Prevention in action: Northern Health's IMAGINE Grants program

As of fall 2018, Northern Health’s (NH) IMAGINE grant program has supported 868 diverse healthy community projects, totalling nearly $2.63 million in grant funding since 2009. 

Prevention in Action

NH’s 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. 

Across NH’s 600,000 km2 service area, IMAGINE 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.

“While we offer up to $5,000 grants for community projects, it’s not the IMAGINE grant that matters. This is not about a ‘grant program,’“ says Andrew Steele, Coordinator, Community Funding Programs at Northern Health. “It’s about supporting communities and community organizations to achieve their goals based on what’s important to them---and it’s a privilege to be able to do that.”

What Does IMAGINE Mean?

  • Investing upstream and for the long haul
  • Multiple, strength-based strategies
  • Addressing the determinants of health
  • Grassroots engagement
  • Inter-sectoral collaboration
  • Nurturing healthy public policy
  • Evidence-based decision making

Part of what makes this program unique is its collaborative approach across the various departments of the health authority: diverse departments such as Indigenous Health, Primary and Community Care, and Population Health all combine resources to make the program possible each year.

When asked about IMAGINE grant projects, Steele’s voice picks up: “One standout example that excites me the most is the Traditional Foods Project led by Hiit’aGan.iina Kuuyas Naay- Skidegate Youth Centre in the community of Haida Gwaii. It’s an excellent demonstration of how a project can span across multiple issue areas and determinants of health.” 

The focus of the Haida Gwaii’s Traditional Foods Project was food security, but what set it apart was its intergenerational component, bringing elders and youth together in teachings around food sustainability, sharing knowledge about gathering and processing the foods available, and developing stronger social and cultural connectedness through traditional teachings, revitalizing this aspect of Haida culture.

Through two grant intakes each year (spring and fall), the IMAGINE grant program is available for Indigenous organizations, community groups, service agencies, schools, municipalities, regional districts, and other community partners. 

Guiding criteria for projects is that they: 

  • support relationship-building and collaboration, 
  • identify a need specific to the community, 
  • promote positive health outcomes, 
  • promote equity, 
  • build on community capacity, and 
  • consider project sustainability once grant funding ends.

Celebrating a Decade of Healthy Community Action

To celebrate and reflect on the past decade of IMAGINE grants, NH published a brief overview of the program that includes a wide range of project examples. The report can be found online

The next IMAGINE grant round opened on September 1st, 2019. Further information on eligibility and funding criteria can be found on NH’s website.

Contact: Andrew Steele
IMAGINE Community Grants
Phone: 250-565-2131
Email: Imagine.grants@northernhealth.ca