In Halton, the continued commitment to work collaboratively to promote health and healthy communities is reflected in a unique project: The Halton Quality of Life Initiative. This collaborative planning group consists of the Region of Halton Health and Social and Community Services, Halton District Health Council, and the Halton Social Planning Council. Phase one of the project, the Halton State of the Environment Report, involved the collection of a wide range of indicators, or ‘measurable descriptors’ that collectively depict a picture of the physical, social and economic environments, as well as health status in Halton Region. The second phase was the development of the Halton Health Promotion Plan. As a member of this initiative, the Halton Social Planning Council would like to share with you some of the highlights and priorities of the Halton Health Promotion Plan.
The health care system has traditionally funded illness treatment rather than promotion and prevention programs. The challenge is to restructure the system by increasing awareness about the physical and socio-economic benefits of investing in health and health promotion. A paradigm shift must occur, whereby the focus is on the broader determinants of health. People and communities must be supported to create and maintain health. The Halton Health Promotion plan takes this approach to health planning, realizing that greater heath gains can be made by taking a determinants of health approach. There are many determinants of a healthy community that contribute to overall well-being, including: a clean, safe, high quality physical environment (including housing), a stable and sustainable ecosystem, meeting basic needs (food, water, shelter, income, safety, work) for all, an optimum level of appropriate public health care services accessible to all, a strong, mutually supportive and non-exploitive community and a high degree of public participation in decision making. In essence, a healthy community is one which people live in harmony with their natural and built environments.
The Halton Health Promotion Plan focuses on children and families and the need to create opportunities to develop to their full potential. Within the context of healthy children and families, the Plan identifies 10 priorities for action, they are: poverty, healthy babies, substance abuse, tobacco, violence, injury, nutrition, physical activity, stress and intergenerational relationships.
Eliminating Child and Family Poverty
Vision: By 2006, there are no children and families living in poverty in Halton.
Objectives: increased availability of adult and youth employment, decrease number of families requiring social assistance, increase availability of affordable housing, transportation and quality child care, increased corporate and business responsibility to provide employees with child care facilities and flexible work schedules, develop a full employment policy and create a citizen wage, build community capacity for community economic development and improve local documentation on affordable, quality child care options.
Creating the Healthiest Babies Possible
Vision: By 2006, people of reproductive capacity are supported by the community and make lifestyle choices that create the healthiest babies possible.
Objectives: reduce the low birth weight rate to 4% or below, reduce by 25% the rate of pre-term birth and the incidence of neural tube defects in newborns, increase the number of pre-pregnant women and women in their first trimester consuming recommended levels of folic acid, increase the identification of mothers and babies at risk, increase the number of children identified, assessed and referred through an early identification program (before birth and after birth), increase the knowledge of parents/caregivers on healthy child development, increase the number of workplace policies and environments that support pregnant families, increase the number of coalitions, individuals, groups and agencies working on the prevention of low birth weight and neural tube defects, increase awareness of the factors that cause low birth rate, pre-term and neural tube defects, increase the number of tobacco use cessation programs targeted to pregnant women and their families and increase access to information on healthy child development, parenting and professional services.
Preventing Substance Abuse among Children and Families
Vision: By 2006, Halton families model responsible use of legal substances for their children; children and youth are able to resist pressures to abuse substances (especially alcohol and illicit drugs).
Objectives: reduce the number of youths abusing alcohol by 75% and the number of adults by 50%, reduce the number of seniors abusing alcohol by 20%, reduce by 75% the incidence of binge drinking, reduce the use of sleeping pills, tranquilizers and stimulants among women by 50%, eliminate the use of illicit drugs, increase the number of children/youth who receive educational programming about improving self-esteem and resisting peer pressures to abuse substances, increase the number of neighbourhood groups addressing substance abuse and create a regional abuse strategy.
Preventing Tobacco Use and Protection from Exposure to Second-hand Smoke among Children and Families
Vision: By 2006, all Halton Families understand the dangers of tobacco use and second-hand smoke and achieve healthier lifestyles through the reduction of use and exposure to second-hand smoke, moving toward zero tolerance for tobacco use.
Objectives: reduce by 25% the number of youth and by 20% the number of adults that use tobacco products, eliminate tobacco use by women during pregnancy, zero tolerance for children being exposed to second-hand smoke (e.g. in homes, cars, public places etc), eliminate tobacco sales to children and youth, unify local tobacco laws into a strengthened regional by-law and develop a collaborative enforcement strategy, increase the number of individuals and groups working on tobacco prevention and cessation, increase the awareness of the dangers of smoking, especially the risk of cardiovascular disease for women, increase on-going support for individuals trying to reduce or quit smoking, increase awareness on the dangers of second-hand smoke on children and youth.
Preventing Violence Against Children and Families
Vision: By 2006, Halton families and children live in safe, violent free environments; families model peaceful approaches to family relations and problem solving.
Objectives: reduce by 50% the number of reported cases of spousal assaults and the number of cases of child abuse, reduce the incidence of elder abuse, reduce the occurrence of violence in competitive sports, reduce the incidence of violence between children (e.g. bullying), increase availability of parenting and problem solving programs, improve and increase availability and access to information on violence prevention, increase the number of people participating in collaborative educational programs on conflict resolution, develop an annual report card to monitor progress on reducing violence, educate the media about the negative impact of violence portrayed in the media, increase the safety in public places through improved structural environment design (e.g. lighting, access to emergency phones), and encourage the reporting of domestic violence.
Preventing Injury for Children and Families
Vision: By 2006, Halton families and children are safe from predictable and preventable injuries (falls, motor vehicle traffic collisions, burns and poison).
Objectives: reduce by 80% the incidence of child falls, hangings and strangulations from playground equipment, achieve full compliance for the correct use of child restraints in motor vehicles, decrease the incidence of motor traffic collisions by 50%, reduce the incidence of injuries resulting from cycling, skateboarding, and in-line skating among children and youth, decrease the incidence of falls among the elderly by 75%, reduce home injuries caused by burns, falls and poison by 50%, reduce health care costs due to injuries by $50 million annually, increase education to parents and seniors about steps to reduce injuries in the home, develop regional by-law for safe use of non-motorized vehicles (i.e. bicycles, in-line skating), develop regional by-law requiring full fencing around backyard pools, increase the number of community coalitions/neighbourhood groups addressing local injury issues and improve structural design of the built environment.
Improving Nutrition for Children and Families
Vision: By 2006, Halton families and children have an improved understanding of healthy eating and have access to nutritious, affordable, and personally acceptable food; they maintain healthy weights by consuming a healthy diet.
Objectives: reduce by 10% the number of adults consuming more than 30% of daily calories from fat, achieve healthy weights for all children and youth (100%), achieve healthy Body Mass Index scores for all adults (100%), increase the consumption of a healthy diet among children and seniors, increase the number of mothers who breastfeed their babies, increase access and promote affordable, nutritious, and personally acceptable food for all, including low income families, increase educational information about nutrition and create a regional food security policy for Halton.
Increasing Physical Activity for Children and Families
Vision: By 2006, Halton families and children understand the benefits of physical activity and participate in regular activities which are safe and financially accessible for all. Communities are better designed to support participation.
Objectives: more than 50% of families participate together in physical activities, more than 75% of individuals participate in regular physical activity of an intensity to improve cardiovascular health, increase the number of children and youth participating in physical activity in schools (e.g. quality daily fitness), recreation centres, child care settings and other places, increase the number of individuals who access public recreation opportunities, neighbourhoods designed to be more conducive to participation, increase in opportunities to participate in physical activity in the workplace, increase in affordable opportunities for a variety of physical activities by ensuring equitable, affordable pricing of municipal facilities and increase in the number of individuals using non-motorized modes of transportation.
Reducing Stress among Children and Families
Vision: By 2006, Halton families and children achieve balance in their lives and use positive ways to cope with life’s stresses.
Objectives: all Halton children are living in positive, supportive environments, fewer than 20% of Halton adults report that life is fairly to very stressful, increase the awareness of the impact of stress and healthy coping mechanisms, increase the number of social support networks available to families by building community capacity and increase the availability of support programs for parents with children/youth with behavioural problems.
Improving Intergenerational Relationships
Vision: By 2006, Halton families and children value Intergenerational interactions and foster mutual respect between seniors and children.
Objectives: reduce loneliness through intergenerational programs, increase the number of children/youth participating in programs, increase the number of intergenerational activities in various settings (i.e. schools, recreation centres, child care settings) and increase the awareness of the value of intergenerational programs.
Community Organization and Social Action to Implement the Plan
Health promotion calls for the participation of many people from various sectors such as business, labour, health, education, faith and environment groups all working together toward the goal of better population health and healthy communities. The Plan recommends certain partners can come together and mobilize.
These partners include: Halton Anti-Poverty Coalition, Halton Housing Authority, Chambers of Commerce, Employment Centres, Boards of Education for eliminating child and family poverty; Halton Regional Health and Social and Community Services Departments, Registry of Private Prenatal Providers, Hospitals, Pharmacies for creating the healthiest babies possible; Addiction Research Foundation, Halton Regional Police, Boards of Education, Community Consultation Committees, Brewers Retail, Hospitals for preventing substance abuse among children and families; and Halton Regional Health and Social and Community Services Departments, Canadian Cancer Society, the Lung Association of Halton, Tobacco Retailers, Local Restaurants, Hospitals, Boards of Education for preventing tobacco use and protection from exposure to second-hand smoke among children and families.
The Plan recognizes that commitment from local government as well as legislation are also essential to promote health. “A healthy community is not just an outcome, but also a process of ongoing community involvement and awareness” (MacLaren 1995).
Community mobilization strategies require the vital participation of Halton volunteers. As such, the Plan recognizes the need to continue to nurture the spirit of volunteerism in our communities and instill this sense of generosity and caring in our young people.
For further information on the Halton Health Promotion Plan, contact Lisa Chandler at the Halton District Health Council at (905) 842-2120
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