Our Coalition is a gathering of organizations and people with many and varied strengths who share a common goal of reducing the burden of preventable chronic disease throughout our region: the war on chronic diseases. Our founding members are: The City of Penticton, Interior Health Authority, Penticton Indian Band, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, School District 67 and Dr. Gerry Karr. We know that chronic diseases are many and their causes are complex, with roots that are deeply embedded in our fast-paced and rapidly evolving culture shaped by the digital revolution. We understand that there is no “one size fits all” solution to this problem. And we are sadly aware that a multitude of public health initiatives over the past 45 years have not significantly altered the upward trend in chronic disease prevalence. We must search for fresh ways to solve this dilemma.
While we applaud the many expert and carefully considered approaches to the challenge of chronic disease prevention and believe they are an important part of the solution, we assert that confining the focus of our strategies to “chronic disease prevention” is itself limiting our success. Rather, we believe that our scope must reach beyond prevention to emphasize the value and rewards of wellness. In other words, to shift from negative (harm avoidance) to positive goals and messaging. Therefore our outcome metrics should examine, in addition to prevalence of chronic diseases, trends in adoption of healthy lifestyles and healthy public policy that our work has nurtured.
This shift in scope, we assert, really translates into tackling not just the social determinants of health and the harmful behaviors that fuel the surge in preventable chronic diseases, but also into changing the culture that permits and promotes these conditions. For this underlying culture doesn’t just determine how we see ourselves, what makes us happy, and how we prioritize our goals and actions. Our culture also determines social policies that can alter the determinants of health. We recognize that culture change takes time and caution that measurable disease outcome changes will take not just years, but decades.
Our Coalition, therefore, rests on two pillars. First is the need to expand the scope of the war on chronic diseases beyond prevention to include the pursuit of wellness, and to change the cultural setting that impedes the achievement of wellness to one that embraces and rewards it, collectively and individually.
The second pillar is necessary to achieve the first: a collaborative network that fosters knowledge sharing, synergy and innovation among the varied groups that share our common goal of promoting wellness in order to diminish preventable chronic disease. We see our Coalition as the anchor for this network, able to provide expert resources for communication, education, knowledge sharing, business planning, project management and effective grant writing. We are a crucible.
Through these two pillars, we aspire to be an agency for long term cultural change that has the potential to generate measurable and sustained improvement in the health of our population over decades. We welcome the addition of new members who wish to join us in this journey.