Building on success, CLASP looks to the future

The Collaborative Action on Childhood Obesity project in action with the Wapekeka First Nation community in northern Ontario.
The Collaborative Action on Childhood Obesity project in action with the Wapekeka First Nation community in northern Ontario.

Moving from promise to impact in just three years, a trio of cancer and chronic disease prevention projects will continue to make headway, thanks to renewed funding through the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer’s Coalitions Linking Action and Science for Prevention (CLASP) initiative.

Launched in 2009 by the Partnership, together with funding support from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, CLASP supports multi-jurisdictional projects that target individual and community factors affecting health. By integrating lessons learned from science with those from practice and policy, these projects have developed and implemented highly successful strategies to improve the health of Canadians. While the advances of these three projects will continue to be supported, a chance to apply for new CLASP projects will be also be announced in January 2013.

“CLASP is an opportunity to combine efforts and resources and to link up organizations with shared goals as a means of pursuing a more comprehensive, effective and efficient approach to cancer and chronic disease prevention. This makes sense given many chronic diseases share common risk factors,” says Deb Keen, Director, Prevention and Research with the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. “Renewal funding will enable these innovative projects to deepen their impact and expand their reach, addressing significant public health concerns such as obesity, community design or the built environment, and increasing prevention and screening patient services in primary care.”

The three projects confirmed for renewed funding are:

Project: Collaborative Action on Childhood Obesity

During the first phase of CLASP funding, Collaborative Action on Childhood Obesity examined the complex problem of increasing obesity from many vantage points. Working with partners in British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario and the Northwest Territories, the program addressed underlying causes of obesity, such as reduced physical activity and increased consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, helping to ensure that children and their families have the knowledge, skills and tools to make decisions that promote more healthful lifestyles.

While the program identified broad policies – from taxation to restriction in product marketing and land use – to limit unhealthy food options, it also joined forces with communities and schools to develop local solutions.  Through this initiative, remote First Nations communities have already established community gardens and developed skills to increase local production and distribution of healthy and culturally relevant foods. As well, education modules Sip Smart and Screen Smart, designed in collaboration with schools, are helping children to become more aware of their beverage consumption and screen habits.

Next steps: With continued funding, Collaborative Action on Childhood Obesity will expand to jurisdictions in New Brunswick and Yukon Territory and further engage with First Nations communities, including additional development of education modules.

Project: BETTER

Piloted in family health practices in Ontario and Alberta during the first phase of CLASP funding, the BETTER Project (Building on Existing Tools to Improve Chronic Disease Prevention & Screening in Family Practice) sought to improve opportunities for patients to receive prevention and screening services within the busy family physician’s office setting. With detailed guidelines, and using electronic medical records and a new standardized prevention and screening tool, a health team member worked one-on-one with patients to create a personalized wellness plan or “prevention prescription,” addressing lifestyle modifications and the use of screening tests. This level of care and focus was found to increase individual achievement of personal health targets.

Next steps: Renewed funding will be used to expand the BETTER Project to new jurisdictions. The prevention and screening tool will be available in Nova Scotia, while the project as a whole will be adapted for implementation in remote and rural communities in the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Project: Healthy Canada by Design

Focusing on the role of our built environments in influencing healthy lifestyles and choices, in the first phase of CLASP funding Healthy Canada by Design brought together municipal policy decision-makers and medical officers of health from the Urban Public Health Network as well as professional urban planners from the Canadian Institute of Planners to discuss and refine tools to create physical infrastructure that would be more health promoting. This collaboration provided the opportunity for health professionals to engage with urban design and development community experts to better understand the health impacts of different design options and to encourage and sometimes require health impact assessments of key community design decisions.

The project is contributing to a growing body of research and the development of new tools and promising practices, including a health impact assessment framework, a compendium of healthy development options and public engagement strategies to assist planners. These tools and procedures are now being incorporated into public policy processes in Toronto, greater Vancouver, Montreal and Peel Region, ensuring sustainable changes to the land development process beyond the term of this CLASP project.

Next steps: Healthy Canada by Design will use continued funding for the adaption of the program to smaller communities such as towns and municipalities in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.