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Heart Health Programming in Ontario

A. Heart Health Programming in Ontario

by Anne Lessio, Heart Health Resource Centre

This issue of the bulletin describes plans to support comprehensive heart health program planning in Ontario. Background information about the Heart Health Program is provided, followed by an introduction to a 5-step model for comprehensive programming. Then, an outline of workshops and supports available to the 36 provincial heart health sites is described.

B. Background

The Heart Health Program (HHP), funded by Ontario's Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Branch, is a five-year program with the goal of reducing the level of cardiovascular disease in the province of Ontario by promoting the public's adoption of heart healthy lifestyle choices. The HHP established a number of criteria with the most significant being that all local programming is accomplished through partnerships/coalitions. The evaluation of the heart health demonstration phase showed that community partners and volunteers are essential resources in successfully planning and implementing heart health interventions. The evaluation also showed that it was important for interventions to have sufficient financial resources. The HHP built on this knowledge by requiring communities to match the Ontario Ministry of Health funding level by a ratio of 2:1. Thus, communities started their 5-year program with a substantial community commitment.

Another unique aspect of the HHP is the emphasis on sustainability.

Communities are encouraged to address sustainability aspects in the early years of the HHP. This is supported through longer-range planning cycles. The heart health sites submitted a detailed 15-month plan as part of their application for the HHP. The heart health communities will now be responsible for developing a comprehensive 4-year heart health plan by mid-February 1999. This plan will lay the foundation for the site's subsequent annual plans and encourage the long-range thinking necessary for program sustainability. Comprehensive heart health program planning is complex and new for some of the heart health sites and is being well supported.


The Heart Health Resource Centre (HHRC) developed a practical workbook based on The Health Communication Unit's (THCU) program planning model, using numerous heart health examples.


Key Question: What have we, the heart health site, learned in the first 6 - 12 months of the HHP?

Tasks: Internal assessment, external assessment, research


Key Question: What do we, the heart health site, hope to accomplish in our community over the life of the HHP?

Tasks: reaffirm mission, vision and guiding principles; conduct gap analysis; identify audiences and channels; write outcome objectives and indicators


Key Question: What do we, the heart health site, need to do each year to achieve our long term goals?

Tasks: conduct audience analysis; identify potential programs (from numerous provincial, national and international best practices in heart health), consider adaptation, sequencing and sustainability of programs


Key Question: How do we, the heart health site, bring the plan into reality?

Tasks: form workgroups; detail tasks and timelines; pilot test, revise and update; prepare for full implementation


Key Question: How will we know if we achieve our goals?

Tasks: identify major evaluation questions

The Comprehensive Heart Health Program Planning workbook is available from the HHRC. Contact Anne Lessio at (toll-free)1-800-267-6817 or (416) 367-3313 ext 36. E-mail at


Comprehensive heart health program planning is complex. In order to help heart health communities successfully navigate through this process, the Heart Health Resource Centre and The Health Communication Unit have joined together to develop a number of supports for the sites. The first is the practical workbook and workshop that describe development of both a comprehensive 4-year and the companion 1-year program plans. Participants will develop two different comprehensive 4-year plans and a corresponding one-year plan. Supported with the workbook, each participant will have the tools to replicate the process in their communities.

In October 1998, an evaluation think-tank will be held where evaluation specialists will review the original 15-month program plan that each site submitted as part of their application to the HHP. Their findings will be summarized in a fact sheet outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the evaluation component, along with suggestions for evaluation indicators. Heart health personnel will have access to THCU's evaluation workshops in the autumn.

Finally, in January 1999, all sites will have the opportunity to attend a workshop where specialists in heart health will illustrate a process for reviewing the 4-year plan to ensure it is comprehensive in all

aspects. The criteria for admission to this workshop is a completed 4-year plan.

These workshops are further supported by the consultation services available throughout the Resource System, including the HHRC, THCU and ALCAP facilitators.

See Bulletin 59.2 for more information about resources.