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OHPE’s Year in Review

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I Introduction

In our annual Year in Review article, we take you behind-the-scenes
of our recent website and format changes and provide you with a handy
list of all the feature articles from 2005!

Remember, you can send us your news or comments at any time. We welcome
your feedback on our feature articles, news about old colleagues and
new colleagues, and comments on our newsletter and searchable database
of health promotion information. Read our complete submission
guidelines at and write to

From all of us at the Ontario Health Promotion Email Bulletin, thanks
to our many contributors and readers for a fantastic 2005 and our best
wishes to you for 2006!

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II OHPE in 2005--Reflections on the Rebuild

A Brief history

In 1997 , the e-mail bulletin started modestly with 110 subscribers
drawn from the Ontario participants of the CLICK4HP listserv (which is
co-facilitated by OPC). OHPE has since grown to more than four
thousand subscribers and has a wealth of resources, news, job
postings and articles. In 1999, the OHPE editorial team developed their
first Internet-accessible database so visitors could search and view
the entire bulletin collection.

In 2005, we rebuilt the English-language OHPE database.  The address and much of the old OHPE design was
retained, but the technology behind the webpages is entirely new!

B Why change?  Why change now?

It was not just a cosmetic rebuild.  The 1999 OHPE database was
built using commercial software called ColdFusion that had become
increasingly problematic to maintain and the clock was counting down on
the old site. Our webhosting company was no longer supporting our
version of ColdFusion and the upgrade on which they were insisting
would have been expensive.  As well, we would then have needed to
make expensive changes to the database to accommodate the
newly-upgraded software.  Since we'd been through that process
multiple times in a handful of years -- and nobody enjoyed it -- we
decided it was opportune to consider different options. 

Happily for those of us in the non-profit world, in recent years the
Open Source software movement has become stronger as prices came down
while functionality went up.  It was an excellent opportunity to
move OHPE to a system with many more features at much lower cost.

As well, our French-language e-bulletin counterpart, Le Bloc-Notes
(produced by OPC), has several hundred subscribers, substantially
similar format and content, and was also looking to improve its online
presence.  It made sense to take advantage of the efficiencies and
cost savings inherent in working together to align the two bulletins
and create websites from which content would be available in both
official languages. 

C What we wanted from the new site

We had three primary goals:

  • Update the website to make it more accessible to a broader range of visitors.
  • Improve the integration of OHPE and Le Bloc-Notes.
  • Move away from ColdFusion software towards some of the prominent and popular Open Source options.

As well, we had some other things on our wishlist:

  • the ability to add other e-bulletin partners in the future at a reasonable cost
  • to be able to share the underlying technology with partners while
    not sharing an end website (for example, OHPE is at
    and a Le Bloc-Notes preview site is at; both
    sites use the same database in the background to store content, and
    each is free to choose the content and design for their website)
  • to access more recent technologies, such as RSS feeds
  • built-in flexibility, so if, for example, any partner decided to
    add a new section to their newsletter, we could do so without needing
    to hire a programmer

D Development phase

Our database consultants at UVMedia researched the options and
recommended a content-management product called Mambo, which has many
of the basic features we were looking for. It

  • is Open Source, so we wouldn't need to pay for upgrades;
  • runs on a very standard kind of server, so we could save money on webhosting; and
  • is popular, so many programmers were working on improving it.

UVMedia then developed a number of additional modules for us to extend
Mambo so we could have one database serving multiple websites and
incorporate our Subject Search. 

The development phase went quickly and despite a few of the hiccups
inevitable in technology projects, soon the site was up at a new
webhost and the content was transferred to the new site.  We kept
the old site up for a few weeks while we tested the new site in the
background, then when we finally tired of entering all the content
twice each week (in the old site and the new site - a very
time-consuming process!) we held our breath --really! -- and switched
over to the new site. 

Another happy outcome of moving the site to a new webhost was that our
new webhosting service package came with e-list services. 
Previously we needed to use a different service provider for the
e-bulletin but now everything is in one convenient place.  With
the new service provider, we began using HTML in the e-mail bulletin to
make it easier for people to scan quickly.  We were also able to
set up a text-only alternative list for the few people whose e-mail
providers or programs didn't like our pretty HTML.  Both the
normal and text-only lists run on Mailman software, which is common and

F What's next - short term!

We're spending a few months with the OHPE new site and e-mail list just
as they are -- fixing bugs as we find them but otherwise leaving them
alone.  This will give us a chance to decide what we like and
don't like, what works and doesn't work, and to decide which changes
would have the greatest effect for the least cost.

We'll also be doing a survey of our e-bulletin readers, so you'll also
have a chance to tell us your likes, dislikes, wishes, and ideas.

Finally, over the next few months we'll be working in the background
with our Le Bloc-Notes partner, as they begin to add their content to
the shared database for use on the new Le Bloc-Notes website. 
Because OHPE's content was already in a database that was more-or-less
compatible with the new database structure, it was possible for us to
transfer OHPE content automatically (well, mostly) from the old site to
the new.  Le Bloc-Notes was not so lucky:  as the content was
not previously in a database, it needs to be entered manually.

G What's next - longer term!

Of course, we're composing an extensive list of things we'd like to
change, improve, expand, explore, and experiment with on the OHPE
website.  We'll work on these items when we find the human and
financial resources to do so.  Right now we're using only a few of
Mambo's features, so there are many exciting new directions in which we
could move.

We're also interested in exploring additional partnerships both within
the Ontario Health Promotion Resource System (OPC and THCU are both
OHPRS members) and elsewhere in the health promotion sector.  Our
intent was to start small and allow it to grow, and in the next year or
two we'll be in a good position to think about growing.

H Conclusion

As always you can write with your thoughts and opinions about the website or the e-mail list:

  • What do you find most and least useful about the e-bulletin and the website? 
  • Are there things OHPE could have in the e-bulletin or on the website that would make it a better product for you? 

We need to hear from you to keep OHPE relevant!

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III 2005's Feature Articles

The Effectiveness of Regulating Alcohol Advertising: Policies and Public Health
443, December 16, 2005

Letter from the Editors--Influenza Resources
439, November 18, 2005

Feature Article: Grandparenting in the Twenty-First Century - The Times They Are a Changin'
434, October 14, 2005

Feature Article: Kids Have Stress Too!
431, September 23, 2005

Letter from the Editors--Hurricane Katrina Resources
429, September 9, 2005

Letter from the Editors: 6th Global Conference on Health Promotion Roundup
425, August 12, 2005

From "Fat Nation" to Healthy Active Cultures
423, July 29, 2005

Cannabis: Decriminalization, Enforcement or Health Promotion
421, July 15, 2005

Comings and Goings, Late June 2005
419, June 30, 2005

Newcomer Best Practices Review
418, June 24, 2005

French-Language Services: A Matter Of Language, Equity and Health - The Montfort Hospital Experience
416, June 10, 200

Comings and Goings, Early June 2005
415, June 3, 2005

Health Promotion in French Ontario
414, May 27, 2005

Engaging and Marketing to Youth in Canada       
412, May 13, 2005

Building Evaluation Capacity with Community Stakeholders
410, April 29, 2005

Letters to the Editor and Comings and Goings, Late April 2005
409, April 22, 2005

Health Goals: Coming Soon to a Canada Near You
408, April 15, 2005

Establishing a Link Between Health Promotion Capacity Building and Health Outcomes
406, April 1, 2005

The Self-Help Resource Centre's Empowering Stroke Prevention Project-- A Peer Support Strategy for Chronic Disease Prevention
404, March 18, 2005

OHPRS Health Promotion 101
403, March 11, 2005

Letters to the Editor and Comings and Goings, Early March 2005
402, March 04, 2005

The OPC Stroke Prevention Initiative (SPI): Connecting the Dots Between Health Promotion and Primary Care
401, February 25, 2005

Reflecting on 400 Issues of the Ontario Health Promotion Email Bulletin
400, February 18, 2005

Frameworks and skills for keeping self-help groups on track
399, February 11, 2005

Library of the Future Update
395, January 14, 2005