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How to find high quality Canadian health promotion resources through the Canadian Health Network Web site


The purpose of this bulletin is to provide a general overview of the Canadian Health Network (CHN) Web site. I will focus on describing the value of the Web site for locating high quality Canadian health promotion resources.

I recently led a session at the Health Promotion Summer School on bibliographic searching for health promotion literature. This session was based on my experiences as a librarian providing Internet and bibliographic searching services to numerous health promotion organizations. I encouraged people to search MEDLINE, HealthPromis and other bibliographic databases and also suggested searching the CHN Web site. MEDLINE and HealthPromis are excellent resources for locating articles that have been published in peer-reviewed journals, but they do not provide access to the wealth of information produced by Canadian non-profit organizations - and these resources are often the most relevant. More and more organizations are sharing resources through their Web sites. The CHN site can provide you with direct access to these resources in a much more precise and effective manner than general Internet search engines can.

For more information on searching MEDLINE and other bibliographic databases see OHPE Bulletin #105.1 Searching for Health Promotion Literature.

Please note that the CHN Web site provides access to health promotion resources in both French and English. The links and examples I have provided are relevant to English content however most of the tips are also relevant to the French side of the site at


Many of you will have already heard of the Canadian Health Network or your organization may already be a partner. The Canadian Health Network (CHN) ( ) is a federal initiative, funded by Health Canada. It includes over 550 Canadian non-profit organizations, government, community-based organizations, universities, and libraries. To view a complete list of CHN partner organizations see

The mandate of CHN is to provide Canadians with "Health information you can trust" by providing access to resources produced by Canadian organizations that have been selected by CHN and conform to CHN's criteria for quality and relevance. Currently this mandate is being achieved through the CHN Web site, however other modes of access are envisioned for the future. The intended audience for CHN is the Canadian public, health care professionals and others interested in health promotion. The scope of CHN's information activities is health promotion and disease prevention.


The CHN Web site features original content in both official languages and a searchable database which provides access to resources that reside on partner Web sites. The Web site includes 26 Health Centres which can be viewed on the left bar of the English homepage ( ). Each of the Health Centres provide users with a set of "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQs) which have been specially prepared for CHN by expert partner organizations. The "Essentials" feature on the Centres pages point the user to resources or organizations that are extremely important to the topic, for example, on the Children's page, the Guide to Federal Programs and Services for Children and Youth ( ) A number of other features available on the Health Centres highlight resources of particular interest.

The database that runs behind the CHN Web site allows site users to search and retrieve records that have been expertly indexed. Currently there are over 6,000 records in the CHN database. Each record represents and describes a resource that resides on a CHN partner Web site. As noted above, before each record is created the resource is checked to ensure it meets quality criteria. For more information on CHN's Approach to Quality Assurance please see or What to look for in a health promoting Web site

As an example of how the CHN database can be used, I recently did a search from the Cancer Centre for Health Promotion Tools and retrieved 12 records. I then read the abstracts provided in the records and clicked on the titles of the resources I was interested in. After clicking on a title I left the CHN site and viewed the resource on the Web site of the organization that had produced the resource.

Below is an example of what a CHN record looks like, with labels:

TITLE: Living with sunshine

ABSTRACT: Presents a teaching resource on sun protection for grades one through three. Lessons cover what skin is and why it needs protecting; the positive and negative effects of sun on skin; and how to protect the skin with shirts, hats, and sunscreen. Includes background information for the teacher.

ORGANIZATION THE RESOURCE IS FROM: Source: Canadian Cancer Society (CCS)

Having the abstract allows users to quickly judge if the resource is of interest to them.

The Guided Search feature on each Health Centre page is a good way to start your search of the CHN database, as long as your search falls within the topic or demographic group category. For example, you could browse for health promotion resources from the Healthy Eating Health Centre.

At the Guided Search page (get there by visiting one of the Health Centres and clicking on "Guided Search") you can choose to browse all the records that have been indexed with the topic or group of the Centre (time-consuming but sometimes very helpful in giving you a broad overview of what is available) You can also choose to narrow your search by selecting from the left bar Group/Topic, Resource Type or Province/Territory. For tips on using Guided Search see

Health promotion professionals will often want to narrow their Guided Search results by using the Resource Type category. Selecting Health Promotion Tools (left side bar from the Guided Search page) will limit your results to resources that have been indexed as supporting the work of health promotion. These will often be resources written specifically for professionals who are working on health promotion planning, policy, etc. Selecting Organizations will retrieve a set of records that describe CHN partner organizations within that topic area. Finally, Policy and Research will retrieve policy papers and analysis.

For example, from the Sexuality/Reproductive Health Centre I limited my search to Health Promotion Tools and retrieved 45 resources, including these two below:

Folic acid health communication campaign

Details the rationale, activities, resource needs and recommendations for an Algoma Best Start social marketing campaign designed to promote folic acid supplementation among women of childbearing age. Includes sample public service announcements, a newspaper quiz and articles, and a poster.

Source: Best Start

HIV prevention and sex trade workers

Lists articles that discuss programs to prevent HIV/AIDS among prostitutes. Includes abstracts.

Source: Canadian HIV/AIDS Clearinghouse From: Bibliographies


Another way to search the CHN site is to use the list of subject headings that have been assigned to records. Searching the site in this way allows you to develop a more precise search that is not limited to the topics of the Health Centres. The A-Z Subject list is available on the site at There are also search tips at

The terms below are a set of subject headings I have identified as of particular interested to those working in health promotion. The number after the term is the number of records currently in the English database which will be retrieved if you search the A-Z index by this term.

Community development 30

Community health 57

Health care restructuring 22

Health education 57

Health status 33

Media literacy 16

Partnerships 21

Policy making 31

Preventive medicine 5

Program evaluation 34

Program planning 31

Quality of life 26

Risk behaviours 12

School health education 17

Social marketing 41

Workplace health promotion 14

If these terms interest you, select them from the A-Z Subject list and view the records.


Two Health Centres are of particular interest to those working in health promotion. The Health Promotion Health Centre provides a starting point to find strategies, approaches, and activities that help people to lead healthier lives and create healthier communities

Through this centre you can view the Health Promotion FAQs, prepared by The Centre for Health Promotion, University of Toronto

1. What is health promotion?

2. What is health?

3. Is health promotion the same as population health?

4. What are the key milestones in the development of health promotion?

5. Who is involved in health promotion?

6. What are the key values in health promotion?

7. What are the key action areas in health promotion?

8. What are some of the key skill sets involved in health promotion?

9. What are the broad determinants of health?

10. Where does health promotion happen?

Another Health Centre of particular interest is the Determinants of Health - Health Centre This Centre provides information on income level, housing, education, relationships with friends and family, and other determinants of health. There are currently 171 Determinants of Health resources in the CHN database! This Centre also has a set of FAQs that were prepared by the Canadian Council on Social Development at

1. What makes people healthy?

2. Why do people in some countries live longer than they do in others?

3. Are poor people less likely to be healthy than rich people?

4. How is working related to health?

5. How do relationships with others affect people's health?

6. Can experiences in early childhood affect a person's health during adulthood?

7. How does education affect health?

8. What can be done to influence the determinants of health?

9. What affects health more-germs and viruses, or the environment?

10. Where can I learn more about the determinants of health?


The CHN Web site is a useful tool for those interested in health promotion who would like to strengthen their knowledge and programming by accessing information produced by Canadian organizations. It is also a useful tool to find out what others across the country in Health Promotion are doing. I encourage you to browse the site and use the database to find resources. If you have any questions please feel free to email me at