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Looking forward and looking back part II – reflecting on the past and coming year in health promotion


I Introduction
II Health Nexus
III Canadian Best Practices Portal
IV Ontario Public Health Association
V Heart and Stroke Foundation
VI Parachute: Preventing Injuries.  Saving Lives.  New Canadian leader in injury prevention emerges
VII Health literacy gets a boost in 2012 through plain-language awareness
VIII Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition

I Introduction

Each year the OHPE invites organizations and individuals working in health promotion in Ontario and across the country to reflect on milestones and events of significance over the past year and provide insight on what might lie ahead in the coming 12 months. Part one of the reflections series ran in December 2012 and this is part two. Thanks to everyone who contributed, and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2013.

II Health Nexus 2012
Submitted by Barbara Willet

Looking back on 2012, I wanted to reflect on an important issue that will have a significant impact on our field—the future of our health promotion workforce.

The bleak job prospects for young people in today’s job market is a theme that has been explored by Atkinson Public Policy Fellowship recipient Neil Sandell in an outstanding research series published in this month’s Toronto Star: Good Work Hunting: In Search of Answers for the Young and Jobless.  At Health Nexus, the topic came up during a recent conversation with a new health promotion graduate—a bright young woman who is struggling to find meaningful work in the field.  Her experience is shared not only by her graduating class but also by young graduates across Canada and beyond.  

Health promotion is a broad field that has many points of entry through a wide range of sectors. Over the past 25 years, the field has grown tremendously, with educational opportunities available across the country.  Yet, despite an unprecedented number of applications to university-level public health/health promotion graduate and post-graduate courses, there is a dearth of entry-level positions in which new graduates can develop their skills and acquire experience to complement their education.

The challenge to find meaningful for work for young people in Canada extends far beyond health promotion. As Sandell’s article so passionately articulates, the employment situation is very complex.  Job growth for young adults is stagnant. Whether you believe that our country is entering a period of economic recovery or heading back into a recession, there is no debate over the fact that there are 200,000 fewer young people working today than there were two years ago. New hires are often temporary and on-the-job learning opportunities for them are either limited or non-existent. Unpaid internships, project funding, short-term contracts, part-time and on-call are the type of employment conditions that have become the new ‘normal.’   

As health promoters, we are only too aware of how employment and working conditions are key determinants of health. As we turn the calendar to 2013, we may also begin to consider how the employment challenges of today will influence the health promotion workforce of tomorrow.  Instead of being bystanders during such a massive structural shift in opportunities for young people, health promoters can play an active role.  

Sandell makes an important point when he challenges employers to reconsider their hiring and training practices:
When recruiting, do we tend to overlook young graduates with an eagerness to learn in favour of more seasoned candidates?
How can we support those just starting out in health promotion to gain the all-important balance between education and experience?

While these questions may not be new, I believe that the level of urgency surrounding them has increased.  We must be willing to engage in discussion and debate on job prospects for young people, and to consider our emerging workforce when opportunities emerge.  Our future health promotion leaders depend on it.

III Canadian Best Practices Portal
Submitted by Nina Jetha

Within the past year, the Canadian Best Practices Portal (the ‘Portal’) [] has undergone an exciting expansion by including new content to provide a broader range of information relevant to decision-making in a public health setting.  This includes resources for decision-making and program planning along with links to information on public health policy, preventing chronic diseases and other public health topics.

The Canadian Best Practices Initiative (CBPI) remains focused on providing public health practitioners with best practice interventions in chronic disease prevention and health promotion.  Our collection of interventions can now be found in the Best Practices Section [] of the Portal. Throughout the year, the team has been busy increasing content in the following topic areas:  violence prevention, childhood obesity prevention, mental health promotion, tobacco control, alcohol misuse and injury prevention.

Other new content includes a series of School Nutrition Policy and Food Security practice questions and knowledge pathways (i.e. answers) linked to comments, evidence summaries and resources that help practitioners consider how, when, and why to explore and apply interventions in these topics. This new section on the Portal was developed in collaboration with the Dietitians of Canada’s Practice-Based Evidence Network (PEN). Also, the Portal now features innovative interventions [] which involve the use of a new approach that is different from ‘usual’ or ‘common’ practice.  Innovative interventions in obesity prevention, mental health promotion and injury prevention were added to the Portal this past year.  Team members attended both the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada (CDPAC) and the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) conferences to showcase some of this new content.

A series of webinars/”fireside” chats, in collaboration with the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada were held throughout the year.  These webinars were developed to provide public health practitioners with insight on various public health topics by featuring public health expert speakers and by profiling supporting interventions from the Portal.  The webinars focused on obesity, food security and the link between mental health, mental Illness and chronic disease prevention.  The CBPI is partnering with CDPAC again this year to launch a new series of webinars focusing on mental health promotion and mental illness prevention.  The first webinar was held in November, and focused on best and innovative practices for suicide prevention.  Upcoming webinars will feature Child and Youth Mental Health, and Mental Health and Chronic Disease as topics.

As we move forward into the next year, the CBPI team will continue to increase content available on the Portal with particular emphasis on Public Health Agency of Canada priorities like obesity, mental health promotion, Aboriginal population health, maternal and infant health as well as identifying best and innovative interventions that demonstrate effectiveness in reducing health inequalities or affecting social determinants of health, beginning with a focus on interventions related to healthy weights.

IV Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA)
Submitted by Siu Mee Cheng

The Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) made great strides on a number of advocacy, knowledge exchange and transfer and capacity building initiatives. Here are some highlights:

  • OPHA met with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to share recommendations on focusing the public health lens in the provincial policy statement review.
  • OPHA was pleased that the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Action Plan on Health acknowledged the role that prevention plays in helping to bend the health care cost curve.
  • OPHA advised caution on some of the Drummond Report’s recommendations, including adjusting the public health sector funding arrangement and the integration of public health with the LHINs but was pleased to see prevention was a focus of the Commission’s recommendations.  
  • OPHA in partnership with Public Health Ontario commenced the Public Health and Planning 101 initiative, to develop educational resources for public health and community planners in Ontario.
  • OPHA was pleased by the announcement of the Healthy Kids Panel - the expression of the government's commitment to addressing childhood obesity and the study on access to healthy breakfast within schools by the Toronto District School Board.
  • OPHA partnered on the Marketing of Sugar Sweetened Beverages Investigation which resulted in the completion of four reports on highlighting the marketing of sugar sweetened beverages.  
  • OPHA hosted a successful fall forum: eHealth Innovations in Public Health. The event resulted in a better understanding of the state of eHealth in Ontario and initiatives currently underway at the health unit, provincial and national levels in public health.
  • OPHA in partnership with Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario formally submitted its recommendation report to Dr. Sinha, Lead, Seniors Care Strategy advising on approaches to healthy ageing in the province by focusing efforts on healthy eating and nutrition, oral health, immunization, environmental health and the built environment.  
  • OPHA has been developing a Public Health Sector Strategy intended to support further transformation of the public health sector in the province to ensure it is more current, relevant, effective, efficient and sustainable.
  • OPHA’s joint Health Equity Work Group (with the Association of Local Public Health Agencies)  developed a draft set of performance indicators.
  • Through the leadership of OPHA’s expert Built Environment Work Group (BEWG), OPHA met with the Ministry of Transportation to discuss issues on the proposed cycling strategy, driver education and enhanced communication between the Ministry and the Association as a follow up to our input and advocacy during the Coroner’s Review on cycling and pedestrian deaths. The BEWG has also been leading the next phase of the Provincial Policy Statement Review consultation feedback on behalf of OPHA.  
  • OPHA formally launched, in collaboration with the Chronic Disease Prevention Work Group, its report on Strategic Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity to its members and to a number of government ministries.  This was also formally submitted to the Healthy Kids Panel.  

V Heart and Stroke Foundation
Submitted by Manuel Arango

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has been focusing on several priority initiatives across the country over the past year, at the advocacy, program, policy and public relations levels.

As part of its efforts to promote the implementation of the Canadian Heart Health Action Plan, the Foundation successfully advocated to the federal government for a $14 million investment to include measures for cardiovascular disease within the Canadian Partnership Tomorrow Project cohort study.

Also, the Foundation, per its Canadian Heart Health Action Plan efforts, called on the federal government to support the dissemination of automated external defibrillators (AED) and defibrillator/CPR training in communities across the country. During the May 2011 federal election the Conservative government announced a $10 million plan over four years to fund life-saving automated external defibrillators and related training in hockey arenas and community recreation centres across the country.

The Foundation provided the stewardship for a successful $2 million renewal of its Healthy Canada by Design, Coalition Linking Action and Science for Prevention (CLASP) project.

The Foundation also advocated successfully for the release of a federal public awareness campaign and federal sodium benchmarks to guide food industry sodium reduction.

Bobbe Wood, President, Heart and Stroke Foundation participated in the federal government’s announcement of the implementation of the revised tobacco package warnings’ system. The Foundation was also instrumental in advocating to the government for the renewal of the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy.

Last year, the groundbreaking Make Death Wait public awareness campaign reached 12.5 million Canadians through positive social media mentions and 1.3 billion media impressions across TV, radio, print, digital and website visits. It challenged Canadians to take charge of their heart health by encouraging them to make one million healthy actions. The campaign focused on giving Canadians longer, fuller lives by encouraging them to take their heart health seriously. Results were impressive:
85  per cent of Canadians learned that heart disease and stroke is a leading cause of death.
130,000 people completed the Heart and Stroke Foundation online risk assessment.
85,000 stories were shared via the Heart and Stroke Foundation Facebook page.

VI Parachute: Preventing Injuries.  Saving Lives.  New Canadian leader in injury prevention emerges
Submitted by Amy Wanounou

For too long, injuries have been the leading cause of death for Canadians 1 to 44 years of age.  Every hour of every day, too many visit one of our over-burdened emergency departments because they have been injured in a predictable and preventable way. Likewise, too many individuals will succumb to their injuries, and die, or be permanently disabled as a result.

This has been the status quo for too long.  In response, over the past couple of years there has been discussion among Canada’s leaders in the injury prevention sector – namely, Safe Communities Canada, Safe Kids Canada, SMARTRISK, and ThinkFirst Canada – toward consolidation to achieve greater impact in awareness, advocacy and action for injuries. Discussions began in 2009 and culminated in summer 2012 in the creation of a new organization that combines the best of all four key players, and is designed to meet future challenges and need.

Parachute unifies the four legacy organizations, Safe Communities Canada, Safe Kids Canada, SMARTRISK and ThinkFirst Canada, into one strong and integrated national centre for injury prevention.  Parachute’s injury prevention programming and advocacy efforts are designed to help Canadians reduce their risks of injury while enjoying long lives lived to the fullest.

Building on its existing network of stakeholders at all levels – international, national, provincial, territorial and local – Parachute’s vision is to be the respected source of credible injury prevention information for families and communities, the media, business, governments, researchers and the injury prevention community.  
The mandate for Parachute will encompass all ages as well as intentional and unintentional injuries. Parachute will consider holistically the issues that impact injuries. Issues such as active living and mental health will be integrated into the approaches and messaging of the new organization.

The merger and subsequent activities of the new organization provides a venue to reduce any current duplication of efforts. One entity gives professionals and the public one place to turn to for the full spectrum of injury prevention – not always a “one stop” but a “first stop” or broker on the path to accessing knowledge of research, surveillance, program, policy, evaluation and networking.

Our intent is to establish national leadership for injury prevention and set a pan-Canadian strategy for prevention efforts by:

Connecting organizations with each other; facilitating a network of networks.
Partnering with other organizations to fill any necessary gaps, to enable as broad an impact as possible.
Fostering community leaders in injury prevention on the ground.
Focusing efforts and expertise, while working with other organizations to address a wide scope of issues and build capacity.

Parachute begins its work with strong leadership and a wealth of expertise in the sector.  Louise Logan, previously the inaugural President & CEO of the Public Services Health & Safety Association, has been named as the first President & CEO of Parachute, bringing with her deep and broad experience relevant to the sector. She has also held executive positions with WorkSafeBC and has a track record of significant accomplishments in the field. In addition, the majority of Parachute’s staff has been enlisted from the four founding organizations, preserving history and maintaining continuity and valuable expertise.

To learn more about Parachute, please visit

VII Health literacy gets a boost in 2012 through plain-language awareness
Submitted by Carolyn Wilby

Putting people first by using plain language continues to gain momentum for the health, legal, government, banking, social, education, and business sectors. Plain language is an international movement that took off in the early 1990s. Around the world, organizations are increasingly recognizing the need to communicate with the public in a simple, straightforward way.

A significant proportion of adults have reading skills that are just at or below those of an average high-school graduate. Accordingly, as a guideline, experts recommend writing information intended for the general public at the 8th- or 9th-grade level and often recommend that important health and safety information be written as low as the 5th- or even 3rd-grade level.

However, most organizations’ information is written at a reading level well above the high-school level. For instance, “Some 800 studies published between 1970 and 2006 indicate that most health-related materials are written at reading levels that exceed the reading skill of an average high-school graduate.” (Health Literacy in Canada, Canadian Council on Learning, 2007, p4). The result?  A combination of confusion, disinterest, and irritation, as well as potential health and safety risks.

International Plain Language Day is working to change all that

The first International Plain Language Day took place on October 13, 2011. Events were held around the world—South Africa, Canada, the United States, Sweden, New Zealand, and Argentina. This triggered a positive ripple effect with October 13, 2012, marking the second annual International Plain Language Day with even more interest around the globe. Events in Canada were held in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, and Vancouver.

For instance, in the Toronto region, plain language advocates came together for a series of informal lunches throughout 2011. This network that is now more than 20 strong used the 2012 International Plain Language Day to host an educational event and inaugurate the Toronto Region Plain Language Challenge. Next year, the Toronto network plans to hand out awards for the best and worst examples of business and government communication.

In addition to events held locally, a virtual conference was an exciting new addition that helped spread the word and celebrate2012 International Plain Language Day globally.

Help keep the momentum going:   

VIII 2012 Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC)
Submitted by Lisa Tolentino

The Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC) celebrated our 20th Anniversary this year, with the symposium “Reflections and Possibilities,” held in London, on September 28 and 29th. Participants heard from Dr. Trevor Hancock, Founder of the Healthy Communities movement; Wayne Roberts, renowned Food Policy Analyst; Shawna Babcock, Executive Director of KidActive; and Gord Hume, Creative Cities Entrepreneur and Author.

Over the last couple of decades, the Healthy Communities movement has become a vibrant force in Ontario communities, across Canada and around the world. As an international movement that involves thousands of projects, initiatives and networks worldwide, Healthy Communities brings people and organizations together to identify issues, plan strategies, implement actions and create innovative solutions to community challenges. It provides a platform for inspiration and learning, and both generates and harnesses community energy by focusing on addressing the broad determinants of health. Healthy Communities does this through its approach to: equitable community engagement, inter-sectoral involvement, political commitment, healthy public policy and asset-based community development.

In 2012, OHCC also completed the Healthy Communities: An Approach to Action on Health Determinants in Canada project, a collaboration with three other provincial Healthy Communities networks in British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick. Funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer’s “Coalitions Linking Action and Science for Prevention” (CLASP) initiative, the main goal of the project was to gather evidence of the benefits of using a Healthy Communities approach for chronic disease prevention. Through this project a number of activities were undertaken, including a literature review, provincial network profiles, community surveys, the development of 16 case studies and conditions for successful practice, a set of guidelines for working collaboratively in both official languages, and the development of the Canadian Healthy Communities Network. All of the results of the project can be found under the ‘Resources’ section of the national network website at:

In addition, OHCC continued to play a strong role in supporting health promotion in Ontario as one of three members of HC Link, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. HCLink supports the work of local and regional community partnerships, coalitions, groups, and organizations working on initiatives across Ontario to create healthy, vibrant communities. This year, we took the lead role for developing the client services plan; managing client intake; creating and implementing needs assessment and evaluation plans; planning and delivering learning activities and organizing event logistics. OHCC provides webinars, workshops and consultations on behalf of HC Link and contributes to other HC Link activities, such as communications, strategic planning and promotions.

2012 has also been an exciting year for OHCC as our membership increased by nearly 25%, and we adopted a new logo. Other important accomplishments over the past year include the establishment of a youth engagement committee, the addition of a couple of youth representatives to the Board of Directors, and the development of a series of position papers, researched by a team of students from the Global Health Program at the University of Western Ontario. We now have over 50 community stories posted on our website, along with several manuals and guides that were produced to assist organizations and individuals who are working on Healthy Communities initiatives. All of our publications are available in both French and English at

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our Board of Directors, staff, consultants and volunteers for their commitment, dedication and hard work over the past year, as well as all of those individuals and organizations that have been involved during the last two decades. In 2013, we are looking forward to nurturing our existing partnerships and developing new ones as we continue to build strong, equitable and sustainable communities across Ontario.