Kerri Klein has been working to build healthy communities in BC for over a decade. As BCHC’s Provincial Facilitator since 2006, and Program Manager since 2001, Kerri has played a leadership role in community development projects across BC that generate innovative approaches to social change.
Kerri worked alongside our program partners with the Healthy Families BC Communities strategy at the Ministry of Health to design and implement the PlanH program, which supports local government engagement and partnerships across sectors for creating healthier communities.
We chatted about the PlanH program with Kerri just a few short weeks before she departs on maternity leave.
BCHC: PlanH emphasizes local government collaboration across with multiple sectors. Why is this important?
KK: Today, many of the issues that affect the health and well-being of communities are increasingly complex. Issues such as poverty, inequity, chronic disease, and environmental sustainability not only transcend the scope of one sector—such as local governments—but also compel us to collectively seek new solutions together. It seems that solutions to these big problems are more comprehensive and impactful if they are co-owned and co-created by multiple sectors coming together, rather than one sector acting alone.
PlanH supports local governments to engage with the leadership that exists in other sectors in the community to develop a shared understanding of the root causes of problems and create a common agenda for change. This often means there is a focus on the process of learning together, building relationships, and clarifying ways of measuring success.
BCHC: The program itself involves collaboration. How do partnerships work in the delivery of PlanH?
KK: PlanH is a partnership between the provincial Healthy Families BC initiative and BC Healthy Communities Society and involves collaboration with all the health authorities, the Union of BC Municipalities, and non-profit organizations such as the BC Healthy Living Alliance. The vision of PlanH emerged from conversations and consultations between several sectors across BC, all articulating the need for more shared learning, dialogue and engagement between the health, local government and non-profit sector. PlanH works towards this vision of shared leadership for healthier communities.
BCHC: How does our understanding of the social determinants of health affect our participation in PlanH?
KK: For nearly three decades, we have known that what determines our health is much more a result of the conditions in which we live and factors such as early care and learning, income, education, the built environment and social networks than it is about our health care system.
Today, there is a growing acknowledgement that a more ‘upstream’ approach to health is required. But, too often ‘going upstream’—addressing the social and environmental factors that affect our health—is faced with obstacles which are all too familiar: e.g. addressing root causes is complex, requires time and necessitates collaboration beyond the ‘usual suspects’.
I think what BC Healthy Communities is trying to do is acknowledge that developing ‘upstream’ solutions requires a kind of thinking and working together that is unique from ‘business as usual’.
We are trying to support and nurture spaces where sectors and stakeholders can get outside of their silos, learn to see problems from new perspectives, and collectively experiment with fresh ways of thinking and working together. I see a lot of potential for this type of collective impact!
BCHC: We’ll sure miss Kerri while she’s away next year. We wish her and her family all the best!