Who asks the questions?

The Healthy Together program is fully up and running in five sites across Canada. While these sites are busy providing the program to clients, the UBC evaluation team is working closely with evaluators at each site to collect data so we can ask the some important questions. These questions are vital to determine the future of program and include:

  1. Does the Healthy Together program positively impact caregivers and children’s healthy eating and physical activity behaviour?
  2. Does the program help foster strong relationships within families?
  3. Is this program something that other community sites would be able to run in the future?

So, who are this mysterious evaluation team? We`d like to introduce the team from the University of British Columbia who will be working closely with the Bridge to evaluate the Healthy Together program over the next few years.

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From left to right: Dr. Mary Jung; Jessica Bourne; Lola Popova; Katie Weatherson

Without a doubt our captain on this team is Dr. Mary Jung. Mary is an Assistant Professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at the University of British Columbia, and director of the Health and Exercise Psychology Laboratory. Mary’s research focuses on the application of theory in the promotion and adherence to various health behaviours. Specifically, she is interested in the importance of self-regulation required to adhere to physical activity and healthy eating behaviour. An additional research interest of Mary’s is the evaluation of health promotion initiatives, such as Healthy Together, designed to increase physical activity and healthy eating behaviours. When Mary is not working she can be found playing with her 4-year-old daughter or hitting up an exercise class.

Our second key team member is Dr. Susan Wells. Susan is an associate professor at the University of British Columbia with a joint appointment in Social Work and Psychology. Susan is the senior consultant on this evaluation project and provides guidance to the evaluation team when required; she could be considered our coach.

We also have some fabulous students/volunteers from the University of British Columbia on our team. First, we have Katie Weatherson, a 4th year Human Kinetics student. Katie became a member of the Healthy Together evaluation team, as she was interested in learning about the process of health program evaluation and developing new research skills. Her role on the team is to transcribe interviews coming in from site directors and the national advisory committee. In addition, she has single handedly mastered some new and complicated software that we require to analyze these interviews. Katie has also been examining the implementation of the program across the current sites based on observation reports coming in from on site evaluators. Outside of school, Katie enjoys being active and cooking meals with friends and family.

Second, we have Megan Mandryk, our volunteer on the evaluation team who brings with her a BSc in Psychology. Megan has been the integral in setting up the Healthy Together evaluation database. Specifically, all questions that we ask individuals to complete have to be entered into a computer in a meaningful way so that individual’s responses can be examined before, during and after the program. Megan has developed the system that allows us to meaningfully enter responses and will, in the future, allow us to examine the effectiveness of the program on positively impacting participants healthy eating and physical activity behaviour. Megan began volunteering with the team as she wanted to keep her feet wet in research while working a full time job, Megan has enjoyed research so much that she has recently applied to undertake her Master’s degree in Neuroethics in Vancouver.

Third, we have Lolita Popova, a 2nd year Business and Management student. Lola came on board with the evaluation team due to her superior organization skills. Now in her 8th month with the team, Lola is solely responsible for all quantitative data entry into the Healthy Together evaluation database.

Finally, there is Jessica Bourne. She is the evaluation coordinator on this project and have worked in the Health and Exercise Psychology Laboratory for 2 years now. Her role is to help keep everyone on task and ensure that the team’s questions are answered and deadlines are met. When she not working in the lab, she can be found biking or walking in the mountains.

As they continue to collect, enter and analyze data from sites across Canada they hope to provide you with glimpses of what results are coming out and what this means for the program.

– Jessica

Site Visit to Brantford, ON

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The Healthy Together Staff

For my fourth site visit I had the pleasure of going to Children’s Aide Society of Brant in mid-February…an entertaining and satisfying experience in a province socked in with more winter than I can ever recall. Despite snow drifts and cold temperatures I enjoyed myself in the middle of a wonderful team of people and I was easily able to shut out the winter as I watched the Healthy Together Program for the 7 to 12 age group.

I tried it!
Some success stories – each week participants were encouraged to complete a quick ‘I Tried It’ rosette.

A few highlights I thought I would share with others…

  • The program was run out of the home economics room of a local high school…a wonderful venue for this age group. There were four fully stocked cooking centers along with tables, chairs and space for education. The gym was a short walk away and provided the activity space.
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The Tables ready for participants, including fruit for snacks as they arrive!
  • The group concluded with a rousing round of BINGO using Healthy Together words and prizes of games being offered to the first two lucky winners. One lucky person won a bag of grated cheese as it was a leftover food item! A great way to provide a family connection activity for home and an opportunity to wrap up and integrate the learning in a fun way. This can provide a time to have an informal discussion about the words as they relate to the session. The games were bought as part of program supplies.
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Some of the flip chart work the participants were working on

Next stop…Yellowknife for March 4 & 5th!

Site Visit to Smithers, BC

I was pleasantly surprised when my plane landed in Smithers BC…the beauty of the mountains was breathtaking as I woke in the morning to brilliant sunshine and snow capped peaks.

Smithers (pop. 6000) is located in the Bulkley Valley of northwestern British Columbia, on the Trans Canada Yellowhead Highway (Route 16), approximately half way between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

Smithers was in week 5 of their program with the focus on Family Traditions, Healthy Community and Healthy Together for Life. My experience at this session highlighted some of the common themes I have experienced at each site visit.

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The participants LOVE the cooking portion of the program and enjoy trying new and healthy recipes. There was willingness and enthusiasm from all age groups for tasks ranging from dicing and mashing sweet potatoes to layering parfaits. The participants also actively participated and enjoyed the discussions as the group unfolded.

As an outsider for each site visit I have seen how every group has been different in style and content emphasis based on cultural, geographical and facilitator driven adaptations, but the outcomes of cooking enjoyment and discussion interest remained high.

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Smithers had a wonderful range of activities that were outside the box and very successful for their participants. They brought in a yoga instructor and physiotherapist for the youth group and I had the pleasure of joining for an introduction to Frisbee golf using actual Frisbee Golf Discs (which were then the take home for participants). I also joined a game of Up! with balloons and was surprised at how much we all moved and increased our heart rate while having fun.

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The 13 to 18 youth group in Smithers has a unique story but I will save this for a future blog post created by the youth themselves…stay tuned!

Site Visit to Bonavista, NL

I joined the Bonavista team on November 12, 13 & 14 for their final celebration and wrap up week of Healthy Together with families.

Bonavista (population: 4,000) is a town on the Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland and is home to several historical attractions such as The Ryan’s Premises. Bonavista began as a sealing and fishing community and of course home of the puffin’s.

I was picked up in St. John’s and had a beautiful four hour drive to the community of Bonavista where I proceeded to spend three days at the Vista Family Resource Centre with the Healthy Together team and families.

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One highlight of this trip was watching the staff take an idea for capturing successes and bring it to life. The staff created flowers and handed them out to participants to write one “success” they experienced during Healthy Together and then had the person mount this on the flip chart. This is a way to help participants ‘own’ their progress and could be done weekly as an visual way to capture success and watch them build over time.

Healthy Together Bonavista Family BoxAnother highlight was the wonderful activity bins that were assembled for families and sent home at the final session complete with a $25 gift card allowing families to purchase healthy food items to match their new healthier eating habits.

Healthy Together provided an opportunity in Bonavista for families to connect with the Vista Family Centre and each other in new and meaningful ways and this was clearly evidenced in the warm, playful and supportive relationships I witnessed as I joined families and staff in these final three sessions.

A very big thank you to the wonderful time I had with the Healthy Together crew in Bonavista!

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Site Visit to Calgary, AB

I had the pleasure of my first site visit to Calgary this past month. I was welcomed by Calgary Immigrant Services staff and got a wonderful tour on one of their program facilities at the Genesis Wellness Centre which was a state of the art facility with many services for families including the YMCA, library and 1000 Voices programs.

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I joined them as they facilitated the Healthy Together : Happy Healthy Beginnings program for children age 0 to 6 and their families. I watched a wonderful adaptation for the children allowing them to be in an “adult sized” kitchen.

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The staff brought a small table into kitchen and the children ripped lettuce for pita pockets with enthusiasm and they cleaned the table with as dedication to the task.

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The final table was a wonderful buffet of food created by the families for the enjoyment of all!

Well done Calgary on a wonderful program.

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Good News Story from Bonavista, NL

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[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]” The Healthy Together is an absolutely amazing program! Not only was it fun, but educational as well. You learn how to become healthy with your family. If you apply all of the methods that the program teaches, you can live a much healthier life as will your family. I learnt how to budget for healthy living and how to incorporate my child into preparing and cooking meals. My child really enjoyed the program and now eats more fruits and vegetables as a result of trying new foods with other children. I myself have lost 37 pounds by making changes to my lifestyle that I learned from participating in the Healthy Together Program. I changed simple things like eating whole wheat pasta and bread instead of white and cutting out greasy foods. One major change was to move more. I now exercise with my family and we love it! I would encourage everyone to participate in this program, not only for yourself but for your family!”[/quote]

6 Month Update

It’s hard to believe that we have already completed eight months of our Healthy Weights for Children Project – Phase II. As we move ahead in this journey, we wish to provide you with an update on the activities/events that we have been engaged in and our accomplishments so far.

1. Welcome New Members to National Advisory Committee (NAC)

We are extremely pleased to welcome the following members to our National Advisory Committee:

  • Adam Diamond, President, Youth in Care Canada, and Policy Analyst, Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS)
  • Alex Scholten, President, Canadian Convenience Stores Association
  • Andrew Klukas, President, Western Convenience Stores Association
  • Gordon Phaneuf, Chief Executive Officer, Child Welfare League of Canada
  • Larry Dow, Consultant, Doceo Global Learning Ltd.

This brings the total to 14 NAC members. During the past six months, the Evaluation Team conducted 13 telephone interviews with the NAC members. Overall, the NAC feedback and expectations for the project was very positive. There was emphasis on how important this program would be for foster children and Aboriginal children, in order to reverse existing challenges within the respected communities. All NAC members agreed that there is a need for this type of intervention and all of them express hopes that Healthy Together can have a long term impact on its target audience.

2. Implementation Partners

All ten implementation partner organizations have signed their third party agreements. We wish to thank each and every one of these sites for their continued interest and commitment in assisting us with implementation and evaluation of Healthy Together program with children and families across Canada.

3. Copyright Approved

The Bridge Youth & Family Services Society has secured the copyright for Healthy Together- Children’s Health Program @ 2013. Any reference to the program in published or unpublished documents needs to include the following disclaimer:

Copyright@ 2013 by The Bridge Youth & Family Services Society. All rights reserved. No part of this program may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of The Bridge Youth & Family Services Society.

4. Healthy Together Training – First Five Implementation Sites

We successfully completed the first round of Healthy Together training for a team of 24 qualified and experienced personnel from the first five implementation sites. This two and a half days training was held in Kelowna BC on September 10-12, 2013, and included an overview of the program, site visit, interactive activities, Q&A session, and in-depth training for coordinators, facilitators and evaluators.

Feedback from the training has been very positive. All delegates agreed that everyone had fun, learned a lot, and they are indeed ready to implement the Healthy Together program in their own communities. There were many suggestions to make the implementation and evaluation process more user-friendly, and recommendations for next round of training. All of the feedback is being utilized by the Project and Evaluation Teams to further refine the process – in preparation for round two of implementation with the next five sites in 2014-15.

5. Launch of Healthy Together Website

We are excited to launch our program website: www.healthy-together.ca Please visit to check out the latest blogs, list of project partners, program resources and other links. Facilitators and evaluators who have successfully completed the Healthy Together training are able to access, download, and print, with the login details provided, all program related resources and documents necessary to implement and evaluate Healthy Together program. Staff also have the opportunity to network, post/ access resources, and provide feedback using this website. All five sites (round 1 implementation) are gearing up to implement the Healthy Together program within their communities during this fall/winter!

6. Knowledge Development and Exchange (KDE)

a. National Announcement

On June 25, 2013 we hosted the National Announcement by Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health and Member of Parliament for Nunavut, and Honorable Ron Cannan, Member of Parliament for Kelowna – Lake Country, who announced $13 million in support of 9 national projects funded under the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) Innovation Strategy for Achieving Healthier Weights in Canada’s Communities. This announcement also highlighted our Healthy Weights for Children Project.

b. Collaborative Healthy Initiatives

We have had fruitful meetings with the Western Convenience Stores Association’s President and Board to develop a collaborative Healthy Convenience Stores Initiative that will be piloted as a family-centred project. The focus is to promote and increase healthy eating choices and awareness for children, youth and families who may be shopping at convenience/ corner stores.

We are in conversation with Doceo Global Learning to develop a Healthy Together web-based application for children, youth and their families, in the form of a healthy choice mobile kiosk that will utilize applications such as virtual education forum, tablet and website delivery to disseminate Healthy Together content.  The above Kiosk will provide an opportunity for safe, interactive gaming technology activities for families participating in community festivals and media events, where HWC project team will be showcasing the program.

c. Conference Presentations

HWC Project Team attended the First National Aboriginal Physical Activity Conference in Vancouver, February 2013, where they presented a poster on Phase I findings and outlined Phase II plans.

The Project Team has been accepted to provide a themed oral session at the Fourth International Conference on Health, Wellness and Society to be held in Vancouver, March 2014.

An abstract has been submitted for oral workshop presentation at the Fourth International Conference on Families with Parental Mental Health Challenges, to be held in California, 2014.

d. 2014 National KDE Forum

The Bridge is selected to coordinate and deliver the 2014 Achieving Healthier Weights in Canada’s Communities Phase II Forum. We will be working in consultation with a National Steering Committee comprised of representatives from the 11 National Projects and the PHAC Innovation Strategy Team. The Forum is proposed to be held in Kelowna in March 2014.

7. We Have Moved

The Bridge Youth & Family Services has moved to a new location. Please note our mailing address:

760 Hwy 33 West
Kelowna BC V1X 1Y4

You can download and print a copy of this 6-month update HERE

We did it – Year One training is complete!

Five communities in Canada and a total of 24 people completed the Healthy Together Train-the-Trainer to be a Facilitator or Evaluator. Our 2.5 day event began with a Welcome and orientation and ended with a wonderful dinner of Greek food with our new found friends. What a great introduction to all the faces behind our trainers and Coordinators. We spent many months with names and it was wonderful to match faces to all the phone calls and emails.

photo(3)Day two started out with Monique Grey-Smith as she led us through a moving and informative presentation on Cultural Resiliency. Based on feedback you would have liked to spend more time with Monique as she shared her wisdom with such passion.

The diversity of experience and culture in our room was remarkable. This will make for a very rich facilitation and evaluation experience. We look forward to learning from each and every one of you.

After learning about Healthy Together here is what you told us:

You liked…”the positive messages about health but also the overall connections in families.”

And

You learned…”If I don’t know just ask J and Don’t forget to breathe.”

At The Bridge we liked…the amazing contribution you all made to the success of this training event with your enthusiasm and willingness to learn with us.

We learned…that it is important to be flexible and adaptable to meet everyone’s needs and that great food makes a lot of people happy!

A special thank-you to Helen for her endless attention to detail as she managed to bring everyone together from across Canada.

Have a wonderful day and we look forward to hearing from you as you implement at your program sites!

It’s Official! National Funding Annoucement

Health Announcement

On June 25, 2013 we hosted the National Announcement by Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health and Member of Parliament for Nunavut, and Honorable Ron Cannan, Member of Parliament for Kelowna – Lake Country, who announced $13 million in support of 9 national projects funded under the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) Innovation Strategy for Achieving Healthier Weights in Canada’s Communities. This announcement also highlighted our Healthy Weights for Children Project.