Community Stories

Northern Health’s (NH) view on community granting is that it constitutes prevention in action. IMAGINE grants support improving the health of the entire population, caring for communities by preventing chronic disease and injuries and by keeping healthy people well. These grants support priorities including healthy eating and food security, positive mental health, child and youth health, healthy aging, tobacco reduction, physical activity, road health, injury prevention and healthy schools action. Beyond those broad parameters, the grants are intended to support projects and interests areas determined by the communities themselves, rather than by the health authority.

What does community engagement look like when inclusion is the top priority? It’s a question that the Township of Langley (the Township) set out to answer in 2018, as they began public consultations for the development of a new Social Sustainability Strategy.

Sticking to a gym regime can be a workout all on its own. But living on an island that has little infrastructure to support physical activity takes the challenge to a whole other level. Building multi-use trails was one community’s innovative solution to create more recreational opportunities for its island residents.

Participation in recreational activities with peers is critical to youth development and building healthy lifestyles. But for youth growing up in rural west coast communities like those in and around Tofino and Ucluelet, opportunities to connect and engage with peers are not always possible.

A micro-granting program for youth-led projects related to social connectedness commenced in 2017, and was supported by funding from the PlanH Cultivating Connections stream.

Born in Singapore and having spent many years living in a “vertical village,” Francis Heng has seen firsthand how communities can flourish in high-rises. But when they first arrived in Vancouver 17 years ago, Heng experienced culture shock. In contrast to their hometown where high-rise living is the norm, they sensed building residents in Vancouver didn’t talk to each other.

“That was really strange for me,” Heng describes. “I saw a lot people were very shy and afraid to talk to their neighbours.”

Houses in the community of Sayward in Strathcona Regional District.

In early 2019, Campbell River announced a partnership with BC Housing to create 50 units of supportive housing in the City within two years. To members of the Strathcona Community Health Network, the announcement was an achievement resulting from years of efforts to demonstrate the need for adequate and appropriate housing in the region, including the development of an equity-focused Housing Needs Assessment.

A sketch of the proposed downtown plaza

Downtown Kamloops may soon need a new map. Following a very successful pilot of the 4th Avenue Pedestrian Plaza last summer, the city published the results of their comprehensive community engagement and outreach process, which gathered community feedback about the project. Funded in part by a PlanH Creating Healthy Places grant, the engagement process found that respondents are overwhelmingly in favour of a permanent plaza.

More and more, local governments in BC and beyond are appointing social planners to focus specifically on improving the well-being of their community members. In 2016, the City of Delta made the decision to create a social planner position to assess the social needs of the community and develop a Social Action Plan to address them. Gillian McLeod, a former librarian with a 30-year career in the public service, was up to the task.

A view of downtown Campbell River.

In a pivotal move to address housing challenges in Strathcona Regional District, the City of Campbell River has announced that they will support the hiring of a coordinator for the Campbell River Coalition to End Homelessness.

The City is providing one-time funding of $10,000 for the coordinator position, which will provide the Coalition with capacity to develop a strategic plan and explore potential funding opportunities for affordable housing and housing-related initiatives in the region.

Communities are experts in their own health challenges, says Hughes. In her role with Northern Health, she collaborates with community members across the Health Authority to enable access to  the information and resources they need to support their health and well-being.

“Northern B.C. was probably the last place I ever thought I would be,” says Holly Hughes, a healthy settings advisor with Northern Health. “Honestly, since I moved here, I've kind of fallen in love with it.”