What do you need to prevent chronic disease in a large group of people such as the population of Alberta? Change in environment or policy? Focus on factors that determine health? Partnership with the government? Help people to take action? Help communities discover the things that prevent them from making healthy choices?
International learning exchange
Evidence from studies conducted around the world indicates that all of the components mentioned above are necessary in order to be successful and most effective in preventing chronic disease in a population. Results from several Countrywide Noncommunicable Disease Intervention (CINDI) projects support this evidence. CINDI is a World Health Organization (WHO) program that collaborates and disseminates information internationally. Healthy Alberta Communities (HAC) was granted WHO-CINDI designation via the Alberta Healthy Living Networks (AHLN).
The link to the CINDI network enabled HAC to tap into the experience of chronic disease prevention programs throughout Europe and apply pertinent and successful approaches to the Alberta context. This relationship enabled global reciprocal learning on behalf of all parties, and has been an exciting component of the HAC approach. In fact, HAC project modeled the North Karelia project in Finland which is the best and most successful example of a population based chronic disease prevention program.
Community driven initiative
Healthy Alberta Communities was built on the Healthy U campaign that was developed by Alberta Health and Wellness. This campaign was a government initiative designed to keep Albertans healthy and improve the health of the province’s population.
Healthy Alberta Communities is a community driven initiative aimed to reduce risk factors for development of chronic diseases. The goal of the initiative is to make healthy choices easy in the day-to-day lives of people living in the four communities: Bonnyville, St. Paul, Norwood/North Central Edmonton, and Medicine Hat. These communities were selected by Alberta Health and Wellness.
People living in each of these selected communities were asked to identify barriers to making healthy choices. The HAC project team then worked with each community to help them take action on removing these barriers. Community coordinators in each community developed local networks with existing organizations and agencies in each community.
The HAC project team kept track of the people who participated in the project to see if there were any changes in their well-being by the end of the project. They also tracked the steps each community took along the way to see why the project did or did not work.
During this exciting time of working towards health promotion and the prevention of chronic disease, this project created an excellent opportunity to develop a broad approach to change the way Albertans think about health promotion and contributed to the development of long term community change.