There is so much power and brilliance that can emerge from the simple act of a conversation. Sharing ideas, uncovering different perspectives, and being curious – these are just a few treasures uncovered from a simple conversation. Community Health Networks (CHNs) bring people from diverse sectors to collaborate and generate action and alignment to impact health and well-being. Rather than focusing on healthcare services delivery, CHNs look at the social determinants of health. Health and well-being is a culmination of the social, economic, and environmental factors that influence how a person lives, works, and plays.
Across British Columbia, including Vancouver, parks and greenspace in urban centres are facing pressure to accommodate a variety of uses amid growing populations and smaller private living quarters. It is well documented that accessible parks and green spaces can improve social, emotional and physical well-being for residents; however, green space is often unequally distributed and its benefits inequitably received. Vancouver’s new Parks and Recreation Services Master Plan—called VanPlay—goes beyond delivering high-quality park spaces to the most populated or vocal areas of the city. VanPlay prioritizes inclusion for residents who traditionally face the greatest barriers to accessing the health benefits natural environments provide.
Wildfires across British Columbia bring a heightened sense of fear in communities. For Esk’etemc, a looming fear of wildfires in the Cariboo Regional District has been replaced with a renewed confidence in community ability to manage wildfire risk and a certainty that its decision-making is transparent and reflective of the community. Efforts towards—and inter-generational investments in—individual and community health have led to a reclaiming of their role as caretakers of Esk'etemculucw—“the land of the Esk'etemc—allowing the people to retake authority, manage natural resources and steward the land.
Revitalizing a healthy natural environment takes a long-term approach that focuses not on a single patch of earth but on surveying the land broadly, looking upstream and reviving knowledge and practices that have been buried. The Neskonlith are applying this holistic, long-term strategy to improve environmental and community health by developing wide-ranging partnerships and focusing on knowledge sharing. Neskonlith leaders encourage a diverse, multi-sector assembly of allies and invite partnership and collaboration with all types of community groups.
Nine years ago, the Mid-Island Métis Nation (MIMN) could not pay rent, let alone develop and implement programs to tackle systemic issues in community health.
The City of Kelowna’s Journey Home Strategy to End Homelessness is a strong example of healthy and equitable community engagement. In developing the Journey Home Strategy, the city hosted a Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness (LECoH). This circle was made up of individuals who have intimate, personal experience with homelessness or precarious housing, and was a central component of the Strategy development process.
Physical literacy is increasingly being recognized as a key component of healthy living, and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) is leading the charge in designing recreational programming that encourages residents of all ages and abilities to be more active. Over the past several years, the region has undertaken numerous physical literacy initiatives, including the introduction of a physical activity trailer that brings sports equipment directly to communities.
All communities face unique challenges in providing equitable opportunities to physical activity, but a common challenge for many communities in B.C. is the long winter season. One way some communities are working to embrace winter and create opportunities for physical activity during the season is through Winter City Design guidelines.
Less than 3 years after the development of a strategy to improve food security, The Town of Oliver has commenced Oliver Edible Pathways, its first project directly from the Food Secure Oliver Plan. Recognizing the importance of demonstrating the project’s impact for the community, the project group teamed up with BC Healthy Communities to evaluate the project, allowing them to show the success of their work.
After receiving a three-year Community Food Action Initiative grant from Interior Health in 2016, the community put some of its own municipal budget behind the initiative, and began developing the Food Secure Oliver Plan.
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.