Ontario Programs for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Health promotion and disease prevention play a key role in Ontario's health system. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care works to develop community-based programs in co-operation with Public Health Units across Ontario and a wide range of local partners, such as health service providers, health and community organizations, schools, businesses, and volunteers. These programs are designed to address specific local needs while mobilizing broader community participation and resources in support of health promotion activities :

Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention
Heart Health
Tobacco Use Reduction
Promoting Physical Activity
Protecting Children

Back to top

Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention

The Focus Community Program

Alcohol and other substance abuse is a serious problem that takes its toll on individuals, families and society as a whole. The estimated cost to Ontario of alcohol and substance abuse is 9.2 billion per year in health care, law enforcement, and lost labour productivity. Alcohol use alone accounts for about one-half of these costs. It is estimated that 10 percent of all deaths in Ontario result, directly or indirectly, from alcohol consumption.

The Ministry has developed a five-year, $12-million Focus Community Program to prevent alcohol and other drug abuse 21 communities across Ontario that have demonstrated a commitment to addressing this issue. Children and youth are key audiences, with each project being asked to allocate at least one third of its budget to reaching young people.

The Focus Community Program builds on the success of a demonstration project to prevent alcohol and substance abuse at sites in 11 communities. An evaluation found that the demonstration project provided a promising model for preventing alcohol and other substance abuse. Based on these findings, as well as national and international research, the Ministry has developed a 5-year provincial Focus Community Program for implementation at the 11 existing sites, as well as at 10 new ones.

In all of the sites, a local agency with a mandate to prevent substance abuse will take the lead in implementing Focus. The Addiction Research Foundation, a division of the Addiction and Mental Health Services Corporation, has participated in the development of the Focus program and the selection of the sites. At the invitation of the Ministry, these agencies prepared their Focus applications in conjunction with local partners, such as injury prevention coalitions, businesses, schools, health agencies, recreation centres, police, and voluntary groups. About 220 groups in total are partners in a Focus Community Program.

Ministry funding will support program costs and staff resources. The participating communities have matched ministry funding with local in-kind resources on a 1:1 basis. As a result, the local program partners have contributed resources valued at over $2.5 million for the first year of programming.

The existing Focus sites include four in Toronto (Black Creek in the Jane and Finch area; Parkdale; Regent Park; and O'Connor). The others are located in Vanier (Ottawa); Windsor; Port Colborne/Wainfleet; North Bay; Sault Ste. Marie; Wawa; and West Bay First Nation (Manitoulin Island).

The new Focus sites are located in Fort Francis; Ignace; Kingston; Muskoka/Parry Sound; Walkerton; Red Lake/Ear Falls; Renfrew Country; Simcoe County; Smith Falls and Thunder Bay.

Action, the Alcohol, Cannabis and Tobacco Health Promotion Project for Youth, is a program to prevent the use of these substances among grade 7, 8 and 9 students. The program includes a teacher's kit , a community kit and a CD-ROM for students. A three-year grant has been provided to the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA) to assist educators and health professionals across Ontario to implement Action in their communities.

The Ontario Drug Awareness Partnership (ODAP) coordinates the annual drug awareness week campaign in Ontario. Working with groups such as the Ontario Secondary School Students' Association, Parents Against Drugs, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Partnership supports the efforts of 75 local Drug Awareness Week Committees which have planned approximately 500 different activities in communities across Ontario, many of which target youth.

The Family and Youth Information Program (FYI) at Parents Against Drugs (PAD), offers support to families concerned about their adolescent's or young adult's use of alcohol and/or drugs. FYI's goal is to develop, initiate, deliver and promote quality prevention information, educational programs and health promotion activities for children, their families and their communities.

Preventive Education Programs and Information Services at the Council on Drug Abuse (CODA) is designed to increase awareness and understanding of the effects of alcohol and other drug abuse through education, information dissemination and networking. Emphasis is placed on providing education to youth and those associated with youth including parents and teachers.

The Alcohol Policy Network (APN) of the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) supports communities to prevent alcohol abuse. The network works with public and community health professionals to ensure they acquire the skills and knowledge required for more effective alcohol prevention. The APN develops resource materials, coordinates a web site and organizes professional development workshops. In 1998-1999, materials will be distributed to over 800 people and over 500 professionals will be reached through training programs.

Back to top

Heart Health

The Heart Health Program, a $17 million, five year investment in preventing cardiovascular disease, is delivered through public health units and their local partners across the province. It is the largest program of its kind ever undertaken in North America, and makes Ontario the leading jurisdiction for heart health programming. The program's goal is to raise public awareness of the three key lifestyle factors linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. It encourages people to make the positive changes necessary to protect their health-avoiding tobacco use, eating a healthy low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and staying active throughout life.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care provides funding for the Heart Health Resource Centre at the Ontario Public Health Association. The Centre provides consultation, training and resources to Heart Health programs across Ontario. It also houses the Heart Health Network, a provincial network of health professionals working in the field of cardiovascular disease prevention.

Back to top

Tobacco Use Reduction

The Province of Ontario takes a comprehensive approach to curbing tobacco use that has served as a model for other provinces, including Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The three main elements are: prevention of tobacco use; protection from exposure to environmental smoke, particularly among children and adolescents; and support for smoking cessation.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care funds four Tobacco Strategy resource centres to support health professional and community agencies to design and implement effective anti-tobacco use programsĀ :

  • The Council for a Tobacco-Free Ontario supports 55 voluntary local tobacco-free councils, and organizes activities in Ontario for National Non-Smoking Week and World No-Tobacco Day.
  • The Canadian Council for Tobacco Control is a central source of information on tobacco and supports an internationally acclaimed website on tobacco-related issues.
  • The Program Training and Consultation Centre provides expert advice and training workshops to assist health units, local tobacco-free councils, and voluntary agencies in implementing tobacco use reduction programs.
  • The Smoking and Health Action Foundation conducts tobacco policy research and legislative analysis at the provincial, national and international levels.

The Strategy also entails aggressive enforcement of tobacco control legislation. Since 1994, more than 2,400 tickets have been issued and an additional 2,288 charges laid for offenses related to selling tobacco to minors. That's more than in all other provinces in Canada combined.

The government's overall strategy for children includes a commitment to ensure that children at risk get a better start in life. A number of programs are working to achieve this goal.

Back to top

Promoting Physical Activity

The Summeractive Campaign is a seasonal provincial initiative to increase awareness and understanding of the benefits of regular physical activity. Over a three-year period, ParticipAction Ontario will provide over 5,000 community leaders and volunteers in local organizations such as schools, boards of health and workplaces with promotional and consumer education materials and contest ideas to implement community-based physical activity programs from May to June, on an annual basis.

Active Schools is a four year initiative to increase the number of active children and youth across the province. The Ontario Physical and Health Education Association is supporting the coordinated implementation of school-based and co-curricular programs, with the cooperation of key provincial partners from education, health, recreation, academia and non-governmental sectors.

Over the past four years, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation have jointly funded the Active Living Community Action Project. Through regional training, consultation, community mobilization and communication support, the project assists over 8,500 community leaders with 500 organizations in 250 communities in implementing effective programs to increase the number active Ontarians.

Back to top

Protecting Children

The Best StartĀ : Community Action for Healthy Babies Program works to lower the number of babies born underweight, a key indicator of poor maternal and infant health. Low birth weight has been statistically linked with the development of long-term disabilities.

Two Best Start sites - one in Barrie and the other in the District of Algoma - promote the health of women and families before, during, and after pregnancy, by delivering programs in schools, workplaces, and other settings. Tobacco use prevention, healthy nutritional habits, alcohol-abuse prevention, and preventing teen pregnancy are key themes. The Best Start Resource Centre, housed at the Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse in Toronto, provides training, information, and consultation to the sites. The Best Start: Community Action for Healthy Babies Program receives annual funding of $900,000 from the province.

Better Beginnings, Better Futures serves families with young children living in high-risk neighbourhoods. The program teaches parenting skills while giving children supports to do better in school.

Healthy Babies/Healthy Children is designed to give children a better start in life. Its aim is to identify and care for families with young children at risk of physical, emotional or learning problems. This $10 million program provides home visits to newborns by public health nurses and trained home visitors.

The Preschool Speech and Language Services program has received $20 million to ensure that double the number of children with speech and language disorders will get help before they start school. The goal is to provide preschool speech and language services for 75,000 children by 2002, up from about 20,000 in 1997.

Back to top


A Provincial Food Service Program to promote healthy eating, food safety and reduce exposure to second-hand smoke is being developed by Toronto Public Health and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, with funding of $108,750 from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Planned with the Ontario Restaurant Association, the program will support volunteers and boards of health to implement effective programs in local food service establishments.

The Healthy Eating Program facilitates the effective use of an adult education resource in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, local boards of health and the Ontario Public Health Association. Its supports community leaders and volunteers to encourage the adoption of healthy eating habits, with annual funding of $50,000.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care co-funds the Community Advisor Program, an initiative of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The program is currently being carried out in 16 communities, and provides skills training to volunteers on healthy eating, food safety, food selection, preparation and storage, with Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care funding of $75,000 in 1998/99.

Food Steps, a self-help healthy eating program to reduce dietary fat intake in adults is being developed by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, in partnership with selected boards of health, the Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. It includes self-help guides for men and women and a community leader's guide to assist local groups and volunteers in implementing the program. A provincial launch of the program is planned in the Fall of 1998.

For More Information

Call ServiceOntario, Infoline at:
1-866-532-3161 (Toll-free in Ontario only)
TTY 1-800-387-5559.
In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282
Hours of operation : 8:30am - 5:00pm

If you are a member of the media, call Communications and Marketing Branch at 416-314-6197 or visit our News Room section.

  • Connect With Us
Facebook Twitter YouTube RSS