BCHLA Full Report on Winning Legacy Initiatives
In 2005, members of the BC Healthy Living Alliance (BCHLA) received a one-time grant of $25.2 million from the BC Government to deliver healthy living initiatives across the province. Grateful for the opportunity this significant resource provided, BCHLA set out to address the common risk factors for chronic disease using an evidence-based and integrated health promotion approach. It was based on best and emerging ‘promising practices’ for healthy living. Fifteen initiatives were developed in four areas: healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco reduction and community capacity building
Over the past three years, these initiatives have reached across the province of BC, impacting 229 communities – from the far north Daylu Dena Council near Lower Post to Sooke in the southwest to Sparwood in the southeast of the province. They have created healthier environments – bringing salad bars into schools and getting sugary drinks out. They have cleared the air with smoke-free campuses and apartment buildings. They have provided skills to individuals who needed to learn how to cook, how to quit smoking or how to get active; and they have brought communities together to plan for a healthier future with accessible facilities, bike routes, walking trails and an outdoor hockey rink.
The provincial grant enabled BCHLA to pursue ambitious initiatives, be innovative, and attempt to reach those areas of the province that had been underserved by healthy living programs in the past. The initiatives targeted citizens who may not have had the desire or capability to lead healthy lives. With the given resources, BCHLA was not able to reach every British Columbian, and that was not the goal. BCHLA strove to maximize its impact on vulnerable and hard to reach communities, focusing the dose of healthy living activities on communities in need. Although more challenging, this approach was chosen over programming for the general public which tends to attract participants who are already health conscious. BCHLA initiatives were particularly active in rural, remote and Aboriginal communities. BCHLA concentrated resources and worked with these communities to remove barriers and facilitate a shift to healthy living.
Some of the beneficiaries of the Community Capacity Building Strategy were places like the Village of Kingcome, which is inaccessible by road and located in an isolated fjord approximately 290 km northwest of Vancouver off Vancouver Island; McBride, a small community nestled between the Canadian Rockies and the Cariboo Mountains; and Greenville, a Nisga'a village of approximately 474 people, in the Nass River valley of British Columbia. Other remote communities like Skidegate on Haida Gwaii, Hazelton and Wells received assistance in creating plans to get their citizens physically active through the Built Environment and Active Transportation Initiative. The Food Skills for Families Initiative was able to work with many Aboriginal communities such as the Takla Lake First Nation, 400 km north of Prince George, and Ittatsoo Indian Reserve 1, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, as well as remote communities such as Stewart, near the Alaskan border – bringing food skills to nourish multi-generational families.
Tobacco Reduction Initiatives were not based in rural and remote communities but rather areas where 19 to 29 year olds lived and worked – post-secondary institutions, workplaces and multi-unit housing. This demographic is notoriously hard to reach and has the highest rates of tobacco consumption.
One quarter of British Columbians, 980,175, were impacted by the awareness raising activities of the BCHLA initiatives. Over 7.3 million web hits were generated from people seeking more information. In all 170,479 users have accessed the services provided by BCHLA initiatives, including websites, support from professionals, meetings, workshops and training. Of these 36,700 participants worked to improve their communities, eat better, increase their physical activity or reduce their tobacco use.
BCHLA initiatives delivered 894 events, workshops, and programs, ranging from a small group program for six individuals to a town-wide walking event with over 100 people. Overall, 298 grants were distributed across BC to bring meaningful local projects alive, in many cases these leveraged significant additional funds and magnified the benefit to the community.
It is clear from the response to the BCHLA initiatives that communities want to engage in actions that promote healthy eating, tobacco reduction, physical activity and community capacity building. This is encouraging because a healthy population is dependent on health promoting environments which in turn requires people who are engaged, connected and empowered to turn concepts into reality. The BCHLA initiatives demonstrated that using a community capacity building approach is a highly effective way to implement successful healthy living programming. BCHLA recommends that, to build on success and further improve the health of British Columbians, this approach be utilized at the outset of future healthy living program planning.
The members of BCHLA first came together to prevent chronic disease and the experience of the past three years - working with communities to create positive change - has galvanized our commitment. Further gains will require leadership from all sectors and levels of government to promote the healthy living agenda. The BC Government has shown leadership by embracing many of the recommendations in BCHLA’s 2005 report, The Winning Legacy and providing the funding for the BCHLA initiatives, as well as the creation of ActNow BC and the Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport.
It is important that the BC Government maintain this leadership by ensuring that adequate funding and resources continue to be made available for healthy living programs. A shared commitment to healthy living will lead British Columbia towards a healthy future.