2.0 The Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy
The vision of the Healthy Living Strategy is a healthy nation in which all Canadians experience the conditions that support the attainment of good health.
To achieve the vision, the goals of the Strategy are to:
- improve overall health outcomes; and
- reduce health disparitiesFootnote 17.
The Healthy Living Strategy is grounded in a population health approach, which strives to address some of the root causes that lead to poor health outcomes. This approach focuses on the living and working environments that affect people’s health, the conditions that enable and support people in making healthy choices, and the services that promote and maintain health.
The Healthy Living Strategy targets the entire population, with particular emphasis on children and youth; those in isolated, remote and rural areas; and Aboriginal communities. Certain population groups, such as Aboriginal Peoples, suffer a great risk and burden of poor health compared to the general Canadian population. To reduce disparities, among Aboriginal Peoples and other at-risk populations, particular attention will be paid to low socio-economic status, gender, those with disabilities, population group, culture, and geographic location.
The settings the Strategy will focus on include the home/family; school; workplace; community; and health settings.
Guided by the principles of integration; partnership and shared responsibility; and best practices, the Strategy is oriented around four strategic directions, including:
- Leadership and Policy Development
- Knowledge Development and Transfer
- Community Development and Infrastructure
- Public Information
Short-term results (6-18 months)
- Increased knowledge of health information by individuals and population groups of interest;
- Increased access to health information and health promoting programs; and
- Enhanced collaboration and integration of healthy living approaches that address priority health issues.
Medium-term results (18-60 months)
- Increased access to health-supporting physical and social environments in rural, remote and northern communities;
- Increased capacity of communities to create health-promoting social and physical environments; and
- Increased proportion of populations engaging in healthy behaviours.
Long-term results (5 years plus)
- Reduction in health disparities;
- Reduced human and economic burden of disease;
- Improved health outcomes; and
- Improved quality of life for Canadians.
Active2010 is designed to offer opportunities to Ontarians to participate in daily physical activity and become involved in quality sport activities.
ActNowBC – targets common risk factors for chronic diseases and aims to promote physical activity, healthy eating, living tobacco free, and making healthy choices during pregnancy.
Healthy U: a health promotion and prevention initiative to increase physical activity and healthy eating among Albertans.
Saskatchewan in Motion. is a province-wide movement aimed at increasing physical activity for health benefits.
To move forward on healthy living, it is necessary to build upon the many innovative strategies and initiatives that are already in place in an integrated and coordinated way. Over the past fifteen years, a number of initiatives within Canada have demonstrated the value of collaborative action on health issues by governments, the voluntary sector and private industry. Coordinated strategies based on a population health approach and a comprehensive framework – such as the National Strategies: New Directions for Tobacco Control in Canada, the National Immunization Strategy, the Canadian Heart Health Initiative, the Community Action Program for Children, Aboriginal Head Start, the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program and the Early Childhood Development Agreement – have paved the way for successful future collaboration.
The text boxes in the following sections highlight some of the exciting activities underway in many sectors – private, voluntary and non-profit, provincial and municipal, federal and beyond. But all too often, initiatives are undertaken in isolation, or focus on one aspect of the Healthy Living issue. Intersectoral cooperation and collaboration are critical as action to address healthy living goes beyond the mandate of the health sector alone; success requires that all sectors work together to effect change. As well, success calls for using all appropriate levers of influence at all possible levels of intervention: this includes public education; policy, legislation and regulations; fiscal measures; advocacy; social marketing; and community action.
Taking action on a wide spectrum of factors – and their interactions – known to influence health is essential to reducing health disparities. This requires participation from those sectors whose work aligns with key health determinants.Footnote 18
The Healthy Living Strategy is an integrated strategy involving all sectors working together towards common goals. This approach is consistent with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health which states that the responsibilities for action to bring about changes in dietary habits and patterns of physical activity rest with many stakeholders from public, private and civil society, over several decades. The roles and responsibilities of the various sectors engaged in the Healthy Living Strategy are similar to, and in many respects modelled on, those outlined by the WHO Strategy.
The Healthy Living Strategy offers a means to ensure greater alignment, coordination and direction for all sectors. It provides a forum for multiple players to work collaboratively to achieve common goals, to share best practices and leverage ongoing work in other regions. This collaboration and integration ensures that stakeholders, including policy and decision-makers, are better and more broadly informed, thereby facilitating greater synergy and improved identification of opportunities across sectors. Moreover, the intersectoral nature of the Healthy Living Strategy provides a national mechanism/resource for provinces, territories, the federal government, and other sectors to develop and measure their own healthy living approaches.
Jumpstart, launched by Canadian Tire, is designed to help remove barriers to recreation and sports with 20,000 kids across Canada.
President’s Choice Blue Menu, a new product line launched by Loblaws to promote healthy eating highlights the nutritional benefits of lower fat, lower calorie and high fibre pre-packaged foods.
Sensible Solutions is a new labeling program promoting healthier foods - soon to be launched by Kraft Foods.
Heart Health – a 28 day challenge launched by Unilever Becel to improve Canadians’ heart health through better nutrition, exercise and relaxation.
Social marketing has already shown itself to be a key factor in the success of the Healthy Living Strategy. Members from a range of sectors – including private, voluntary, different levels of government, professionals, and other – have come together to inform the work of the federal government (Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs and Sport Canada) to develop a federal advertising campaign dedicated to promoting healthy eating, physical activity and sport participation. The campaign will be launched in Fall 2005/Winter 2006.
Drop the Pop, led by the Nunavut Department of Health and Social Services in partnership with the Department of Education and local grocery and co-op stores, is a school-based campaign that was carried out in 14 schools (34% of Nunavut schools) in 2004 and in 26 schools (63%) in 2005. It consists of the development and distribution of resources for grades K-12; and a challenge for schools/classrooms/ students to give up pop for one week.
The needs of Aboriginal Peoples must also be taken into consideration in the development of the Healthy Living Strategy. Aboriginal participation has been diverse and varied, depending on the particular activity. As part of the Coordinating Committee, on Working Groups of the Intersectoral Healthy Living Network, or in Aboriginal-specific discussions, Aboriginal Peoples and organizations agreed that Aboriginal Peoples could benefit from healthier living through increased physical activity and healthy eating opportunities. While identifying the need for a “carve-out” from the federal Budget (2005) announcement in support of an integrated healthy living and chronic disease prevention strategy, the National Aboriginal Organizations also expressed the need for a diversified approach that meets the needs of the various population groups. Please see Appendix B for the summary report from the dialogue with National Aboriginal Organizations.
An integrated research and surveillance agenda on healthy eating and physical activity is another critical component of the Healthy Living Strategy which aims to align efforts nationally to effect change and where:
- Policy and program decisions are based on timely, regular, and meaningful data;
- There is coordination and integration of investments in research, policy and practice;
- Communities have easy, efficient, timely access to knowledge they need, in useable form, to inform decisions;
- Researchers are better able to conduct research to address policy and practice;
- The existing research is synthesized and translated for use by population and public health organizations;
- Key intersectoral stakeholders at all levels collaborate in the various phases of the knowledge development and exchange cycle, to create the ability to “learn as we go” - what works, and in what context; and
- Research, surveillance and evaluation are integrated with policy and program development.
Joint Consortium for School Health
In Fall 2004, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) and the Conference of F/P/T Deputy Ministers of Health (CDMH), endorsed the establishment of a Joint Consortium on School Health and a School Health Action Plan that address a variety of health, social and learning-related challenges of school-aged children and youth. The founding meeting took place in March 2005.
The endorsement provided by F/P/T Ministers of Health provides the Healthy Living Strategy with the potential to transform the health promotion agenda. Significant inroads have already been made in integrating healthy eating and physical activity in a way that has not been done before. Examples of such initiatives, identified on the basis of the best available evidence of their effectiveness, are available upon request. The examples include provincial/territorial and national strategies for healthy eating, physical activity and/or healthy weights, as well as examples of innovative and successful initiatives that have been developed by NGOs, the private sector and governments and are contributing to the success of broader F/P/T strategies.
An important feature of the success of the Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy is its capacity to reinforce and build on the momentum of the many current and promising initiatives already underway across the country. Further, the Healthy Living Strategy has the potential to shift and evolve to address emerging issues and priorities – such as mental health and injury prevention.
Having set targets and priorities, it is now important to move towards implementation, with a focus on activities with the greatest potential to impact positively on the health of Canadians. In this phase, an evaluation strategy will be a first priority to ensure that, collectively, we can measure not only progress on targets, but also the success of and benefit to Canadians of this intersectoral healthy living strategy. Annual progress reports will be provided to the Conference of F/P/T Deputy Ministers of Health and to F/P/T Ministers of Health.
- Footnote 17
- Health disparities refer to differences in health status that occur among population groups defined by specific characteristics. The most prominent factors in Canada are socio-economic status (SES), Aboriginal identity, gender, disabilities, and geographic location. The Healthy Living Strategy is one of many instruments required to reduce socio-economic, regional and gender disparities.
- Footnote 18
- “Reducing Health Disparities: Roles of the Health Sector: A Discussion Paper” prepared by the Health Disparities Task Group for the FPT Advisory Committee on Population Health and Health Security; page 28.