The BC Healthy Living Alliance (BCHLA), formed in 2003, is the largest coalition of health leaders in British Columbia’s history. Collectively, BCHLA members capture the attention of over 40,000 volunteers, 4,300 health and recreation professionals, and 184 local governments across British Columbia. As a non-partisan advocacy group, the BCHLA works with government and holds them accountable to promote wellness and prevent chronic disease.
In 2006, after publishing The Winning Legacy advocacy paper, the Government of BC provided BCHLA with a $25 million grant to implement initiatives across the province that would support the achievement of the targets outlined in the paper. The initiatives, which focus on healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco reduction, and community capacity building are now underway in over 105 communities across British Columbia. As they continue to early 2010, BCHLA is continually working closely with ActNow BC and the Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport along with many other community partners.
The Alliance continues its policy work and has developed a discussion paper, Healthy Futures for BC Families, on the social issues that can impede or enhance the healthy of a society. These issues include access to: affordable housing, early childhood development and care, income and food security, and supportive environments.
- 1 Background
- 2 Advocacy
- 3 Strategies and Initiatives
- 3.1 Healthy Eating
- 3.2 Physical Activity
- 3.3 Tobacco Reduction
- 3.4 Community Capacity Building
- 4 References
- 5 External links
The Alliance was formed in February 2003 with a mission to lead collaborative actions to promote physical activity, healthy eating, and living smoke-free in order to improve the overall health of British Columbians.
In March 2006, the Alliance received “a one-time grant of $25.2 million to pursue recommendations outlined in their report, “The Winning Legacy – A plan for improving the health of British Columbians by 2010.” Health Minister George Abbott had said, “We are supporting programs that promote healthy living and prevent illness in our society. Research tells us that four risk factors are the major causes of our most common chronic diseases. Lifestyle choices about nutrition, exercise, tobacco use and healthy choices during pregnancy can make a real difference in our own health, and in the sustainability of the entire health-care system.”
“To improve the health of British Columbians through leadership that enhances collaborative action to promote physical activity, healthy eating, and living smoke-free.”
While the Alliance recognizes there is a wide range of chronic diseases, their primary focus is on the common risk factors and underlying determinants that contribute significantly to cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes.
To reduce chronic disease in B.C., the Alliance has developed three specific goals:
- Advocate for and support health promoting policies, environments, programs, and services.
- Enhance collaboration among government, non-government and private sector organization.
- Increase capacity of communities to create and sustain health promoting policies, environment, programs, and services.
Currently, the BC Healthy Living Alliance comprises nine member organizations. The first group of major non-governmental organizations that are involved in the prevention of chronic diseases include: The BC Lung Association, Canadian Diabetes Association Pacific, Heart & Stroke Foundation of BC and Yukon, and the Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon Division.
Thirdly, BCHLA includes members of key health and wellness professionals. Dietitians of Canada BC Region, BC Pediatric Society, and the Public Health Association of BC are all members of the Alliance.
In addition, the BCHLA has advisory representation from government related bodies including: BC Health Authorities, 2010 Legacies Now, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport, and ActNow BC.
The BC Healthy Living Alliance “advocates for and supports health-promoting policies, environments, programs and services so that British Columbians have opportunities to be healthy.” In particular, the BCHLA have written two evidence-based papers.
The Winning Legacy
The B.C. Risk Factor Intervention Plan, which the BCHLA calls The Winning Legacy, was initially presented to Premier Gordon Campbell and the BC Government on March 3, 2005. It is a “plan for improving the health of British Columbians by 2010 by simultaneous improvements in four risk factors of tobacco use, unhealthy weights, unhealthy eating, and physical inactivity.”
The Winning Legacy explains that much of the chronic disease burden in the province is preventable by addressing these factors. BCHLA estimated that “these risk factors cost the B.C. economy approximately $3.8 billion annually”. Caring for British Columbians with acute and chronic health conditions is using up an increasing proportion of government expenditures. This position paper presents 27 recommendations that addressed the aforementioned lifestyle risk factors related to chronic disease. In particular, these recommendations were summarized and divided into the following categories: Regulatory and Economic Interventions, Community-Based Interventions, School-Based Interventions, Workplace-Based Interventions, Clinical Interventions and Management, Specific Populations, and Surveillance, Evaluations, and other Administrative Costs. The Winning Legacy was estimated to cost $1.1 billion over a period of 6 years, which equals $41 per year for each British Columbian.
The key targets that were outlined in the paper are:
- 9 out of 10 British Columbians will not smoke
- 7 out of 10 British Columbians will eat at least five servings of vegetables or fruit per day
- 7 out of 10 British Columbians will be physically active
- 7 out of 10 British Columbians will be at a healthy weight
If these are achieved by 2010, the results would equate to: 225,00 fewer British Columbians smoking, additional 948,000 British Columbians eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, additional 351,000 British Columbians becoming physically active, and a total of 349,000 British Columbians who would achieve a healthy weight.
Healthy Futures for BC Families
The most recent paper, Healthy Futures for BC Families, was written in 2008 and highlights policy options that address the underlying social determinants of health and health inequities. The social determinants of health include: early childhood development, education, housing, supportive environments, and income and food security).
A series of policy discussion forums were held across the province to discuss the social issues affecting health. The first forum was held on October 2, 2008 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The following three regional forums in the Interior, North, and Vancouver Island were held early 2009. The Interior Region discussion took place on February 13, 2009 in Williams Lake, with videoconferencing sites in Cranbrook, Kamloops, Kelowna, and Trail. Prince George was the main location for the March 12 North forum, which also hosted videoconferencing to Burns Lake, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Smithers, Terrace, Prince Rupert, and Queen Charlotte City. The last Healthy Futures for BC Families policy discussion was on March 25, 2009 in the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
The forums were intended to gain local perspectives from “health, government, academia, business, and Aboriginal communities”  regarding the social issues affecting health and to seek solutions to improve these social conditions. Mary Collins, the Director of the BC Healthy Living Alliance Secretariat, said “research indicates access to income, employment, affordable housing, healthy food, education and early childhood development supports have a greater influence on the physical and mental healthy and life expectancy of British Columbians than genetics or any other single factor.” In June 2008, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, stated in a report to Parliament that combating poverty, especially amongst the youth, is key to improving Canadians’ physical and mental health.
After gathering information from the different regions across the province, the Alliance will produce their final report in the following months. The final report will be presented to the provincial and federal government, health authorities, and other community leaders.
Strategies and Initiatives
Education and access to nutritious foods are key when it comes to healthy eating. Thus, the goal of the Healthy Eating Strategy is “to make healthy food more readily available and provide BC families with the skills and knowledge necessary for making sound snack and meal choices.”
Healthy Food and Beverages at School, Work, and Play
Dietitians of Canada, BC Region is the organization lead for supporting the implementation of the Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools. Co-leads BC Recreation and Parks Association and the Union of BC Municipalities ensure local government building and recreation facilities receive support to make vital changes to their food and beverage selections.
Farm to School Salad Bar
This initiative is led by the Public Health Association of BC. In this program schools pair up with farms achieve the ultimate goal of the Farm to School Salad Bar initiative, which is: “To improve the health of school children by increasing access to locally grown, nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate foods in at least 12 schools within the northern and interior regions.”
Food Skills for Families
The Canadian Diabetes Association is the organization lead for this initiative. Recognizing the challenge that some families with limited incomes or without the basic information about how to cook healthy meals, this food skills program is tailored to the needs of vulnerable families. The program will help families builds the skills necessary for choosing and preparing healthy food. Phase One of the programs ended in December 2008 and saw 26 programs delivered across BC through host agencies. Starting in January to March 2009, Phase Two showed the beginning of 55 programs.
The BC Pediatric Society and the Heart and Stoke Foundation of BC and Yukon are the co-leads for this initiative. This educational program is aimed at elementary schools and includes “innovative resource materials and a teacher-friendly learning module”. The program will help families builds the skills necessary for choosing and preparing healthy food. Sip Smart! attempts to teach kids why it is important to drink less sugary drinks and so when they are thirsty, they reach for healthier thirst-quenchers. “By May 2009, the facilitated program will have been delivered in more than 25 communities to more than 230 classrooms, involving well over 6000 students.” 
The goal of the Physical Activity Strategy is “to improve the health of British Columbian through leadership that enhances community action to promote physical activity, with a targeted focus on inactive 35-54 year olds.”  In particular, BC parents can influence their children and help them walk more. Funding for this strategy is provided by the BCHLA with support from ActNow BC. All the initiatives of the Physical Activity Strategy are led by the BC Recreation and Parks Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC and Yukon.
“Walking is an easy form of physical activity for most people and regular walking can lead to long term lifestyle changes and health benefits.”  This initiative aims to provide support to encourage people to walk regularly by working with communities to develop local walking programs for groups and individuals. Walk BC grants are available as funding opportunities for communities to start or enhance walking programs for inactive adults.
This BCRPA and Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon initiative “promotes increased access to physical activity opportunities by coordinating province-wide resource, facilitating community collaboration, and advocating for increased awareness and policy development.”  It aims to remove barriers to participation and increase physical activity among individuals who live with lower incomes and face multiple challenges. The BC Healthy Living Alliance believes that “when it comes to physical activity, income should not determine who gets to play.” 
Community Based Awareness Initiative
This initiative intends to “raise awareness and promote local opportunities for physical activity so that people can act on what they have learned from campaigns like ActNow and ParticipACTION.”  Public awareness grants are available to assist communities in implementing the Community Based Awareness (CBA) marketing program. In particular, this funding helps supports the implementation of the Marketing Action Plan (M.A.P.).
Built Environment and Active Transportation Initiative
The way building, parks, and transportation are designed make up the built environment which may encourage or discourage physical activity and determines whether a community promotes healthy living. The BEAT initiative aims to provide safe opportunities for walking and cycling and help build physically active neighbourhoods.
The Tobacco Reduction Strategy aims to reach out to “young adults at work, school, in the community and at home.”  Specifically, the goal is to decrease tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke in these settings. The planning lead organization for this strategy is the BC Lung Association and participating members are the Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon Division, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon.
Tobacco-Free Workplace Initiative
This initiative is led by the Canadian Cancer Society and is directed to young workers ages 19 to 29 in the workplace. The aim is to work with “employers, unions, and industry health and safety associations to create environments that support tobacco-free employees and assist those who have or want to quit.”  Forums are also organized in partnership with WorkSafe BC to discuss the impact of tobacco use in the workplace.
Tobacco-Free Post Secondary Initiative
The BC Lung Association leads this initiative in the BCHLA’s support of tobacco-free campuses. The key objectives include: “ensuring protection from tobacco marketing, enacting tobacco-free policies, developing cessation resources for students and faculty, and educating trade students on tobacco as a health and safety issue in the workplace.” 
Community Outreach Initiatives
Both the BC Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation are working together on the Community Outreach Initiatives. Within this, the Community Detailing Initiatives engages businesses and community organizations where young adults spend their leisure time, including bars, restaurants, and malls, to promote cessation resources. Secondly, the Smoke-Free Housing in Multi-Unit Dwellings Initiative aims to work with housing providers to increase the number of smoke-free living spaces; since some British Columbians are still exposed to second-hand smoke entering their homes from neighbouring units.
Targeted Education Campaign
The Heart and Stroke is working with professors of senior level marketing classes to challenge students to design a multi-media tobacco education campaign. This campaign should reach the media-savvy young adults and the winners will see their campaign tested, developed, and launched.
Community Capacity Building
“Capacity building engages people to make their community a healthier and more vibrant place.”  Building capacity means developing the potential for people to improve and respond to the needs of their own community. It relies on key members of the community and so a Community Capacity Facilitator oversees a region and works to establish and support networks among regional partners. Between regions, the goal is to connect people so they can share information, success stories, and best practices. Community Development Leaders then will “work on the ground with people to help them embrace the places where they live.”  They will work to increase capacity within communities that are at risk (for unhealthy eating, physical inactivity, and tobacco use) which will help reduce health disparities.
The Canadian Cancer Society is working to build a stronger foundation for a healthier community, which is created by:
- Developing the potential for people to improve and respond to the needs of their own community.
- Relying on key members of the community.
- Making grants available to high-risk communities to support projects that build capacity in line with BCHLA targets.
- Offering communities tools, training and skill development that reflect regional needs and priorities – engaging stakeholder, supporting leadership development and providing resources to address local issues.
- BC Healthy Living Official Website
- BC Healthy Living Alliance on Facebook
- Live Healthy, Vote Healthy Facebook Group
- BC Healthy Living Twitter Profile
- BC Healthy Living YouTube Channel