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!
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!
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
Step 5: Sustain and Share
- Celebrate and share success
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:
Alberta Healthy Communities Hub
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.
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.
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 now available!