How can we strengthen health promotion networks in Canada?

On Tuesday May 20th, we had the pleasure of hosting an online dialogue through Health Nexus’ Twitter chat called #HealthPromoChat.

The purpose of the chat was to engage health promoters on a discussion about current health promotion networks and initiatives and explore the challenges faced in health promotion practice so that we can collaborate together to strengthen health promotion networks and practice in Canada.

The conversation on each of the four set questions for the Twitter-chat was so very fruitful and engaging that we decided it would be a good idea to summarize it in a blog post.

Our first question explored what current health promotion networks exist in Canada. Here’s the list of networks shared by chat participants:

Health Promotion Ontario

The Atlantic Summer Institute

National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health

The second question looked at where, and with what capacity, we could promote health and equity. Participants listed Health Equity Impact Assessments as a good tool to get started; others noted that Public Health Ontario funds regional collaborative projects, and the  Pan-Canadian Network for Health Promoter Competencies for a set of skills, knowledge and abilities to promote health and equity.

We discussed the limitations of the current language surrounding health promotion and equity, and the need to frame health promotion in a way that those outside the sector can understand it so that all voices can be heard.

Some of the main challenges we face in strengthening health promotion across Canada are that the broad skills of health promoters  such as planning and policy development are over looked and are often just sought out to design a pamphlet or similar. It is also challenging to match health promotion ideals such as empowerment with the socio-political environment. There is a constant challenge of acquiring and sustaining funding.

We returned to the challenge presented by language and that health promotion can be seen at times as health care.  To cite one of the 9 conclusive propositions of Patrick Fafard from the University of Ottawa’s talk at TOPHC 2014 , “all of us do not agree that health is special.”  So how do we get everyone to understand that promoting health is indeed, very special?

The inclusion of outside sectors and mobilisers is key in finding the common language and shared goal = well-being and health for all.  (Suggested tool to enable this process is the Circle of Health.)

Our final question explored the role of social media in supporting effective collaboration.

As you can image, a group of individuals conversing using social media are likely to be enthusiastic about the role that social media can play in supporting collaboration.

 Participants felt that social media allows health promoters, community mobilisers to share resources, knowledge and connections in new ways, quickly and broadly. Social media also allows us to engage all generations, engage partners and advocate for healthy public policy. We can easily find other working towards the same shared goals on social media. However, not all voices that need to be heard are present on social media. We must be aware that social media is but one platform to connect and share on.

So that’s the recap of this month’s #HealthPromoChat! We hope that we’ve been able to share the highlights with you, and to stimulate your own thinking on how, working together, we can use available networks, tools and resources to strengthen health promotion across Canada.

Here is a link to the inspiration behind building health promotion networks, captured at a series of CPHA conference workshops on the life and future of health promotion: