Glossary: The Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy

The following are explanations of terms used on this website. These explanations are meant to be guidelines only and are not formal definitions. Where applicable, sources appear in brackets at the end of the glossary explanations.


best practices These are activities based on sound scientific evidence, extensive community experience and/or cultural knowledge. Healthy living interventions will be more effective if they are based on established best practices.


collaborative action More than one individual or group working together to reach an agreed upon goal.

community development Helping communities take control over their health, social and economic issues by using and building on their existing strengths. It recognizes that some communities have fewer resources than others, and supports these communities. Networks, ongoing funding and efficient infrastructures help to sustain community action.


determinants of health The range of personal, social, economic and environmental factors which determine the health status of individuals or populations. (WHO, Health Promotion Glossary, 1998) These can include peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable ecosystem, sustainable resources, social justice, and equity. (Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, 1986) These determinants can be grouped in five broad categories: genetics, the physical environment, the social and economic environment, individual behaviour and the health care system.


healthy eating Healthy eating encourages people to enjoy a wide range of foods, to take pleasure in eating a variety of foods, and to emphasize lower-fat foods, grain products, and vegetables and fruit. By listening to the body's internal (rather than external) hunger cues, we can eat to meet the body's energy and nutrient needs over the long term. Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating reflects the dietary guidelines from the Nutrition Recommendations that describe the dietary pattern that supplies recommended levels of essential nutrients while reducing the risk of chronic disease.

healthy living At a population level, healthy living refers to the practices of population groups that are consistent with supporting, 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.

healthy living framework A conceptual basis for sustained action over time that includes a vision, goals, guiding principles and strategic directions for action.

healthy weights Healthy weights focus on health, not appearance. The weight classification system currently in use in Canada is the Canadian Guidelines for Body Weight Classification in Adults. The Guidelines describe a body weight classification system used to identify health risks associated with body weight in individuals and in populations. They are aligned with the World Health Organization's recommendations widely adopted internationally.

The system uses two measures to indicate health risks: the body mass index (BMI) and the waist circumference (WC). BMI is an indicator of health risk associated with underweight and overweight, and WC is used as an indicator of health risk associated with abdominal obesity.

The updated system applies only to Canadians age 18 years and over. It is not intended for use with women who are pregnant or lactating.


integration Cooperative efforts to promote healthy living by addressing individual issues together (e.g. healthy eating, physical activity and their relationship to 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, and engage partners from various jurisdictions and sectors

Intersectoral - Intersectoral means working with more than one sector of society to take action on an area of shared interest. Sectors may include government departments such as health, education, environment and justice; ordinary citizens; non-profit societies or organizations; and business.


knowledge development and transfer Refers to a continuum of activities that includes:

  • gathering knowledge, including research, surveillance and reviews of best practices
  • analyzing and synthesizing knowledge
  • making knowledge available to people who can use it, in forms that are most useful to them.

This process encourages decision-making that is based on the best available evidence.


leadership and policy development In the context of healthy living, the main aim of healthy public policy is to create supportive environments that enable people to lead healthy lives. Such policies make healthy choices the easy choices. All levels of government and all sectors (e.g. health, agriculture, transportation, education, environment and others) have a role in the development of healthy public policy. The federal and provincial/territorial governments have made a commitment to provide leadership to the Healthy Living Strategy.


partnership A voluntary agreement between two or more partners to work cooperatively towards a common goal. Partnerships are a mechanism for putting integration into practice. They require an investment of time and resources over the long term. Creating conditions for healthy living is the shared responsibility of all sectors (e.g. health, environment, education, recreation, agriculture etc.) and requires partnerships between governments at all levels, the private sector, the not-for-profit sector, families, schools, workplaces and communities.

physical activity Physical activity (or active living) means more than just physical fitness or exercise. It means making physical activity a part of daily living, whether it's gardening or taking the dog for a walk or taking the kids out to fly a kite. Active living encourages everyone, not just people who are young and fit, to get up and get moving. Physical activities can focus on endurance, flexibility or strength. (adapted, Health Canada's website)

population health A population health approach focuses on the underlying and interrelated conditions that influence the health of populations over the life course. These include factors such as education, income, early childhood experiences and the social and physical environments that surround individuals and groups. By addressing these factors, a population health approach aims to reach beyond the limited effectiveness of lifestyle-based interventions and reduce disparities in health outcomes.

public information An essential component of health communications, which is also concerned with fostering the motivation, skills and confidence people and communities need to improve health. It includes information concerning the underlying conditions that impact on health, as well as individual risk factors and risk behaviours, and use of the health care system. Health communication programming can put health on the public agenda, reinforce health messages, stimulate people to seek further information, and in some instances, bring about sustained healthy lifestyles.


risk factors Social, economic or biological status, behaviours or environments which are associated with or cause increased susceptibility to a specific disease, ill health or injury. (WHO, Health Promotion Glossary, 1998)


sectors Different parts of society (e.g. health, environment, education, recreation, agriculture, private sector, not-for-profit sector etc.) that all have a role to play in healthy living.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: