Research assistants Elyse Quann, Rianne McAleer, Kyra Phillips & I (Julia Kontak) had the pleasure of representing ARCH at the Health Promotion Clearinghouse AGM which has recently changed their name to Health Promotion Nova Scotia (HPNS)! HPNS is an association that acts as a resource system for health promotion and population health.
The AGM was split into two parts; the Annual Update and the Panel Discussion on Behavior Change. The AGM was kicked off with a bang that involved a fabulous buffet, as well as a heated debate over the selection of unhealthy desserts. A popular mission for health promoters is to try to make “the healthy choice, the easy choice” but the food selection for us highlighted how the “social norm” of offering both treats and healthy alternatives at a social gathering can easily influence a healthy work environment and impact our own food choices.
Once all the health promoters’ taste buds were satisfied, the annual update of HPNS was presented. As a new face in the world of health promotion, the annual update was able to showcase the past, present and future objectives of HPNS. In my eyes, the association seemed to have made great leaps by creating an image in social media and nominating a new Slate of Directors.
The highly anticipated panel discussion took place following the annual update, including Lynn Langille (Coordinator, Health Disparities, N.S. Dept. of Health & Wellness), Martin Delaney (Partner, VP Planning, Extreme Group) & Dr. Michael Vallis (Health Psychologist, Dalhousie University). The guest-speakers were complementary, but also highlighted a large gap in health promotion. For me, it seemed that due to the complexity of health research and practice, it is difficult to create a set direction of goals that all health promoters agree upon. A concern that was voiced by many attendees was that our knowledge and ideas are not being put into practice. However, as an observer of the discussion, I found each guest-speaker provided evidence of putting their actions into practice, such as the Behavioral Change Institute that is led by Dr. Vallis, but it was the bridge between the speakers work that was missing. For instance, Delaney explained various benefits of technology based health tools, but Vallis’ website for the Behavioral Change Institute only has PDF formatted health tools available.
The main message I took away from the AGM is that though there may be great work being done in each health discipline, there is lack of collaboration across the field that may be a strong barrier for behavioral change. The discussion was able to demonstrate how health promoters from various viewpoints can feed off each other’s expertise and create a discussion that is interactive. An open-view approach needs to be taken to heath promotion where health promoters listen to other professional’s views, and understand the benefits of integration.
Langille used a metaphor titled the “upstream approach” to discuss the importance of looking at the larger picture. As Langille voiced, we need to remember that like a stream, everything in the health environment is connected and flowing. I believe that if the health concerns we are trying to solve are connected, we as health promoters need to work as a collaborative group rather than independently to ultimately make a difference in the health of our society.
I am looking forward to the future of HPNS and the progress it will make over the 2014-2015 year!
Julia Kontak (second from left in photo)