We are nearly at the completion of first year of Phase II – Healthy Weights for Children Project. It has been a very exciting year in terms of milestones achieved as well as lessons learned from round one implementation of Healthy Together program in five sites across Canada. As we officially close this year, we are happy to share our accomplishments with you.

  1. Welcome New Member to National Advisory Committee (NAC) -We are pleased to welcome Paul Gowan, Executive Director, BC Association of Family Resource Programs (FRPBC). We truly appreciate Paul’s willingness to join the NAC and look forward to his input and guidance as we move forward in our project. Marianne Drew-Pennington retired from the position earlier this year. A big ‘Thank you’ to Marianne for her hard work and commitment to the NAC. Please find attached the updated NAC contact list for your records.
  2. Healthy Together Implementation- First Five Sites – The first five sites have successfully completed round 1 implementation of Healthy Together program within their communities. Some of the sites started the implementation immediately after the September 2013 train-the trainer, while others started the implementation as late as January 2014, based on staff availability, participant recruitment, program space and other factors. Follow up sessions (6 month and 1 yr) will be carried out by in the upcoming fiscal year. 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. Site Visits- Summary of Observations – The HWC Project Coordinator visited each of the five implementation sites while they were implementing Healthy Together program within their communities. These site visits provided an excellent opportunity to not only observe the program in operation, but also to connect with site staff first hand, to share feedback on the content, process, lessons learned and adaptations which are valuable for future implementation of the program. See below the summaries for each site visit, but you can also check out the blog posts following each visit!
    • Immigrant Services, Calgary AB – Extremely well prepared for the content, activity and cooking sections for the session observed. Parents were eager to participate and shared their enjoyment of the program openly with Michele. Participants all completed their evaluation and wanted to make sure to share their ideas before they left. The group had a vibrant and engaged atmosphere and children and adults enjoyed their time together. Several people entered the room hoping to sign up for the program in January after seeing and hearing about it. A wonderful experience to participate in and observe.
    • Vista Family Resource Centre, Bonavista NL – The Healthy Together program was highly appreciated by families. They talked about how much they enjoyed new recipes, cooking, activities and meeting people. The group connection was clearly evident in the camaraderie, playfulness and familiarity group members had with each other, particularly in the 0-6 group. Families were very committed to the content and process of the group. Despite the difficulty of the first evaluation the families were interested in completing evaluations (except for 7-12 year olds) and seemed to take this aspect very seriously. The site evaluator had a very gentle and encouraging approach with families. Hosting this program in a family centre seemed to encourage a connection to the resource itself and the Healthy Together group had a comfortable feel for children and adults alike. Other people saw the program unfold as they were leaving previous groups and they were very interested in how to get involved in this type of group. The potential for integration of Healthy Together curriculum into existing groups is very promising for the 0-6 age group. The blend into current programming would be quite natural.
    • Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society, Smithers BC – Really nice integration of activity, content and cooking in the session depending on age group and dynamics.  The teens required a different approach than the 7 – 12 year olds and the facilitators did nice job of reading and meeting the needs of the group. Good use of the manual as a resource and guide. Referring to the manual and keeping the discussions informal seemed very sensible and appropriate for both groups. Atmosphere was casual and relaxed while also being purposeful and directed. Families and youth seemed calm and relaxed and very receptive to the activity, cooking and teaching. Nice conversation related to the program content during the cooking time. Participants would benefit from a folder or binder for their papers each week. Very innovative and meaningful partnership with the school district (alternative education program) for the 13 to 18 year old youth.
    • The Children’s Aid Society of Brant, Brantford ON – Very strong facilitation and evaluation skills demonstrated. Each group closed with Bingo using food or health words often from the Healthy Together curriculum. Bingo provided a way for learning to be integrated in a fun and impactful manner. The prize for Bingo was games and leftover food which was a great wrap up and ‘bonus’ activity for families. Posters of previous content available at cooking stations to ‘remind’ families of the information from previous sessions was a creative and great use of program materials. Food bags and recipes as a take home a wonderful way to carry the learning into the home after each session. The set-up of the room with personalized placemats with pictures and key messages a very appealing visual tool as well as personally meaningful for participants. The creation of an activity centre where kids could go and do a craft or activity as an alternative to the cooking was very effective. The group I observed used bean bag making as this activity. The bean bags were then used in the physical activity section of the course. Staff laminated the activities and put them on a ring. Every family took this home at the end of the session. The families showed a really nice connection to each other; staff fostered a group atmosphere that allowed for the relationship building to shine. Really liked the idea of having “smoothie day” as a way to attract potential participant families, tell them about Healthy Together and have them sign up if they were interested. Use of high school home economics rooms for space was an outstanding idea.
    • The Centre for Northern Families, Yellowknife NT – Nice literacy focus and awareness. Explanation of words, out loud practice with pronunciation. Use of flip chart was relevant and really added to the session. Facilitator strengths well used- they were very energetic, good speaking voice and fun; well versed in health issues they had investigated and added good information to illustrate points. One learning was regarding the information that did not always translate well in the 7-12 group for the youth. This was because the parents were absent (except for 1 family) and the content was intended for families not children attending alone. Overall participants were enjoying themselves a great deal. The children were very engaged in the well facilitated games. Staff shared the unique circumstances in Yellowknife related to non availability of fresh, affordable food and the content adaptations related to these conditions. The Bridge will take this information and consider how to acknowledge and support the circumstances in Northern communities related to culture and geographic diversity.
  4. Evaluation Summary – Preliminary Findings and Lessons Learned – Please find attached the Evaluation Summary, highlighting preliminary findings from year one implementation in first five sites. Please note:  the cut off date for receiving data was Feb 2014, in order for the Evaluation Team to analyze and prepare this year’s evaluation report.  Hence these findings are based on partial data forwarded by some sites, while other sites were in the process of continuing with program implementation. The full report from this year’s implementation sites, plus preliminary findings from the next set of implementation sites will be included  in next year’s evaluation report.
  5. Knowledge Development and Exchange (KDE)
    • Collaborative Healthy Initiatives – We are initiating the Healthy Convenience Store Coupon Pilot in Kelowna, in collaboration with the Western Convenience Stores Association. This is a family-centred project with the focus to promote and increase healthy eating choices and awareness for youth who may be shopping at convenience/ corner stores. This initiative will run from April to June of this year. Initial findings will be shared with the Association for their review.
    • Conference Presentations –
      • The Project Team provided a themed oral session at the Fourth International Conference on Health, Wellness and Society held in Vancouver, March 2014.
      • The Project and Evaluation Leads are invited to present an oral session on HWC Project and its key partnerships, at the Communities in Motion: Healthy Kids for Better Futures Symposium in April 2014. This symposium is organized by Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention and Okanagan Sustainability Institute, UBC’s Okanagan campus, and Interior Health.
      • The Project Team has been accepted to present a themed workshop on Healthy Together at the 2014 Public Health Conference, Toronto in May 2014.
    • 2014 KDE Meetings/ Visits – Although initially The Bridge was selected to coordinate the 2014 National KDE Forum, this was cancelled by PHAC. In place of the National Forum, they suggested individual projects to utilize allocated resources to visit other national projects or participate in relevant KDE activities, with the focus on knowledge sharing and partnership building. So in upcoming months, the HWC project and evaluation teams will visit two National Projects (Nova Scotia and Ontario) to maximize learnings and identify opportunities for future expansion.

To view and/or download the full report please click here – HWC Project Update March 2014