by Lynn Roblin, Chair, Ontario Collaborative Group on Healthy Eating and Physical Activity
The Ontario Collaborative Group on Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (OCGHEPA) is a provincial collaboration of not-for-profit, public health and academic organizations dedicated to addressing population-based issues relating to healthy eating, physical activity, healthy weights and the determinants of health, including food access, availability and adequacy.
Our mission is to improve the health of all Ontarians by advancing healthy eating and active living initiatives through strategic partnerships, knowledge exchange and collective action. Our vision for 2015 is an Ontario that supports healthy eating and active living for all.
We work collaboratively on recommendations to government that address the growing rate of obesity and physical-inactivity in Ontario and the social determinants of health. We believe a strong coordinated inter-ministerial provincial approach for food and nutrition and physical activity is needed to promote a healthy province and health and wellness in Ontarians.
OCGHEPA is working on the following priority areas:
- Making Ontario the healthiest province
- Developing an Ontario food and nutrition strategy
- Improving access for all Ontarians to healthy food and physical activity opportunities
- Using the 2015 Pan Am games as an opportunity to promote healthy eating and active living
- Childhood obesity
- Food security
- Healthy eating/physical activity in school
- Built environment
On June 23, 2011 numerous partners and stakeholders were invited to participate in a working day devoted to strategic next steps in the creation of a comprehensive Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy.
The objectives of this discussion forum were:
- To begin to activate momentum for the creation of an Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy that will align the common goals of government representatives and key stakeholders to stimulate significant positive change for healthy individuals and communities;
- To initiate the discussion on working collaboratively to establish overall goals and actionable next steps in the development of a comprehensive Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy;
- To start to engage participants in opportunities for further collaboration and identify potential leaders for Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy development.
Since then, various stakeholders have continued to work together to formulate the basic tenet of a food and nutrition strategy for Ontario. This work involves:
- Identifying whose voice is missing in discussions surrounding the strategy, engaging them and building relationships;
- Defining consensus on the issues at hand in order to help direct appropriate solutions;
- Developing a set of concrete goals that the strategy might embody to serve as a starting point and stimulating discussion around the best approach to action in the initial stages of strategy development;
- Determining smaller areas of focus within a broader, system-wide strategy for ease of management and stakeholder buy-in where their interests, expertise and priorities lie;
- Leveraging the strategy on current similar efforts within and across sectors;
- Learning from other successful initiatives of this scale, both nationally and internationally (e.g. Japan, Australia);
- Identifying who can provide needed human and financial resources;
- Engaging academia for research support and funding opportunities.
We look forward to working collaboratively with our partners and across governments to have an impact on improving the health and well-being of Ontarians.
Ontario Collaborative Group on Healthy Eating and Physical Activity partners include the Canadian Cancer Society-Ontario Division, Canadian Diabetes Association, Cancer Care Ontario, Dietitians of Canada, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health, Ontario Society of Physical Activity Promoters in Public Health, Ontario Chronic Disease Prevention Management in Public Health, Ophea, Parks and Recreation Ontario, and academics from the universities of Guelph and Waterloo. The Canadian Cancer Society acts as a secretariat for the group.