Innovation Strategy: Achieving Healthier Weights in Canada's Communities 

From the Public Health Agency of Canada

In Canada, 1 in 4 children and youth are overweight or obese. In 2014, 20% of Canadian adults reported height and weight measurements classifying them as obese. These figures represent a significant increase in people being overweight and obese. This is contributing to the development of chronic (long-term) diseases, such as:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • breast and prostate cancer

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s Innovation Strategy has prioritized achieving healthier weights in Canada’s communities as a key area for action. It’s delivering innovative, evidence-based interventions to address the underlying factors involved in obesity and being overweight.

To date, the projects have engaged:

  • more than 139,000 Canadians in 101 communities, including:
    • 22,000 stakeholders
      • health practitioners
      • decision makers
    • community members

Areas of focus for Achieving Healthier Weights in Canada’s Communities projects include:

  • improving food security conditions in northern Indigenous communities
  • empowering youth toward leadership through culturally relevant activities that promote physical activity
  • building environments to support Canadians to make healthier physical activity and nutrition choices

Funded project timeline

The funded project timeline includes descriptions, durations and number of projects funded in each phase, such as:

  • phase 1: a 1-year duration to design, develop, test and deliver the initial program
    • 37 funded projects
  • phase 2: up to 4-year duration for full implementation, adaptation and evaluation of the program
    • 11 funded projects
  • phase 3: a 3-year duration to scale up to expand the reach, sustainability and system-wide impact of the project and implement it in new communities
    • programs that were part of phase 2 were invited to be part of the solicitation process for phase 3
    • applications for phase 3 funding in 2016
    • successful phase 3 applicants will begin in 2017

Phase 2 funded projects

The Innovation Strategy’s Achieving Healthier Weights in Canada’s Communities projects have reached Canadians in every province and territory. This includes 11 funded projects in phase 2:

  1. Health Promoting Schools
  2. Working Together to Achieve Healthier Lifestyles in Yukon and Northwest Territories Communities
  3. Our Food Our Health Our Culture
  4. Our Food: Achieving Healthier Weights by Reconnecting Food and Community
  5. NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni: Our Food in Nunatsiavut
  6. Active Neighbourhoods Canada/Réseau Quartiers verts
  7. Launching Community Food Centres in Canada
  8. Healthy Weights Connection: Working Together to Promote the Health of First Nations and Métis Children in our Communities
  9. Healthy Weights for Children
  10. Healthy Start/Départ santé: A Multi-level Intervention to Increase Physical Activity and Healthy Eating Among Young Children (3-5) Attending Early Learning and Childcare Programs
  11. Atii! Let’s do it! A Comprehensive Healthy-Living Intervention for Children, Youth and Families in Inuit Communities in Nunavut

Health Promoting Schools

Health Promoting Schools is a program that focuses on creating healthy school environments in complex-needs schools. The program aims to support healthy eating and physical activity among families in Saskatchewan and British Columbia that are:

  • off-reserve Indigenous
  • Francophone
  • minority

The program involves:

  • a ‘whole’ school approach where students, school staff, parents and the community work together to improve student learning and health
  • school-wide healthy breakfast, lunch and snack programs
  • playground modifications to encourage and facilitate increased physical activity
  • fitness-focused:
    • after-school programs
    • intramural programs
    • open gym time
    • weekly fitness circuits
  • anti-bullying and anti-racism policies in schools
  • family-friendly events celebrating diversity

The program is run by the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

For more information, refer to:

Working Together to Achieve Healthier Lifestyles in Yukon and Northwest Territories Communities

Working Together to Achieve Healthier Lifestyles in Yukon and Northwest Territories Communities aims to build multi-sectoral partnerships in and between the Yukon and Northwest Territories. These partnerships aim to plan, implement and evaluate initiatives that will promote healthy lifestyles based on the 4 project pillars:

  1. healthy eating
  2. active living
  3. health literacy
  4. food security

To maintain a partnership network guided by a collective impact approach, partners work together on a common agenda. They offer mutually reinforcing activities and ensure ongoing communication. A key focus for this project is the long-term sustainability of positive outcomes on individuals and communities.

The program involves:

  • hosting workshops and meetings to bring people together from diverse sectors to work on healthy living issues facing the North
  • supporting community-based initiatives to address the 4 project pillars, with a focus on:
    • youth leadership
    • local and Indigenous cultural values and practices
    • creating an inventory of community healthy eating and active living programs in Yukon and Northwest Territories

For more information, refer to:

The program is run by the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Our Food Our Health Our Culture

Our Food Our Health Our Culture is a food security program implemented in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The program endeavours to support lower income Indigenous and new immigrant individuals and families. Support helps to provide them with greater access to healthy traditional Indigenous foods.

The program involves:

  • retail initiatives with grocers in order to encourage healthy food purchases in the community
  • cooking classes for youth for building traditional food preparation skills
  • training for community staff to create healthy food policies and to prepare healthy foods
  • access to Good Food Boxes full of healthy foods at a low cost
  • running of local:
    • gardens
    • community freezers

The program is run by Food Matters Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

For more information, refer to:

Our Food: Achieving Healthier Weights by Reconnecting Food and Community

Our Food: Achieving Healthier Weights by Reconnecting Food and Community is a participatory project. It supports lower income communities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It aims to achieve healthy body weights by improving food security and increasing knowledge of healthy behaviours.

The program involves:

  • development of local infrastructure, such as:
    • gardens
    • root cellars
    • farmers’ markets
  • delivering community workshops to improve food and gardening skills
  • participation in the development of health promotion policies
  • engagement in consultations
  • engagement of 582 participants in 177 workshops delivered at 15 partner sites
  • remaining active in a variety of community working groups
  • building of a network for sustaining efforts to promote the availability and access of healthier foods
  • creating knowledge products and activities, such as:
    • tour across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to share project highlights and stories
    • story-sharing videos
    • PhotoVoice
    • web and blog posts
    • media engagement

This program is run by the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

For more information, refer to:

NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni: Our Food in Nunatsiavut

NiKigijavut Nunatsiavutinni: Our Food in Nunatsiavut is an innovative food security project. It engages Inuit communities in the design, delivery and evaluation of culturally appropriate interventions to address healthy food access at the community level in Nunatsiavut, Newfoundland and Labrador and Baker Lake, Nunavut.

This program involves:

  • implementation and evaluation of activities, such as:
    • expansion of the community freezer in Hopedale, Nunatsiavut
    • local gardening programs in Hopedale and Rigolet, Nunatsiavut
    • Good Food Box initiative in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut which organized community members to buy food items in bulk to reduce expenses
  • knowledge exchange activities, including:
    • blog and social media posting
    • training sessions
    • meetings and events
    • seminars

This program is run by Food First NL based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

For more information, refer to:

Active Neighbourhoods Canada/Réseau Quartiers verts

Active Neighbourhoods Canada is a network of partners that use participatory methods. These methods help to design supportive social and physical environments for active transportation in low-income neighbourhoods in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Active transportation includes walking and biking.

The program involves:

  • conducting research activities and sharing best practices
  • testing technologies for citizen involvement
  • planning and implementing neighbourhood designs, such as:
    • improving access to green spaces
    • improving links within neighbourhoods to improve walkability
    • designing outdoor spaces to be protected from traffic, aesthetically pleasing and inviting

The program is run by the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre/Centre d’écologie urbaine de Montréal in Montreal, Quebec.

For more information, refer to:

Launching Community Food Centres in Canada

Launching Community Food Centres in Canada addresses food security, health inequality and diet-related illness. It does this by building and supporting organizations that provide healthy food, skill-building opportunities and peer support in a welcoming and dignified environment. Community Food Centres (CFCs) have been built in:

  • Calgary, Alberta
  • Halifax/Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • Perth, Ontario
  • Stratford, Ontario
  • Hamilton, Ontario

The program involves:

  • hiring local CFC managers in partner communities to conduct the stakeholder consultation process
  • creating program and evaluation plans based on consultation learnings
  • conducting fundraising campaigns locally and nationally
  • providing partner support on:
    • program planning
    • evaluation
    • communications
    • fundraising
  • expanding programming to new CFCs to include:
    • cooking classes
    • gardening
    • after-school activities
  • hosting the Annual Food Summit, which included:
    • assembling over 100 community food leaders
    • sharing best practice strategies to cultivate Canada’s Good Food movement

This program is run by Community Food Centres Canada in Toronto, Ontario.

For more information, refer to:

Healthy Weights Connection: Working Together to Promote the Health of First Nations and Métis Children in our Communities

Healthy Weights Connection is a community-based obesity prevention program for First Nations and Métis children and youth in Ontario. Program initiatives are intended to promote supportive environments through partnerships and collaboration with local stakeholders.

The program involves:

  • conducting scans for available resources and programs in local health systems
  • supporting the development of strong partnerships between organizations by:
    • facilitating collaboration in health, social and cultural domains
    • sharing ideas and expertise toward culturally appropriate local initiatives
  • identifying additional partners and communities
  • hosting numerous networking events such as forum meetings
  • supporting programs in completing funding applications

This program is run by Western University in London, Ontario.

For more information, refer to:

Healthy Weights for Children

Healthy Weights for Children is an education project that supports children from birth to 18 years of age and their parents and care providers on a journey toward healthier weights.

Program areas are in:

  • Alberta
  • Ontario
  • Manitoba
  • Newfoundland
  • Saskatchewan
  • New Brunswick
  • British Columbia
  • Northwest Territories

The program involves:

  • conducting educational sessions composed of:
    • physical play activities
    • healthy living group discussions
    • cooking and eating together
  • training facilitators to deliver age-based education modules to children, youth and their families on:
    • food and nutrition
    • physical activity
    • healthy lifestyles
    • community support
  • ensuring programs are responsive to diverse community needs and cultural contexts by incorporating feedback from:
    • project participants
    • implementation partners
    • the national advisory committee
  • sharing knowledge through:
    • the web on:
      • social media
      • blog posts
    • training sessions
    • festivals
    • conferences

The program is run by The Bridge Youth and Family Services Society in Kelowna, British Columbia.

For more information, refer to:

Healthy Start/Départ santé: A Multi-level Intervention to Increase Physical Activity and Healthy Eating Among Young Children (3-5) Attending Early Learning and Childcare Programs

Healthy Start/Départ santé provides resources, tools, training and on-going support to early learning caregivers and educators. The program works toward increasing physical activity and healthy eating behaviours in children ages 3 to 5 in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

The program involves:

  • enabling staff to deliver programming in childcare centres and preschools in both English and French by providing:
    • resources
    • support
    • education
  • engaging partners through:
    • knowledge development and exchange
  • evaluation study that allowed for the uptake of key findings

The program is run by Réseau Santé en français de la Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

For more information, refer to:

Atii! Let’s do it! A Comprehensive Healthy-Living Intervention for Children, Youth and Families in Inuit Communities in Nunavut

Atii! Let’s do it! A Comprehensive Healthy-Living Intervention for Children, Youth and Families in Inuit Communities in Nunavut was a youth-led intervention. It was designed to:

  • engage and empower youth in leadership
  • increase their knowledge of traditional food
  • achieve healthier weights in Inuit communities

The project aimed to contribute to improving the capacity of Inuit families, which included:

  • increasing physical activity levels
  • making healthier food choices
  • achieving greater health literacy in Inuktitut
  • addressing the loss of Inuit traditional harvesting skills

The program involved:

  • developing culturally appropriate and innovative multimedia content such as mobile apps and events
    • for example, a youth empowerment camp
  • inviting guardians, Elders and community to participate in gameshow pilots
  • presenting the Atii! Gameshow and Young Hunters Program to:
    • expose children to traditional Inuit dietary and physical activities
    • provide youth with leadership and mentorship skills
    • link children with strong youth role models and support the development of their traditional language skills

This program was run by the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

For more information, refer to:

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