Highlights from the online discussion: How can the CIW improve quality of life in Ontario?

by Taheera Walji, AOHC Policy & Communcations Intern

On April 15th and April 16th two online discussions, hosted by HC Link, took place to spark ideas on how the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) can serve as an innovative tool to contribute to an enhanced community health and wellbeing movement in Ontario.

The online conversations were based on the AOHC’s latest discussion paper: Measuring What Matters: How the Canadian Index of Wellbeing can improve quality of life in Ontario. The paper provides examples of how the CIW can be applied to improving health and wellbeing at the provincial, regional and local level.  The paper also provided a detailed account of how the CIW is being implemented and incorporated into practice by Ontario’s Community Health Centres, municipal governments and funders.

The discussions included an array of community health and wellbeing experts to help answer questions regarding the existing adoption and application of the CIW framework:

-Margo Hilbrecht, Associate Director of Research, Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW)
-Linda McKessock, Project Manager, Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW)
-Mary MacNutt, Policy & Communications, Association of Ontario Health Centres
-Gary Machan, Community Facilitator, AOHC - CIW pilot project
-Louise Daw, Project Manager, Guelph Wellbeing, City of Guelph

Other participants who were invited to join the conversation included key players, such as, frontline service providers, provincial and professional associations, Local Health Integration Networks, non-governmental organizations, public servants, and individuals who have a vested interested in the wellbeing of communities. 

Day 1 of the discussion occurred on the HC link blog. With 116 comments, throughout the one-hour discussion period, participants provided examples of their experiences with the organizational application of the CIW framework. Frédéric Julien from the Canadian Arts Presenting Organization (CAPACOA) described the successful outcomes of applying a “CIW framework to the design of [their] survey questionnaires” as it influenced local performing arts organizations to “connect the dots between their work in the arts and larger outcomes related to health and wellbeing.”
Throughout the blog discussion, there was also an opportunity for participants to voice challenges and seek clarification from community health and wellbeing experts regarding the implementation of the CIW framework. Peggy Shulz, from Health Nexus, rose an interesting point regarding the need to consider and develop health equity indicators which can supplement and enhance the existing CIW framework. This will hopefully transcend into future dialogue. The conversation ended with participants inquiring about how to introduce the CIW within communities with a joint agreement on the appreciation of materials which can facilitate the implementation of CIW within an organizational setting. A toolkit will be posted on the Community Health and Wellbeing website at the end of the month which provides information from CIW early adopters on how they have applied the CIW framework within their organizations.

Day 2 of the online discussion consisted of a webinar, involving the aforementioned health and wellbeing experts, with the goal of delivering a more engaging and interactive platform for participants to share ideas and ask questions. Mary MacNutt, Policy and Communications Manager at the AOHC provided an overview of how community health centres across Ontario have applied the CIW framework. Examples of CIW applications include strategic planning and needs assessment, building community partnerships and as a communication tool between community members and political players. Louise Daw, Project Manager at Guelph Wellbeing provided a more specific example of their successes in refining the 8 CIW domains into 3 focus areas “food security, affordable housing and connectivity” in order to understand “how [residents] connect with others” socially and physically.

Other topics explored included what can be done to adapt the CIW for application in different settings and communities. Participants raised the issue of applying and adjusting the CIW to focus on the needs of specific communities, including Aboriginal communities across Ontario.

Overall, both discussions provided an interesting starting point for conversation regarding AOHC’s discussion paper and evidently, given the numerous comments, questions and ideas, stimulated much interest among participants.
With the publication of this paper, alongside the near release of the first CIW Ontario composite index report, it is hoped that this thought-provoking dialogue regarding the CIW’s role in enhancing community health and wellbeing continues!

A link to the webinar discussion and content is available here and a copy of the blog transcript is available on the comment section of the HC Link blog.

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