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A community health plans report card

Theresa Halfkenny, Cecilia Waalderbos and Susan Hunter of the SOAR Community Health Board look over the community health plan.
Theresa Halfkenny, Cecilia Waalderbos and Susan Hunter of the SOAR Community Health Board look over the community health plan. - Submitted

Community health with Colleen Dowe

Since the inception of our Community Health Plan in November 2016, the Cumberland County Community Health Boards have taken many steps toward accomplishing their goals. The plan is made up of four priorities each of equal importance and in many cases one affects the other.  Those priorities are: Increase Economic Well Being; Increase Mental Wellness and Sense of Belonging; Increase Healthy Lifestyles and Supportive Environments; and, Increase Community Engagement and Positive Relationships.

The plan is very broad and ambitious and the CHB work takes on many different forms including information sharing, providing opportunities and advocating for heathy policy.  To accomplish the goals the CHBs typically work in partnership with other community groups and organizations.  Although the three boards are all working towards the same priorities, they all have work plans that reflect the interests of their specific community and board members.  Here are some highlights of their work to date.

Increase Economic Well Being

The Springhill, Oxford and Amherst Region (SOAR) CHB has taken on several poverty reduction advocacy and awareness campaigns.  To accomplish this, they have joined forces with several organizations and community groups including Cumberland YMCA, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Empowering Beyond Barriers, various local businesses and more.  

They have been successful in encouraging over 100 people to sign the Basic Income Guarantee NS (BIGNS) petition asking the province to do a basic income feasibility study.  They also marked Oct. 17th, the international day to eradicate poverty, by participating in the “Chew on This" campaign led by Dignity For All.  They were able to collect almost 400 signatures on post cards addressed to the federal government asking for a National Poverty Reduction Strategy.

All three of the boards supported Coats for Cumberland, an annual project led by Empowering Beyond Barriers (EBB).  Southampton, Parrsboro, Advocate and Region (SPAR) and The Pugwash and Area Boards both took a leadership role and hosted “stores” in their communities. County-wide the project distributed more than 1,000 coats with specific champions in several communities and too many partners to mention.

Increase mental wellness and sense of belonging

The SPAR CHB just finished hosting a Feel Good Afternoon, their second annual wellness event.  Although the focus was on mental wellness, the event touched on all four priorities.  They partnered with Parrsboro Creative and linked to six other groups to do presentations. Topics included music, art, physical activity and nutrition. There was a closing note from Dr. David Howe on some of the signs of mental illness and when to call for help. 

All of the presenters shared information on the mental and physical health benefits of their activity and the benefits they personally gained from participating.  Throughout the afternoon all of the presenters highlighted how lucky they were to live in a community that had so much to offer its residents.  Shop local was a popular theme throughout and many of the presenters received expressions of interest in their activities.

Increase Healthy Lifestyle and supportive environments

The Pugwash and Area CHB has been actively working to encourage an increase in the uptake of fluoride treatments and they are actively advocating to have the new Pugwash area water system fluoridated. 

All three boards are very involved in advocacy for healthy policy on tobacco, smoke free spaces, alcohol and cannabis.  The intention is not to encourage abstention but rather to change the culture so that we can reduce harms particularly for children and youth. 

We link closely with the municipal physical activity leaders to keep up-to-date on existing activities and to brainstorm about ideas to encourage physical activity for all ages. 

Increase Community Engagement and Positive Relationships

Throughout the year all of the boards link with their community either through public events or by joining partners for projects. All of our meetings are open to the public and we love company!

And remember - volunteering not only builds community it also offers a sense of belonging and helps you meet new people and possibly help manage stress! All three of our community health boards are currently looking for new members.

Bill Schurman & Linda Cloney, SOAR Co-chairs

Terri Ashley & Trudy Weir, SPAR Co-chairs

Joyce Gray, Pugwash and Area Chair

For more information about our boards or to learn how you can become a member please contact: Colleen Dowe at 902-397-0376 or


Colleen Dowe is the co-ordinator of the community health boards in Cumberland County

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