jane McCarthy, Parent Action on Drugs (PAD)

kidsandsports
It would seem keeping kids busy in youth sport would lead to healthier outcomes including lowering the risk for youth substance use. But...that may or may not be the case...

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) recently concluded in their report, Youth Sport Programs that Address Substance Use—An Environmental Scan, there is very little evidence, particularly in Canada, as to the whether or not participation in sport is an effective tool in fostering youth substance use prevention. This is not to say youth sport doesn’t promote positive behaviour, it’s just that we can’t say for sure one way or the other.

So, in terms of published research, we can say that the jury is out on how effective youth participation in sport is in preventing or at least reducing substance use. Time to move on from organized sports as a promotion and messaging tool, right? Not so fast. There are two major reasons why exploring organized sports as a conduit to youth substance use prevention and harm reduction seems to be a no-brainer:

1.) More than 80% of youth ages 3-17 participate in some form of sport – an incredibly high participation rate and thus, an incredibly large audience.

2.) The sport team environment could be an excellent place to normalize positive attitudes and behaviour toward delayed substance use, especially during adolescence, when peer influence is high.

I agree with CCSA’s recommendation to rally together practitioners working in a youth- or sport-based field in Canada and researchers who study youth substance use prevention, youth development and sport to “play ball.” Incorporate prevention programs within sport organizations and study their impact.

In their North American environmental scan, CCSA did find some positive evaluation results of a small number of programs predominantly incorporated into school-based sport team environments, many of which were implemented in the United States. Some programs were aimed at reducing performance enhancing drugs and steroid use while others aimed to delay or reduce use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. Most of the programs in the emerging peer reviewed literature were based on Theory of Planned Behaviour and Social Learning Theory. Although findings are preliminary, based on the evidence that does exist, CCSA says that anyone interested in developing or adopting a sport-based drug prevention program would be wise to include:

• A peer-to-peer component (a component upon which many of PADs educational programs is based) http://parentactionondrugs.org/program-resources/

• A team component (e.g., use part of a team practice)

• Incorporating respected coaches as program facilitators

• Involving parents as participant influencers to reinforce messages at home

• Including campaigns, posters and advertisements to correct youth perceptions and social norms (including famous athletes negatively affected and those who are positive role models)

• Offering tangible and achievable alternative behaviours to substance use to promote healthy development and performance

• Program goals that are attainable by the target audience (e.g., don’t ask them to do something they are unwilling or able to do)

• Multipronged approaches to include education, health screening, feedback and counselling if necessary to change behaviour that is already occurring

• Age appropriate, relevant materials

Incorporating substance prevention programming by community-based recreational and competitive youth sport organizations, in addition to school-based team programs would be advantageous seeing as many youth register for sports outside the school environment as well.

If you work with youth in sport or are involved in youth substance abuse prevention research, get into the game of harnessing all that sport has to offer as a place to promote a multitude of healthy behaviours and reduce risky ones...it could be a big win!

Sincerely,

Jane McCarthy, MSc, MPH
Manager, Program Development
Parent Action on Drugs
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To access more information and downloads from our Programs and Resources page go to: http://parentactionondrugs.org/program-resources/

To learn more about the full CCSA environmental scan a report go to http://www.ccsa.ca

To join the Canadian Sport Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Network send your request by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Image courtesy of fundraiserhelp.com

242 Hits
0 Comments

Make a New (school) Year’s Resolution to Promote Active Transportation in Your Community

By Christine Morrison, HC Link

A new school year offers a new beginning; a chance to make changes.

While tackling the growing challenge of childhood obesity is complex, many communities are working together to promote active transportation options for school children.

activetranso

(Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkmaxwell/4958612436/in/photostream/)

According to the 2012 Public Health Agency of Canada report, Curbing Childhood Obesity; A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights, between 1978 and 2004 the combined prevalence of overweight and obese children aged 2 to 17 years nearly doubled, from 15% to 26%.

This trend is not surprising when you consider that physical activity levels in children start to decline as early as age 3. In fact, by the time they start school, less than 20% of children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

Not only are children not getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity, sedentary behaviours are increasing. A University of Toronto study, based on the Transportation for Tomorrow Survey, found that between 1986 and 2011, the number of 11- to 17-year-olds who walked or rode a bike to school decreased by 12.9%. Over the same period of time, the percentage of children who rode to school in a car more than doubled, from 14% to 33%.

The reliance on inactive and sedentary modes of transportation has earned Canada a D grade on active transportation, according to the latest participACTION report card.

Communities across the country and around the world have been working together to turn the trip to school into an opportunity to boost physical activity among children. As communities, we can work together to create more walkable neighbourhoods that are designed to encourage kids to move and be physically active.

Trottibus Walking School Bus
In April 2016, the Commission scolaire de Montréal adopted a charter to promote active transportation. Small wonder then, that they also introduced the Trottibus in May of 2016. The Trottibus Walking School Bus, developed by the Canadian Cancer Society, is a pedestrian bus that allows elementary school kids to walk to school safely. Trained volunteers accompany children along a planned route with scheduled stops. Various schools across Quebec are participating in the program and parents can register their children online.

Travelwise schools
Since 2005 Travelwise has been working with schools in New Zealand to create individualized Safe School Travel Plans. Plans are multifaceted and typically include road safety education, traffic calming, promotional activities that encourage walking and cycling, walking school buses and parking restrictions. Today, more than 250,000 students are involved in the program and 12,736 car trips are taken off the road during peak morning traffic.

Active & Safe Routes to School
The Walk/Wheel on Wednesdays program offers families the opportunity to slowly break the driving habit by providing a designated day (either once a week or once a month) to explore active alternatives for getting to school.

With the new school year just days away, there is still time to make a change and develop active, healthy habits to last a lifetime.

625 Hits
0 Comments

Water Does Wonders in Humber-Downsview

HC Link is proud to be a part of the Healthy Kids Community Challenge (HKCC) by supporting the 45 participating communities across Ontario. The current theme that HKCC communities are supporting right now is “Water Does Wonders”, which emphasizes choosing water over sugar sweetened beverages. Many of the communities are involved in activities that promote water consumption, such as providing refillable water bottles, community swims, and refill stations. In this post, Myriam Castilla, Local Project Manager for Toronto-Humber-Downsview, shares how they are incorporating Water Does Wonders into their local work.

I am eager to share with all of you one of the exciting Water does Wonders activities that is happening here in the Humber-Downsview community.

Annually, from the first week of July to the third week of August, the Youth Association for Academics Athletics and Character Education (YAAACE), runs a Summer Institute camp for 400 children from the Humber-Downsview community. Most of these children belong to the City of Toronto Neighborhood Investment Areas where a large amount of the population experiences high levels of inequity and poor health.

This year, in partnership with HKCC, YAAACE decided to adopt HKCC’s theme "Water does Wonders" as a main subject for their Summer Institute. The curriculum for this camp was developed to promote Water does Wonders message; 25 teachers were trained on HKCC’s objectives, principles, and strategies to promote water intake; and 50 youth staff were trained on water facts and strategies to promote healthy drink choices among children.

In addition, YAAACE adopted a Healthy Eating policy; which includes having servings of fruits and vegetables in their lunches and snacks, and that only tap water is available during camp’s activities. To re-enforce this message, all sugary drinks were removed from vending machines in their premises.

What is unique about YAAACE’s initiatives is that this community organization uses an innovative social inclusion model to support children and youth from low income communities to grow, learn and play in an environment that is responsive and supportive of their needs, interests, expectations, and aspirations. It offers access to programs that integrate academic, athletic, social and artistic activities through school, after school programs, weekend programs, and camps. 

YAAACE’s academic activities target students who fall below the provincial standards in literacy and in numeracy due to multiple factors, including exposure to violence or trauma. To ensure child success, with the support of mentors, YAAACE’s programs coordinate with children’s schools and caregivers.

We are thrilled because of the impact of the Summer Institute in this community; the key messages of Water does Wonders has been widely disseminated, and 400 children are receiving the messages in a culturally relevant form, and clearly changing their behavior towards enjoying drinking tap water and eating more fruits and vegetables.

WDW 1

376 Hits
0 Comments

A few words in favour of Pokémon Go

By Robyn Kalda, HC Link Consultant

pokemongo
As health promoters, we frequently can be heard disparaging video games. All that screen time! Why don't people go outside? Well, Pokémon Go is getting people outside -- albeit with screens still firmly in hands. What can we do to emphasize the health-promoting aspects of the game? Here are a few ideas.

Encourage inter-generational activity

Kids, parents, and grandparents can all play. Age gives no advantage, so it's a fair game for all. Parents may find kids who play Pokémon Go are more willing to walk around their neighbourhoods, to take on chores such as dog-walking, and to tag along on dull errands such as grocery shopping, as they have to walk several kilometres to hatch Pokémon eggs. Time to encourage family Pokémon-hunting walks after dinner, perhaps?

Encourage exploration

Different Pokémon are found in different kinds of environments, so those found near water are different than those found on busy streets or near forests. Pokémon collectors need to venture beyond their usual haunts if they want to complete their collection. Health promoters can encourage people to use this opportunity to find and appreciate new features of their community. I'd like to see community walking tours that encompass local spots of interest both real and Pokémon-related.

Encourge the social elements

You can't trade Pokémon (yet), but if you want to learn some of the finer points of playing or if you want to know where you can catch a particular kind of Pokémon, you're going to need to go out and walk around, and you're also going to have to talk to other players. It's too soon for proper research, but anecdotal evidence suggests some people with autism or depression have been deriving benefits from walking and from Pokémon-related socializing. (You can go to spots called "gyms" to battle other players' Pokémons as well, which might be considered another social element of the game, but that part is less potentially health-promoting!)

It's easy for health promoters to disparage screens and video games, and sometimes we do so out of habit. I'd suggest we take a closer look at the assets Pokémon Go gives us to work with and see where it takes us.

Besides, it's kind of fun.

380 Hits
0 Comments

The Wake-up Call on Children & Youths Physical Activity Levels

By Christine Nhan, Health Nexus Summer Student

Overtime there has been a significant decrease in physical activity by children and youth. This is a statement that many of us are well aware of and educated on. Study after study have been conducted, each continuously feeding us the same dangerous results; type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, the list goes on.

participactionreportcard
Recently, participACTION has released their 2016 report card on physical activity for children and youth. Rather than delivering the same information that much of the public is already educated on, they shined a new light on a contributing factor for this health concern. What they believe will be the wakeup call for Canadians.

Instead of strictly focusing on physical activities, emerging studies have taken a step back to look at the bigger picture. Through this new lens a vicious cycle has been identified between one’s sedentary, sleep and physical behaviour. As written in the report, those who are tired out from physical activities will sleep better, and those who sleep less will be too tired for physical activities. This relationship may seem like common sense, however the report also shares some not so obvious effects of sleep deprivation in children.

Over many years now, the public has been repeatedly educated on the true dangers of low physical activity levels. To work towards a more active lifestyle, interventions varying in methods and sizes have been implemented. I recall in elementary school the “Walk across Canada” program was initiated to encourage students to walk more. It was based on a reward system, in which students were given coloured feet charms for every milestone distance achieved. This method of intervention resulted in young children having more motivation to participate in physical activity.

Although many of these interventions have had a positive impact on their communities, obstacles such as technology and restricting circumstances have made the suggested solutions much more difficult to carry out. Technology is a specific contributor that has had a large impact on physical activity. As the amount of time spent participating in physical activity decreases, the time spent using technology has increased. Much concern has been raised, and as a result participACTION has recommended no more than two hours of screen time per day.

I believe an effective approach towards this specific challenge is through the concept of integration. By placing a healthy spin on time consuming technology, physical activity can be integrated into the recommended screen time and essentially decrease one’s sedentary behaviour. A prime example of this integrated approach would be the release of Pokemon Go or Wii Fit. Pokemon Go has especially played as a game changer and unintentionally evolved into a public health service. The trending game is entirely based on people walking to different locations in order to move onto the next level, thus promoting physical activity.

Daily circumstances also give rise to obstacles when wanting to carry out the recommended solutions. The participACTION report card states that 43% of 16-17 year old Canadians are not getting enough sleep on weekdays. Speaking from my own personal experiences, countless of late nights were spent working on projects, assigned homework, or studying for a test. My workload during high school greatly contributed to my lack of sleep. I find that a common thread amongst these challenges is that many individuals disregard the long term consequences, such as being diagnosed with type two diabetes 10 plus years down the road, for the short term consequences, like receiving a bad grade, due to the immediate negative effects.

I truly believe it is important to educate and motivate children and youth to participate in physical activities. By starting healthy habits at a younger age, these habits can become ingrained into an individual’s daily routine. The Healthy Kids Community Challenge run by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care is a recent initiative to help improve children’s health and well-being. HC Link is proud to be a part of this initiative, by supporting, in collaboration with our resource centre partners, the 45 participating communities.

373 Hits
0 Comments

New CAMH Survey Results Show 10 Per Cent Increase in Psychological Distress among Ontario Students

By Monica Nunes, CAMH HPRC

 

OSDUHS changesThe Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has just released its biannual report on student mental health and well-being in Ontario. The data derives from the 2015 edition of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), the longest running school survey of adolescents in Canada, and one of the longest-running surveys in the world.

The 2015 results show that more than one in three – an estimated 328,000 Ontario students in grades 7 to 12 report moderate-to-serious psychological distress, a 10 per cent jump since 2013. Girls are twice as likely as boys to experience psychological distress.

Other striking trends include:


Mental health

  • Seventeen per cent of students rate their mental health as fair or poor, a 6 per cent increase since 2013
  • The number of students prescribed medication for anxiety , depression or both in the previous year doubled since 2001
  • View an infographic on mental health trends 


Screen time and social media use

  • Overall, screen time and social media use is high. More than half (63 per cent) of students spend 3 or more hours per day in front of TV or tablet/computer in their free time.
  • Eighty-six per cent of students visit social media sites daily and 16 per cent spend five or more hours on social media per day
  • View an infographic on screen time and social media use trends


Video gaming

  • An estimated 122,600 (13 per cent) of students in Ontario report symptoms of a video gaming problem which includes associated preoccupation, loss of control, withdrawal and disregard for consequences
  • The percentage of students indicating a video gaming problem in 2015 (13 per cent) is significantly higher than the percentage in 2007 (9 per cent), the first year of monitoring
  • Problem video gaming is especially prevalent among boys (20 per cent) rather than girls (5 per cent)


The Provincial System Support Program and the Evidence Exchange Network (EENet) at CAMH have been maintaining a strong knowledge exchange partnership with the OSDUHS research team to share this evidence widely. Most recently, PSSP hosted the first webinar in a two part-series sharing the OSDUHS results on drug use among students which you can check out on EENet’s website. Part two of the webinar series is scheduled for October 5th from 11:00am-12:30pm and will focus on how program planners and policy makers use the OSDUHS data. Stay tuned for registration information! In the New Year, PSSP and EENet will also host webinars focusing on the mental health and well-being results.

Access the full OSDUHS mental health and well-being report: http://www.camh.ca/en/research/news_and_publications/ontario-student-drug-use-and-health-survey/Documents/2015%20OSDUHS%20Documents/2015OSDUHS_Detailed%20MentalHealthReport.pdf

545 Hits
0 Comments

Webinar Recap: How to Engage Francophones- when you don’t speak French!

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

A few years ago, prior to the creation of HC Link, I had the opportunity to work with a group of health promotion resource centres whose intent was to provide services in French. At that time, though I had grown up in Quebec and even attended French Immersion school, I wasn’t able to speak much French. That led to a pretty commonly held belief: if you can’t speak French, you can’t work with Francophones and you can’t work towards offering services in French.

Fortunately for me, I was with a group of very passionate health promoters- Anglophones and Francophones- who helped me to see that non-French speakers have a critical role to play when it comes to engaging Francophone communities and planning French language services. It was that group of people that inspired me to try to regain the French skills I had as a child. Thanks to a number of courses, terrific tutors and a lot of perseverance, I am making progress. I have also experienced the sheer frustration of knowing what I want to say, but not having the words to express myself. I can easily imagine what it is like for people who are sick, need medical attention, or are trying to improve their health or life circumstance and can’t receive services in their own language.

There are of course a wide variety of languages spoken in Ontario. French is unique in that there is political and legislative recognition of the rights of Franco-Ontarians to receive services in French. These are the factors which led me, along with former HC Link staff Estelle Duchon, to create the webinar and accompanying resource: How to Engage Francophones- when you don’t speak French! My HC Link colleague Patrick Delorme and I have recently updated the original resource, and today we offered a webinar on the topic.

In the webinar and resource, we identify three important steps to take when engaging Francophone communities in your region (whether you speak French or not):

  1. Clearly define your motives and purpose for engaging Francophones;

  2. Understand the context and history of  Francophone in your region, in Ontario and in Canada

  3. Partner with organizations and networks in your region who work with Francophones

We also talked about common pitfalls and challenges in engaging Francophones, and what strategies you can use to avoid them. One excellent question from our webinar participants:

Q: How do we ensure that, when we are translating resources into French, we don’t lose the context?

A:Translation is a tricky (and also time consuming and resource intensive) process. We recommend several steps to ensure that the translated materials are high quality, useful and relevant for the Francophone community:

  • At the risk of listing something quite obvious, use a professional translator and avoid Google Translator at all costs!

  • Put together a “lexicon” of words and their translations related to the resource/program. Add to the lexicon over time and provide it to your translators.

  • Ask Francophone colleagues, partners and/or community members to review the translated document. Try to find Francophones from your region and from your sector who are familiar with the local/contextual vernacular.

  • For a longer resource, manual or a program that you are translating in French, we recommend adapting it for your Francophone audience. If possible, establish an advisory committee (again, Francophone colleagues, partners and/or community members from your region and from your sector) and work with them to identify the components of the resource/materials that need to be adapted to fit the needs and realities of the Francophones you are trying to reach. Once the materials are translated and adapted, pilot test them with the target audience and ask for feedback on them.  

 

You can watch a recording of the webinar or view the webinar slides on our website.

 

362 Hits
0 Comments