Frequently Asked Questions: The Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy

1. What is the goal of the Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy?

The goal of the Healthy Living Strategy is to improve overall health outcomes for all Canadians and reduce health disparities. In the short term, the Healthy Living Strategy will emphasize healthy eating, physical activity and their relationship to healthy weights. The Healthy Living Strategy will address other healthy living priorities as they are identified in the medium and long terms.

2. Why is healthy living a priority for governments?

It is well recognized that disease, risk factor, population and/or setting-specific interventions are necessary but not sufficient to address the full range of challenges posed by the growing burden of chronic disease and health disparities. This recognition has contributed to growing support for integrated efforts that are of sufficient intensity and duration to contribute to reducing this burden.

Actions to be taken through the Healthy Living Strategy will ultimately influence the health status and health outcomes of the population, reduce the burden placed on the health care system by chronic diseases, and contribute to the efficiency and sustainability of our much-valued universal health care delivery system in Canada.

3. Isn't promoting healthy living about trying to change people's behaviour? Don't governments do this already?

The Healthy Living Strategy will emphasize far more than individual behaviour change. It is based on an approach that considers the conditions that make healthy living possible. It is recognized that prevention approaches aiming to change people's behaviours, without addressing their living and working conditions, are unlikely to achieve sustainable results. One of the key elements of the Healthy Living Strategy will be to recognize and address linkages between lifestyle choices and the social, economic, and environmental influences on health.

4. What is meant by "healthy living"?

Through a population health lens, healthy living encompasses a number of levels:

  • At a population level, healthy living refers to the practices of population and sub-population groups that are consistent with improving, maintaining, and/or enhancing health.
  • As it applies to individuals, healthy living is the practice of health enhancing behaviours, or put simply, living in healthy ways. It implies the physical, mental and spiritual capacity to make healthy choices.
  • At all levels the social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental conditions which support health must be in place for healthy living to become a reality.

5. How will the Healthy Living Strategy take into account and accommodate existing provincial and territorial healthy living strategies?

We believe that all efforts are important. It is proposed that links be made between existing and new strategies emphasizing healthy living, those currently under development, and new strategies to be developed in the short, medium and long term. The Healthy Living Strategy will be inclusive of all communities and sectors, including non-governmental organizations, voluntary organizations, Aboriginal Peoples, and the private sector, academia, consumer organizations, and other relevant groups.

6. What is meant by "integrated"?

Integration refers to cooperative efforts to promote healthy living by addressing individual issues together (e.g. healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weights). An integrated approach in policy development, research and programming can lead to greater health improvements and a more effective use of resources. As part of the Healthy Living Strategy, an integrated approach may target common risk factors for chronic diseases, consolidate efforts within specific settings (where people live, learn, work, and play), and engage partners from various jurisdictions and sectors.

7. What work has been accomplished since September, 2002 when the F/P/T Ministers of Health announced they will lead the development of Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy?

Since the announcement of the F/P/T Ministers of Health in early September 2002, Health Canada and P/T governments, through their P/T representatives to the Advisory Committee on Population Health and Health Security (ACPHHS), have taken concerted steps towards fulfilling the Ministers' commitment on healthy living. An F/P/T Healthy Living Task Group has been formed.

A consultation process was undertaken throughout 2003 and included four pre-consultation meetings, nine Strategic Roundtables, an online consultation workbook, a national level Healthy Living Symposium, and further meetings with key representative stakeholder groups.

In September, 2003 the F/P/T Ministers of Health agreed to continue to work on an Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy in order to improve the health of Canadians through all stages of life. The items and action areas that Ministers endorsed included:

  • the Healthy Living Strategy Framework, as the basis to move forward on Healthy Living;
  • the creation of an Intersectoral Healthy Living Network;
  • action in the areas of research, surveillance, and best practices;
  • exploration of options and models for an Intersectoral Fund;
  • exploration of options for a communications/health information strategy; and,
  • further dialogue with Aboriginal stakeholders under the direction of Advisory Committee on Population Health and Health Security (ACPHHS).

In January 2004, a Stakeholder Meeting on the Intersectoral Healthy Living Network was held in Toronto, to review the draft Terms of Reference for the Intersectoral Healthy Living Network and to obtain advice on how these Terms of Reference could be strengthened to advance the work of the Healthy Living Strategy and contribute to its two goals: "to improve health outcomes" and "to reduce health disparities".

In September 2004, First Ministers highlighted the importance of efforts to address prevention, promotion and public health, and the sustainability of the health system. First Ministers committed to working across sectors through initiatives such as Healthy Schools through the Strategy which identifies schools as one of the key settings for addressing concerns related to healthy living among Canadian children and youth.

As a key element of the Strategy, the Intersectoral Healthy Living Network's Coordinating Committee's met for the first time in September 22-24, 2004 . The Network is composed of members from federal, provincial and territorial bodies and intersectoral stakeholders who work in the areas of health promotion and disease prevention.

In October 2004, the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health committed to advancing the Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy, with it's initial focus on increasing physical activity, healthy eating and their relationship to healthy weight. A Healthy Living Strategy business plan will be presented to Ministers of Health at their annual meeting in September 2005.

8. What are the next steps in the development and implementation of the Healthy Living Strategy?

The following developments have taken place since September 2003 to further develop the endorsed actions:

  • an Intersectoral Healthy Living Network has initiated the development of a business plan for the Strategy. The business plan will be presented to the Ministers of Health in June 2005.
  • Research and Surveillance working group is currently assessing research and surveillance activities across Canada.
  • Options for an Intersectoral Fund have been discussed.
  • a Social Marketing Working Group has been formed to develop a Healthy Living social marketing strategy.
  • an Aboriginal Dialogue on Healthy Living has been initiated.

9. Who is responsible for leading and coordinating the development and implementation of the Healthy Living Strategy?

Currently, the Advisory Committee on Population Health and Health Security (ACPHHS), via the Healthy Living Task Group, is the key F/P/T mechanism facilitating federal and P/T partnership in the consultation process and in the development of the Healthy Living Strategy.

10. How can stakeholders contribute further to the process?

The Healthy Living Task Group is currently developing an F/P/T action plan to address the recommendations endorsed by the Ministers. Stakeholders will continue to be involved, as the development of the action plan progresses.

11. Is a communications / health information strategy being developed to inform Canadians about healthy eating and physical activity and their relationship to healthy weights?

A Social Marketing Roundtable was held in Ottawa in September 2003 to discuss the development of the public information component of the Healthy Living Strategy. A Social Marketing/Public Information Working Group consisting of individuals from Health Canada, Heritage Canada (Sports), provincial governments, industry associations and non-governmental organizations has been formed to develop a Healthy Living social marketing strategy. The Healthy Living and Sport Participation marketing strategy will be launched in the spring of 2005. This campaign will focus on healthy eating, physical activity and sport participation

12. One of the roundtable meetings held in Ottawa focussed specifically on Aboriginal issues and included representation from Métis, Inuit and First Nations groups across the country, will there be further consultations with Aboriginal stakeholders?

An Aboriginal Dialogue on Healthy Living will take place this spring as a separate process from the Coordinating Committee and working groups. ACPHHS co-chairs met with five key National Aboriginal Organizations (NAO - Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Assembly of First Nations, Native Women's Association of Canada, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and Métis National Council) who have indicated their support for the approach and willingness to participate in an Aboriginal Advisory Session. This dialogue, together with a separate report on Healthy Living by each NAO, will then inform the work of the Network.

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