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With support from a SNAP-Ed grant in FY 2012, MSU, in collaboration with MFF, modified the Eat Healthy, Your Kids are Watching program further in an effort increase the level of interaction of this intervention for improved child diet quality and reduced child obesity for parents of preschool children. The evidence is clear: physical activity and healthy eating are effective strategies to manage, and even prevent, chronic physical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Since 2008, the Minding Our Bodies project has been working to increase capacity within the community mental health sector to promote physical activity and healthy eating for people living with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other mental health conditions. There is growing evidence that diet plays a role in specific mental health problems including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. Compared with other forms of treatment, healthy eating and physical activity offer several advantages.
Since 2008, the Minding Our Bodies project has been working to improve mental and physical health for people living with serious mental illness. To build the evidence base needed by policy decision-makers and program leaders, Minding Our Bodies is working not only to contribute new, practice-based knowledge, by supporting innovative program development and evaluation, but also to shape the community-based research agenda. The Minding Our Bodies project started with an environmental scan to gather information about existing physical activity and healthy eating programs for people with mental illness, and to identify start-up challenges, perceived barriers and program success factors. Literature reviews were also conducted in the first two phases of the Minding Our Bodies project, to synthesize evidence on the effects of physical activity and diet on mental health.
The Minding Our Bodies online toolkit brings together good advice and a selection of practical resources to guide organizations through the program planning stage.
The website also houses a program directory that describes more than 50 existing physical activity and healthy eating programs designed for mental health clients.
To mark the release of the Minding Our Bodies project toolkit, staff at CMHA Ontario participated in a pedometer challenge during Mental Health Week (May 3–9, 2010). Starting in 2011, we delivered a series of full-day knowledge exchange forums for priority audiences (mental health program managers, peer support workers, fitness instructors, dietitians and other nutrition professionals), to raise awareness of Minding Our Bodies, share lessons learned from the pilot phases, present successful program models, facilitate networking and partnership building, introduce participants to the toolkit resources and grow the community of practice. Minding Our Bodies has supported the launch of 32 new programs in communities across Ontario, through a combination of seed funding, training, and online resources to support program planning and evaluation. Training for seed-funded programs was delivered during one-day face-to-face workshops during the first two pilot phases. During phase two, the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario (MDAO) developed a unique program called Boost Your Mood, designed to be co-delivered by a dietitian, a fitness instructor and a mental health peer facilitator. As Minding Our Bodies evolved, it became apparent that we should also be focusing attention on the various professionals, such as dietitians and fitness instructors, who could support mental health organizations to deliver their programs. Recognizing that the post-secondary curriculum for nutrition students contains very little information on mental health, Minding Our Bodies engaged with Jacqui Gingras, Associate Professor in the School of Nutrition at Ryerson University, to conduct a study exploring the perceptions of mental health and illness among nutrition students.
Minding Our Bodies recruited an evaluation consultant in each phase of the project to perform two functions: (a) design and implement an evaluation plan for the overall project, and (b) support the local seed-funded organizations to conduct their own internal program evaluations. The evaluation approach was designed as an evolving self-reflection process, and lessons from each phase were applied to planning for the next phase.
In phase three, greater emphasis was placed on building evaluation capacity within participating organizations. Final reports from each program were shared with the Minding Our Bodies project evaluator and the course instructor. To find out how evaluation results are being applied by the Minding Our Bodies seed-funded organizations that ran local programs, a York University graduate student is conducting a follow-up study. When all the final reports are in hand, our next action will be to reflect on lessons learned and to engage in a discussion with the evaluation community about best practices in capacity building for the mental health sector.
CMHA Ontario recently announced a new partnership with Conservation Ontario to promote their Healthy Hikes campaign.
Includes a program planning toolkit, directory of programs, literature reviews, evaluation reports, expert interviews, news and event listings, and more.


Fall 2010 issue of CMHA Ontario’s Network magazine, featuring articles on the social determinants of health, food insecurity, Aboriginal diabetes prevention and management, mental health peer support, and innovative programs for people living with mental illness who have metabolic syndrome and other chronic conditions. Produced in 2011 by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Chronic Disease Interventions Division, this monograph presents six descriptive narratives that illustrate the successful use of evaluation findings to inform programs and practices in chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Published in December 2012 by the Dietitians of Canada, the goal of this role paper is to support the work of dietitians and to guide future dietetics practice as it relates to mental health. Produced by the Ontario Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, this document presents common messages and related actions that health practitioners, organizations, and groups can take to collectively move forward in addressing chronic disease and its prevention.
The goal of the Enabling Minds project is to reduce barriers and improve access to physical activity programs and services for people living with mental illness. Resources to provide diabetes competency training for mental health peer support workers, and to increase awareness in the diabetes community of the role mental health peer support workers can play in prevention and self-management support. Eat Healthy sought to make home-based materials engaging and interactive with DVD clips of real parents in their own homes and reinforced the materials with home visits and telephone calls. Emerging research also points to the significant impact of exercise and diet on positive mental health and recovery from mental illness. Our advisory committee brings together a range of organizations that share a common interest in mental health and chronic disease prevention and management, including the Canadian Diabetes Association, Dietitians of Canada, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Ophea, Parks and Recreation Ontario, and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario. Healthy living interventions are less likely to cause adverse side-effects, in contrast to medications. For many reasons, community mental health providers are ideally positioned to provide healthy lifestyle programs.
Longer-term goals of the project include influencing a shift in health policy towards upstream action on prevention and promotion.
The listings are intended to serve as models to educate and inspire other organizations to launch their own programs. Minding Our Bodies has presented at the Ontario Public Health Association Fall Forum, the 3rd International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health, Making Gains in Mental Health and Addictions, the Dietitians of Canada annual conference, the Health and Wellbeing in Developmental Disabilities conference, the Move Your Mood workshop in Red Deer, Alberta, and the 1st International Forum on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Wroclaw, Poland. Each program is unique to the community it serves, often developed with direct input from participants. We worked with the Dietitians of Canada to deliver two full-day workshops for dietetic interns, to improve mental health literacy. A systematic review was conducted to summarize current literature on mental health literacy and education among students in health professions, and a three-hour mental health literacy workshop was delivered to students enrolled in a second-year Interpersonal Relationships course in the Nutrition and Food undergraduate program at Ryerson.
In phases one and two, the final evaluation report included in-depth case studies of each program, created by the Minding Our Bodies evaluator in collaboration with the local program leaders. Local program leaders were offered a four-week, online evaluation training program, developed by York University that combined self-study with interactive group discussions and mentorship by the instructor.
Lessons learned in phase three about our approach to evaluation capacity building have been synthesized to inform future discussion and planning. Interviews have been conducted with program leaders from all three phases of the Minding Our Bodies project, and results are now being analyzed. The goal is to reduce barriers and improve access to physical activity programs and services for people with mental health-related disabilities. Running from May through October 2013, Healthy Hikes will challenge Ontarians to spend time hiking in the province’s over 270 Conservation Areas and track their progress for a chance to win prizes.
The document also provides policy makers with an evidence-based summary of the current literature about the promotion of mental health through healthy eating and nutritional care. Ontario’s CDPM framework, launched by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in May 2007, recognizes the need to create supportive environments and strengthen community action, but the place of mental illnesses and mental health within the CDPM framework in Ontario has yet to be well-defined. The good news is that the combination of nutrients most commonly associated with good mental health and well-being is the same type of balanced diet that is recommended to reduce our risk of developing chronic physical diseases.


Physical activity and healthy eating programs align well with the recovery philosophy of community mental health services.
We want to create a culture that encourages physical activity and healthy eating as core features of mental health promotion. Proposing a similar challenge to all CMHA branches in Ontario during the month of July, we distributed over 2,000 pedometers, generously donated by ParticipACTION, the Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport and the National Quality Institute (NQI).
This direct engagement increases the chances of program success, by ensuring that it meets the expressed needs of participants.
Registration for these online sessions was open to any organization, in order to extend our reach beyond the funded programs, and presentations were later posted on the project website.
Additional one-on-one and group support was provided to all program leaders to help them plan and implement their internal program evaluations. In addition, a scoping review of the scientific literature was commissioned to see how other healthy living programs serving marginalized populations had approached evaluation and what tools were used. CMHA will focus particularly on mechanisms that can increase access to and quality of dietetic services for people with mental health conditions in the community, as well as on the need for research that evaluates the impact and outcomes of community-based healthy eating programs. Healthy Hikes is designed to teach participants about the ways our environment can boost both physical and mental health. Some psychiatric medications can lead to significant weight gain, itself a risk factor for diabetes and other health problems. They are normalizing, health-focused experiences, unlike drug treatments and other clinical interventions that are a constant reminder of one’s illness.
Many individuals with serious mental illness already have frequent contact with mental health service providers and have established relationships.
It also aligns well with mental health recovery principles that insist on client empowerment and self-determination. MDAO will continue to run the Boost Your Mood program in Toronto and offer train-the-trainer sessions as needed. To view a copy of the poster presentation summarizing the formative evaluation presented at the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior conference in August 2013 clickВ the image below. Healthy eating and physical activity programs can serve as a bridge to other services offered by community health care providers. Mental health service providers have specialized training and sensitivity to address barriers facing this vulnerable population. Resources are interspersed with lessons learned from programs funded by Minding Our Bodies, and the online toolkit is regularly updated as new resources emerge.
And group programs are especially successful at promoting social inclusion, which is strongly associated with positive mental health. And offering healthy lifestyle programs in collaboration with community partners creates an opportunity to improve service coordination, both within and outside of the mental health care sector.
Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities and wish to file either an EEO or program complaint please contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339 or (800) 845-6136 (in Spanish).For any other information dealing with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) issues, persons should either contact the USDA SNAP Hotline Number at (800) 221-5689, which is also in Spanish or call the Michigan hotline number at (855) ASK-MICH. This material was funded in whole or in part by the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by way of the State of Michigan and the Michigan Fitness Foundation. People who need help buying nutritious food for a better diet, call the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline: (855) ASK-MICH.



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