3. Engagement with Nova Scotians

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Addressing social determinants of health through Community Health Boards

Group Picture

Sarah MacDonald

Our 37 community health boards (CHB) listen to and work with communities to identify health needs related primarily to the social determinants of health, such as income, education, transportation and sense of belonging. These needs are reflected in the community health plans developed by CHBs. Community health plans are submitted to NSHA and are an important source of information to inform planning.

Each year, CHBs work with community partners to promote the social determinants of health and advance work in this area. Here are some examples of their work over the past year:

Poverty Lives Here, a Municipal Forum on Poverty

Springhill, Oxford, Amherst and Region (SOAR) CHB partnered with the Town of Amherst to host a Municipal Forum on Poverty. The purpose of the day was to provide participants with a greater awareness of the significant level of poverty in our community.

Speakers included social worker Robert S. Wright and Dr. Christine Saulnier, the Nova Scotia director for the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, as well as four individuals with first-hand experiences of poverty.

Pre- and post-survey results showed increased awareness among the 50 participants of the existence of poverty in Amherst and a greater understanding of the effect of poverty on the entire community.

Themes from the discussion included: housing, food security, transportation, inclusive recreation programming, particularly for youth, employment, communication and advocacy.

Planting seeds of health through education, social interaction and access to healthy food

Through wellness funding, the Eastern Shore Musquodoboit CHB supported community members and organizations coming together to start seedlings in a community greenhouse through The Deanery Project.

Members came together to learn about seedling starts, soil composition, and preparing seedlings for transplant into the garden. This project provided education, social interaction and a place for many to start seedlings earlier in the year than they would otherwise be able.

Addressing health outcomes upstream

The Northside the Lakes and Central Cape Breton County CHBs recognized a need for their community to learn more about proactive approaches to achieving healthier communities. To provide the information, they reached out to Monika Dutt, executive director of an organization called Upstream, which encourages public awareness and discussion of the social determinants of health, which include income, education, housing and more.

The CHBs organized a community town hall in October 2017 with the goal of educating the public on upstream thinking and providing specific examples of upstream thinking happening in Cape Breton right now.

Stimulating Thoughts for Food

This year, the Yarmouth County CHB focused their efforts on access to a variety of safe and nutritious food. Their objectives were to:

  • - Promote and raise awareness of local access to healthy food
  • - Promote local community gardens
  • - Facilitate a meeting with all local groups/organizations related to food, to discuss increasing access to nutritious food for all

To meet these objectives, the group held a Thought for Food event in February 2018. At the event, education/promotion emerged as the top priority among participants. This included education about food preparation, storage, reading recipes and nutrition labels, and supporting food literacy for youth, parents, seniors and caregivers.

Higher guaranteed income was a close second. Hence, the CHB is organizing Thoughts for Food-the Sequel to focus on this theme. In doing so, they are partnering with one of their Wellness Funds recipients, Yarmouth Food Bank Society and their Yarmouth Roots Community Garden Project. Participants will be able to tour a local community garden and receive information around slow cooker programs and guaranteed income. They will also be invited to exchange ideas around increasing access to healthier food.