Section 1: Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy 2005 – Context and overview

1.0 Context and Overview

1.1 Current Context and Mandate of the Healthy Living Strategy

In 2002, Federal/Provincial/Territorial (F/P/T) Ministers of Health recognized the need for integrated action on healthy living in order to consolidate efforts to address the challenges posed by overweight, obesity and chronic disease.  They agreed to develop a long-term comprehensive strategy to increase Canadians’ participation in healthy living practices and, in the first phase, they would “work together on short, medium and long-term pan-Canadian healthy living strategies that emphasize nutrition, physical activity and healthy weights.”  While the first areas of emphasis are healthy eating, physical activity and their relationship to healthy weights, the Healthy Living Strategy is expected to also address areas such as mental health and injury prevention in the future.

Chronic diseases pose a significant threat to the health of Canadians and to the sustainability of our health system.  Each year in Canada, more than two-thirds of deaths result from four groups of chronic diseases – cardiovascular, cancer, type 2 diabetes and respiratory.  The estimated total cost in Canada of illness, disability and death attributable to chronic diseases amounts to over $80 billion annually.  These chronic diseases share common preventable risk factors – including physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and tobacco use – and the environmental determinants that underlie these personal health practices, including income, employment, education, geographic isolation, culture, social exclusion, and other factors.  According to the World Health Organization, over 90 percent of type 2 diabetes and 80 percent of coronary heart disease could be avoided or postponed with good nutrition, regular physical activity, the elimination of smoking and effective stress management. Footnote 16

The goals of the Healthy Living Strategy are to improve overall health outcomes and to reduce health disparities.  Continuing disparities in health status pose a serious challenge as some populations are at high risk for poor health, chronic disease, inequities that influence health practices, and early death.  These include individuals and families with low-incomes, people with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples, people who live in the North and some rural areas, and other population groups who are socially and/or economically disadvantaged, excluded or marginalized. 

In September 2003, F/P/T Ministers of Health agreed to continue to work together on the Healthy Living Strategy and confirmed the importance of a Strategy that reflects the unique needs of Aboriginal Peoples. This Strategy continues to fit squarely within the mandate of chronic disease prevention and health promotion, and this commitment was re-affirmed by F/P/T Ministers of Health, the Government of Canada and First Ministers in Fall 2004.

It should be noted that although Quebec shares the general goals of this strategy it was not involved in developing it and does not subscribe to a Canada-wide strategy in this area. Quebec intends to remain solely responsible for developing and implementing programs for promoting healthy living within its territory. However, Quebec does intend to continue exchanging information and expertise with other governments in Canada.

1.2 Developing the Strategy

Significant work has been undertaken by the Advisory Committee on Population Health and Health Security, and its Healthy Living Task Group, to develop the Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy.

In 2003, a consultation process was conducted to solicit input from stakeholders across the country. This included numerous Strategic Roundtables, an online consultation workbook, meetings with key stakeholder groups and a national level Healthy Living Symposium. The two-day Symposium brought together almost 300 participants to discuss a Healthy Living Strategy Framework with short-, medium-and long-term objectives, overall priorities and directions, short-term actions and partnerships for integrated action. Based on these discussions, the Strategy Framework (below) was developed and several areas for action were identified. These were endorsed by FPT Ministers in September 2003.

The Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy Framework

The Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy Framework
Text Equivalent - Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy Framework
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Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy Framework (2005)

This figure is a pictorial description of the key components of the Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy. The vision is a healthy nation in which all Canadians experience the conditions that support the attainment of good health. The overall goals are to improve overall health outcomes and to reduce disparities in health among Canadians.

The Population Health Approach forms the overall strategy approach to reach target populations through key settings, including the home/family environment, school, workplace, community, and health care settings. The guiding principles include vertical and horizontal integration, partnership and shared responsibility, and best practices. Strategic directions are identified as: leadership and policy development; knowledge development and transfer; community development and infrastructure; and public information. Finally, while existing areas of emphasis include tobacco, diabetes, and chronic disease prevention, new areas are identified as healthy eating, physical activity and their relationship to healthy weights. Mental health and injury prevention are both identified as possible future areas of emphasis.

Recognizing the need for a coordinating body to move forward on the development of the Strategy, the Coordinating Committee of the Intersectoral Healthy Living Network (IHLN) was established in September 2004. Consisting of representatives from government, private sector and non-governmental organizations and drawing from health and non-health sectors, the Coordinating Committee acts as the engine to move the healthy living agenda forward in line with the guiding principles of the Network and Strategy. The Coordinating Committee has met twice to provide input into the development of this Strategy document. In addition, consultation on elements of the Strategy through Coordinating Committee members has made real the intent of the IHLN as “a network of networks”.

Working Groups established with members of the Coordinating Committee and their networks, and from federal/provincial/territorial networks, the private sector and non-governmental organizations, provided essential advice and support for implementation of the ‘action’ areas identified by Ministers in September 2003, namely the development of

  • healthy living priorities and targets for the Strategy;
  • an integrated research and surveillance agenda, including best practices; and
  • a public information campaign and social marketing program.

A separate dialogue process was undertaken with National Aboriginal Organizations in 2005 to ensure that the specific needs of Aboriginal people are addressed in the Healthy Living Strategy.  (Appendix B contains a summary report on this dialogue).

To inform work on the Strategy, the Intersectoral Healthy Living Network commissioned a synthesis and analysis of environmental scans on healthy living-related policies, programs and initiatives from across Canada. This study provides a strategic foundation for expanding and enhancing existing policies and programs, building new linkages and moving forward in a strategic way to advance healthy living goals and objectives. (Please see Appendix C for the executive summary arising from this work.)

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