|13. British Columbia Heart Health Coalition (BCHHC)
The British Columbia Heart Health Coalition (BCHHC) was established in 1992 by the British Columbia Heart Health Demonstration Project (BCHHDP) to promote collaboration among agencies and communities in BC interested in heart health, to provide a supportive environment for BCHHDP activities, as well as to generate heart health activities. It currently has 40 members including health agencies, government departments, educators, professional associations, communities and other related coalitions. The coalition is jointly funded by the BC Ministry of Health and Health Canada. The Heart and Stroke Foundation has became the coalitionís lead agency.
The coalition began in February 1992, when key provincial heart health stakeholders were invited to attend the first Coalition meeting. A strategic plan for the BCHHC was devised, and the following action committees were formed: steering, communications, resource, networking and advocacy.
The coalitionís main activities since 1992 comprise the following: promoting networking and collaboration between agencies, organizations and individuals; encouraging sharing of information and resources; coordination of activities; increasing awareness of heart health across the province; developing advocacy and discussion papers; organizing symposia (Tobacco Free BC Symposia and Youth and Tobacco Conference); lobbying for legislation and policy change; and developing a newsletter called the LINK.
Among the more visible and highly successful activities were those related to tobacco. In response to heart health advocacy needs, the BCCHC conducted focus groups with coalition members and leading experts in the areas of nutrition, tobacco, physical education and behavior modification. Because the focus groups showed an overwhelming interest in tobacco, initiatives on tobacco control became a priority. The tobacco advocacy committee of the BCHHC prepared a comprehensive policy document ("BC Leading the Pack on Tobacco"), calling on the BC government to set the highest regulatory standards to control tobacco use and supply. Thirty public policy recommendations were put forward. In addition, the first annual "Tobacco-Free BC Conference" was held, where 200 individuals from communities across the province discussed programs and strategies for tobacco reduction. Media releases were sent to 200 newspapers and 200 radio and television stations throughout BC. Coverage was monitored in the Lower Mainland and Victoria - five newspaper articles, 2 health magazine articles and 6 radio interviews were produced. In addition, 25,000 conference reports were distributed to the BC population-at-large through the Link.
In response to the policy document, the Ministry of Health made a funding commitment of $500 000 for tobacco reduction strategies. Overall, this experience suggests that the development of advocacy working groups to produce policy papers on heart health issues is an effective strategy for the coalition to make significant changes at the policy and legislative level.
In addition to its tobacco-related activities, the BCHHC also developed advocacy Discussion Papers on nutrition ("Feed our Future - Secure our Health") and physical activity ("Setting the Pace") in 1996 and 1997, respectively.