Innovation Strategy: Achieving Healthier Weights in Canada's Communities 

From: Public Health Agency of Canada

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From 2011 to 2020, the Public Health Agency of Canada's Innovation Strategy (PHAC-IS) funded projects under the stream of "Achieving healthier weights in Canada's communities." These innovative and evidence-based projects addressed underlying factors involved in obesity and being overweight across Canada.

Areas of focus

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

Projects were funded using the phased funding approach from the PHAC-IS. A total of 37 projects were funded in Phase 1 (design and testing), with 11 progressing to Phase 2 (full implementation and evaluation) and 7 to Phase 3 (sustainability and scale-up).

Over the 3 phases, projects engaged:

  • over 312,000,000 Canadians
  • community members in 102 communities
  • 9 provinces
  • 2 territories
  • 35,000 stakeholders, including:
    • community decision makers
    • policy decision makers
    • health practitioners

Phase 3 funded projects

Active Neighbourhoods Canada

This program aims to promote active transportation, such as walking or biking, in low-income neighbourhoods in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec.

Program activities include:

  • testing technologies for citizen involvement
  • involving communities in urban planning processes
  • conducting research activities and sharing best practices
  • working with stakeholders to gather community feedback and create local action plans specific to community needs
  • planning and implementing neighbourhood designs

Through Phase 3 funding, the project reached new communities, engaged policy-makers, guided long-term changes, and shared knowledge.

This program is run by the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre (in French only) in Montreal, Quebec.

Expanding the Impact and Reach of the Community Food Centre Model

This project supports community food centres (CFCs) in several cities across Canada. CFCs provide healthy food, skill building opportunities, and peer support in a welcoming and dignified environment. CFCs also host annual food summits that bring together community food leaders and shared best practices.

Program activities include:

  • peer support
  • cooking classes
  • after-school activities
  • community gardening
  • offering affordable produce market baskets

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

Our Food Our Health Our Culture: Achieving Healthier Weights Through Healthy and Traditional Foods

This project is a food security program implemented in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. It provides support services to connect underserved communities, including lower-income Indigenous and newcomer individuals and families, and to improve access to healthy traditional foods.

Program activities include:

  • cooking classes
  • retail initiatives for local grocers
  • training for community staff
  • delivery of community gardens, community freezers, and "good food" boxes

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

Our Food: From Pickles to Policy Change

"Our Food" is a participatory program involving lower-income communities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It aims to improve food security, increase knowledge of healthy behaviours, and create a supportive environment to make eating healthy foods easier.

Program activities include:

  • providing community gardens, root cellars, and greenhouses
  • community workshops on food and gardening skills
  • network building
  • development of knowledge products

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

Our Food NL

This innovative local food security project engages remote and rural Indigenous communities in the design, delivery, and evaluation of local food security interventions. Program activities include:

  • implementing community-led food assessments created with Inuit communities
  • evaluation of community programs like:
    • community freezers
    • food skills programs
    • knowledge exchange activities

The program is run by Food First NL based in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador and includes communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut.

Scaling up Healthy Start in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick

Healthy Start provides resources, tools, training, and ongoing support for early learning caregivers and educators in English and French. The program aims to increase physical activity and healthy eating behaviours in children aged 3 to 5.

Program activities include:

  • bilingual training workshops for childcare staff
  • training for community facilitators
  • partner engagement
  • development of knowledge products

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

Healthy Weights for Children

Healthy Weights for Children is an education project supporting children up to 18 years of age, as well as parents and care providers.

Program activities include:

  • weekly skills-building sessions on themes such as:
    • community
    • relationships
    • physical activity
    • food and nutrition
  • training for facilitators
  • program evaluation for effective responses to community needs and cultural contexts

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

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