Several Wellesley staff presented or participated in the recent conference of the International Union for Health Promotion and Education in Vancouver. It was a huge conference with practitioners and experts from around the world. Among key themes were the pervasive damage of health disparities, the need for comprehensive government policies and action to address them, and that such action can make a significant difference. There were a number of interesting papers on initiatives underway in leading countries, comparative analyses of different policy directions and local actions to tackle health inequalities, the importance of clear policy objectives, targets and indicators, how to measure disparities and the effect of policies and programmes, and tools such as health impact assessments. I presented a paper outlining key components of an integrated and comprehensive policy framework to enhance health equity.
Another common theme was the importance of community engagement to effective health promotion, planning, service delivery and system change. I presented a second paper arguing that effective and responsive community engagement is essential to good health care planning and delivery, and more specifically, to grounding and guiding the kinds of policy action needed to tackle health disparities. The speaking notes outline twelve key facets of effective and equitable community engagement, especially within regional health authorities such as the Local Health Integration Networks in Ontario.