Community

Our goal is to empower communities to create supportive physical and social environments that help prevent cancer in Alberta.

Our team works collaboratively with various communities across the province. We aim to bring together teams that involve community facilities and organizations, workplaces, schools and health care settings to build supportive communities.

What makes a healthy community?

Across Alberta, communities are making changes to create healthy environments to support healthy lifestyles. By increasing awareness of, and access to, cancer screening, reducing ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure, limiting alcohol consumption, implementing tobacco reduction strategies, increasing the opportunity for physical activity and increasing the availability of healthy foods, communities can reduce cancer risk.

A healthy community includes things like shade trees in parks, walking paths, community gardens, farmers markets, outdoor gyms, smoke-free play places and increased access to preventive health services are part of the important role communities play in cancer prevention. Watch the video below to learn more.

About supportive communities

Health is influenced by more than just individual behaviours such as smoking, diet and exercise. A supportive community is one where people feel safe and can easily walk, have places to grow local produce, the availability of healthy choices at recreation facilities, and opportunities to engage and feel connected to their community. These factors all have a great impact on overall health and wellness, and can be implemented to support health right in your own community!

“People are healthier when the places where they live and work support good health.” – The Public Health Institute and the San Francisco Foundation, 2015.

Pillars of a healthy community

How our communities are designed (the built environment), how we support individuals in communities (the social environment) and the presence of a healthy natural environment, all affect the choices people make that can impact their health. When our communities implement innovative ideas for improving built, social and natural environments, it ultimately leads to healthier choices and healthier Alberta communities!

Social environment

Inclusive communities value all its members and include supports for social connectedness and belonging; age-friendliness and welcoming communities.3

Built environment

How communities are planned and built; availability of services and resources directly impacts our physical, mental and social health.1

Natural environment

Designing our lives to fit within natural environments can foster health and wellbeing by encouraging physical activity and better mental health.2

Healthy community

How to take action and start building a healthy community

Approximately 45% of cancer in Alberta is caused by factors that can be changed. Yet, individuals can only make changes based on what is accessible, available, and affordable, as well as their knowledge of how to effectively make necessary behavioural changes. Building a healthy community, then, means creating a space where people can access healthier choices.

There are many avenues for taking action in order to create a healthy community. The evidence-based Healthy Communities Approach is based on the principle that communities decide their own solutions to creating supportive environments for health, making the healthy choice the easy choice. The Approach identifies five key building blocks, or strategies, to enhance community’s existing capacity to improve community health and well-being:

  • community engagement,
  • inter-sectoral collaboration;
  • asset-based community development;
  • political commitment;
  • and healthy public policy.

For more information:

Building a Healthy Community

We are currently piloting tools and resources to support communities in taking a Healthy Communities Approach to create sustainable changes to the social and physical environments that influence cancer and chronic disease.  These steps have been identified to help guide communities through this journey:

Step 1: Build Community Connections

  • Network and build partnerships
  • Engage multiple sectors in the community
  • Create strategic partnerships
  • Identify community readiness
  • Develop community inter-sectoral teams

Step 2: Understand your Community

Step 3: Prioritize and Plan

  • Set priorities
  • Develop action plans
  • Create an evaluation strategy to track your success
  • Develop a sustainability plan

Step 4: Implement and Evaluate

  • Evaluate success

Step 5: Sustain and Share

  • Celebrate and share success

Use our Community Cancer Prevention & Screening Dashboard to learn more about your community.

Community Action

Any person or organization who is interested in making their community a better, healthier place to live can start a movement and ‘take action’. Great ideas start with one enthusiastic individual and then the momentum spreads! Anyone or any organization that has the energy, commitment, and willingness to work with others for common good can start this process. By building action plans based on community assets, connecting with other communities, and building on best practices, communities will be able to create realistic and sustainable changes.

Here are some evidence-based ideas to help you start taking action to promote health and prevent cancer in your community:

Physical Activity

What it is: Healthy community environments support physical activity choices by offering green spaces, parks, walking paths and access to outdoor recreation opportunities. This can empower people to lead more physically active.

Why it is important: Physical activity reduces the risk of several chronic diseases and major cancers including colon cancer, breast cancer and endometrial cancer. A recent Alberta study estimated that approximately 1,300 cancer cases in Alberta in 2012 were attributable to not getting enough physical activity. The availability of both outdoor and indoor recreation facilities is important in increasing physical activity in your community. Walking to school, work and around your community offers an easy healthy choice.

We have gathered a sample of evidence-based community action strategies, local examples and resources to support physical activity in your community.

Download our Physical Activity Strategy Kit »

Eating Healthy

What it is: Healthy communities can promote the accessibility and availability of healthy food options in a variety of ways and settings. Community gardens, and farmers markets are one example, but also promoting healthy food choices in recreation settings or at community events are important considerations as well.

Why it is important: Our diet can increase or decrease our risk of developing chronic disease and certain cancers. A recent study suggests about 30% of colorectal cancers in Alberta can be attributed to not eating healthy. Access to nutritious foods in a community is a key factor in supporting a healthy diet, and preventing obesity and cancer.

We have gathered a sample of evidence-based community action strategies, local examples and resources to support healthy eating in your community.

Download our Nutrition Strategy Kit »

Reducing Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) exposure

What it is: A healthy community can promote the reduction of ultraviolet radiation exposure (UVR) through the availability of shade structures in playgrounds, parks and at community events. Promoting awareness and education on sunscreen use and other sun protection methods is also another example of supportive community environments.

Why it is important: Recent results from a study here in Alberta estimate that UVR exposure accounts for about 82% of melanoma cases in Alberta. Excessive exposure to UVR can cause sunburn. Over time UVR exposure accelerates skin aging and can lead to skin cancer. Sun-protecting trees and shelters on sports grounds and picnic areas can reduce UVR exposure in the community.

We have gathered a sample of evidence-based community action strategies, local examples and resources to support reducing UVR exposure in your community.

Download our UV Safety Strategy Kit »

Tobacco Reduction Strategies

What it is: A healthy community can promote the reduction of tobacco use by establishing additional bylaw restrictions to further protect citizens from the harms of tobacco and tobacco-like products in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Prohibiting tobacco use in multi-dwelling units can help protect non-smoking residents from frequent exposure to second-hand smoke. Prohibiting smoking in outdoor public places such as sports grounds and picnic areas can help to reduce exposure of children to tobacco products and second-hand smoke.

Why it is important: Tobacco use is the leading risk factor for many kinds of cancer and a cause of other chronic disease. A recent Alberta study estimated that approximately 2,500 cancer cases in Alberta in 2012 could be attributed to tobacco.

We have gathered a sample of evidence-based community action strategies, local examples and resources to support tobacco reduction in your community.

Download our Reduced Tobacco Strategy Kit »

Reduced alcohol use

What it is: A healthy community can promote a reduction in alcohol consumption by restricting the hours or days of sale, restricting the number of sales outlets in a given area, and limiting the exposure of children and youth to retail outlets.

Why it is important: Alcohol consumption increases the risk of several cancers including colorectal, breast, oral, throat and esophageal cancers as well as other chronic diseases. In a recent study, approximately 620 cancer cases diagnosed in Alberta in 2012 were attributable to alcohol consumption.

We have gathered a sample of evidence-based community action strategies, local examples and resources to support reducing alcohol intake in your community.

Download our Reduced Alcohol Strategy Kit »

Cancer screening

What it is: A healthy community can promote cancer prevention and screening efforts in a variety of ways. Community-based screening programs can provide access to under-served rural populations, thereby removing geographical barriers.

Why it is important: Making screening programs accessible to the population as well as raising awareness and providing education can improve cancer prevention. When cancer is found early enough, it is easier to treat. Regular cancer screening allows people with no symptoms to get checked for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer, increasing the chances of early detection and treatment, and in some case prevention. For example, 9 in 10 cases of cervical cancer can be prevented with regular pap test and following up on any abnormal results. Increasing or providing preventive services (e.g. screening services) in community settings can increase screening rates, thereby supporting an environment beneficial to population health and wellbeing.

We have gathered a sample of evidence-based community action strategies, local examples and resources to support cancer screening in your community.

Download our Cancer Screening Strategy Kit »

Community Based Leadership

What it is: Community leadership can be defined as “a person(s) who works with others to develop and sustain the health of the community” 1

Why it is important: Strong community leadership is essential to generate the human and financial resources required for successful community health initiatives. Community leadership builds partnerships and capacity (e.g., mobilizing resources) that enable a community to take action. 1

“Vibrant and healthy communities don’t spontaneously emerge: they are the result of dedicated groups of people investing their time and energy for the benefit of all. Of course any group that wants to work effectively towards a common goal needs strong leadership, someone to help chart the course and then encourage and inspire others to join in. While some people might be considered ‘born leaders’, most need a bit of guidance in turning their ideas and enthusiasm into action.“

We have gathered a sample of evidence-based community action strategies, local examples and resources to support community based leadership in your community.

Download our Leadership Strategy Kit »

Alberta Healthy Communities Hub – Coming Soon!

What is a Healthy Community Hub?

One community can be an inspiration for others. Sharing knowledge, stories or thoughts can trigger change across our province. Together, we can combine ideas and actions to build healthier communities.

We are building a Healthy Communities Hub. The Hub is a virtual gathering space designed to bring together people and communities to access evidence-based resources, practices and research while connecting with others and sharing their experiences in building healthy communities.

We believe that communities have the wisdom and talent to inspire creative action, and the hub is a collaborative resource to support the growth of healthy communities.

Background

Prior to beginning the Gathering Perspectives Dialogue, the community team collected information from key informant interviews, a literature review and stakeholder engagement sessions to understand the gaps and opportunities for improving resource sharing and networking in Alberta communities. While the initial focus was on developing a healthy community network, we heard that an online hub acting as a central location for communities to share resources and stories was what was needed at this time. Our findings suggested the need for various types of community supports, from regional personnel support, online resources, newsletters and web presence to community success story sharing platforms. This would allow for mentorship models to take shape, keeping groups mobilized and ready to act, and capacity building in the community.

For a summary of the background work, click here.

How an Online Hub Can Support Your Community

To ensure the Hub is responsive and relevant, a Gathering Perspectives framework was developed to engage communities and health promotion professionals to determine need, structure and content.

From June to October, 2016, we hosted in-person Gathering Perspectives sessions across the province to bring together community stakeholders to better understand this topic. Questions focused on: What does a healthy community mean to Albertans? What is already being done to empower Alberta communities? And what else needs to be done to achieve the vision of healthy Alberta communities? The in-person Gathering Perspective sessions were also supported by online surveys to open the dialogue to all Albertans.

Thank you to all who took the time to provide input.

The Alberta Healthy Communities Hub is coming soon!

  • 1. Zummach, N. Building Stronger Communities through Better Leadership. Charity Village, 2002.