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Greater Sudbury

EarthCare Sudbury Partner Profile

Sudbury & District Health Unit

The Organization

Sudbury & District Health UnitThe Sudbury & District Health Unit (SDHU) is an accredited public health agency governed by the Sudbury & District Board of Health. Under the leadership of the medical officer of health, health unit staff deliver provincially legislated public health programs and services at the local level, working with individuals, families, the community and partner agencies to promote and protect health and prevent disease.

The Projects

When it comes to respecting the environment, the Sudbury & District Health Unit endeavours to be a role model – not only for the community – but also for the network of public health units across the province.  Although the Sudbury & District Health Unit's Environmental Health Division is mandated to address environmental issues, the whole health unit is involved in environmental responsibility. 

One Tonne Challenge

As part of the One Tonne Challenge, the SDHU created a cross-divisional 'Green Team” to minimize the amount of greenhouse gases that staff produced. The Green Team continues to be active even after the One Tonne Challenge campaign has ended. The Green Team's responsibilities now include coordinating the health unit's container gardening program whereby each division grows organic vegetables that will be donated to local community kitchens, maintaining the in-house recycling and composting programs, and organizing staff development initiatives such as 'Lunch and Learn” events with speakers who can provide staff with ideas about how to become even more enviro-friendly.

City of Greater Sudbury Food Charter

The Sudbury & District Health Unit and the City of Greater Sudbury passed the City of Greater Sudbury Food Charter in 2004. The Food Charter provides a framework for the SDHU's involvement in the work of other organizations including the Sudbury & Area Food Security Network, Eat Local Sudbury, and Justice with Dignity. The Charter specifically endorses programs that relate to population health and wellness, community development, investment in the regional food system and the development of a sustainable food system. 

Achievements and Outcomes
  • The City of Greater Sudbury Food Charter continues to influence projects carried out by the health unit. These include the Nutritious Food Basket Report, the Food Connections newsletter and the Sudbury & District Food Security Directory. 
  • The SDHU is currently working in partnership with Laurentian University to carry out research on the feasibility of a Good Food Box program - a community based food program that would support the City of Greater Sudbury Food Charter. 
  • Beyond Greater Sudbury, the municipalities of Killarney, St. Charles, and the Township of Tehkummah on Manitoulin Island have also passed the Charter.

Children's Water Festival

Each year the SDHU, along with several community partners, organizes a festival that educates young people about the importance of personal conservation practices to sustain water supplies and healthy, liveable environments for future generations. The daylong event focuses on the message that it is everyone's responsibility to safeguard and protect our water resources, and brings together educators, water specialists and representatives of industry and government to guide students in their discoveries about the importance of water. With activity centres such as Royal Flush (How does my toilet work?), Lather Up (How much water do I use in a five-minute shower?), and Dripial Pursuit (a friendly game of not so "trivial" water facts), students are challenged to consider the importance of groundwater in relation to themselves as individuals, and to society at large. The activities also reflect specific learning objectives of Ontario's Grade 3 curriculum and provide teachers with current information to supplement their lesson materials on water conservation, water science, water attitudes and water protection. Festival activities are offered in French and English to students at the Grade 3 level.  

Achievements and Outcomes

With the support of the Children's Water Education Council, Children's Water Festivals take place in communities across the province. However, the Sudbury Children's Water Festival, which SDHU launched in 2005, is the first of its kind in northern Ontario. SDHU has incorporated some new features into the Sudbury version of the festival. For example, the Sudbury Children's Water Festival has an Aboriginal Learning Centre where children learn about the sacred importance of water from an aboriginal perspective.  This is one of the most popular activity centres.        

An outreach component was added to the festival in 2006 for children across the Sudbury and Manitoulin Districts. Health unit staff transported several festival activity centres in a Water Festival trailer to rural communities and set up mini-water festivals at host schools. In 2006 Chapleau and Sudbury East schools hosted successful events and in 2007 Espanola and Manitoulin Grade 3 students were targeted.

In 2005 and 2006 over 800 students and 100 volunteers participated each year in the festival. With the addition of the travelling outreach trailer, SDHU expects even more participants in future years. 

Sun Hats for Kids partnership with VETAC

In 2007 the SDHU partnered with the Vegetation Enhancement Technical Advisory Committee (VETAC) for their second annual Sun Hats for Kids event. Since trees play an integral role in reducing ultraviolet radiation, as well as providing various other environmental benefits, interactive sessions were organized to teach children the importance of shade and regreening efforts. Each participant received an oak sapling as well as instructions on how to plant and care for the tree.

Achievements and Outcomes

The event allowed children to learn about the risks associated with exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation and how to protect themselves.  The event also increased community involvement in the ecosystem rehabilitation initiative by informing and educating the public and providing people with ways to participate.

Walk21 Roadshow - Community Walkabout

Walk21 is an international initiative that champions the development of healthy, sustainable and efficient communities where people choose to walk. As part of this initiative, communities around the world coordinated Walk21 Roadshow events to assess the needs of pedestrians and to develop strategies for meeting those needs. In May 2007 the SDHU and the City of Greater Sudbury held a Walk21 Roadshow in Greater Sudbury. The event combined opportunities for the general public to provide input into Greater Sudbury's walkability plans with a community walkabout from downtown Sudbury to Ramsey Lake that got visiting experts and local participants alike discussing opportunities for improvement and methods to promote walking in Greater Sudbury.

Achievements and Outcomes

The Greater Sudbury Walk21 Roadshow generated several innovative ideas to encourage walking in Greater Sudbury:

  • A Super Trails Master Plan to encourage residents of Greater Sudbury to make better use of the trails system
  • A program to promote walking through the promotion and distribution of pedometers
  • On-street engineering solutions such as the creation of a Paris Street link between downtown, Bell Park and the Laurentian University Campus were also considered. 

After the Walk21 Roadshow, representatives of the SDHU and the City of Greater Sudbury attended the 2007 International Walk21 Conference held in Toronto where they presented the findings and achievements of Walk21 in Greater Sudbury. 

The SDHU is now investigating a Walkable Community Strategy for Greater Sudbury that would incorporate the above suggestions from the Walk21 Roadshow, the new Ontario Public Health Standards, and components of the Active Living/Healthy Lifestyle pillar of the Healthy Communities Cabinet (see below).  

Pesticide Reduction Partnership

A collaboration of the Ministry of the Environment, the City of Greater Sudbury and the SDHU, the Pesticide Reduction Partnership Campaign strives to lessen the use of pesticides in Greater Sudbury by educating the public about natural, pesticide-free gardening and lawn-care practices.  Launched in the spring of 2007, the campaign circulates tips on seasonal topics such as how to reduce pesticide use while maintaining a healthy looking lawn. A representative from the SDHU is the chair of the Pesticide Reduction Partnership. 

Healthy Communities Cabinet    

The achievements of the SDHU in championing sustainable communities in Greater Sudbury were recognized in early 2007 when the SDHU was named the lead organization of the Healthy Lifestyle/Active Living pillar in the Healthy Communities Cabinet. The Cabinet was created to guide Sudbury's activity as a Regional Centre for Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (a designation awarded by the United Nations Institute for Advanced Studies). The Healthy Community expert panel identified three challenges under the Active Living/Healthy Lifestyle pillar that affect the citizens of Greater Sudbury: Health Status, Health and Safety, and Aging and Outdated Facilities. As the Active Living/Healthy Lifestyle lead, the SDHU will be responsible for addressing these challenges. 

Key Partners

While the City of Greater Sudbury and the Sudbury & District Health Unit collaborated on the creation of the Greater Sudbury Food Charter, the Charter is now fostering further partnerships with a growing number of food-related organizations such as the Sudbury & Area Food Security Network, Eat Local Sudbury, and Justice with Dignity. 

The Sudbury Children's Water Festival receives funding and support from the City of Greater Sudbury, the Nickel District Conservation Authority, and the Ministry of the Environment, with the Children's Water Education Council providing organizational support. The festival also involves over 20 local sponsors ranging from hardware stores to environmental agencies that donate staff time and building supplies to the project. Volunteers at the festival are mostly local high school students.     

The SDHU works with the Ministry of the Environment and the City of Greater Sudbury on the Pesticide Reduction Partnership, while the City and the SDHU are the main collaborators for Walk21 initiatives. 

Implementation of the EarthCare Sudbury Local Action Plan (LAP)

  • Public Education and Outreach
    Reaching out and involving the public in environmental activities is vital to the success of many actions specified by the Local Action Plan. The Sudbury & District Health Unit is a star contributor to EarthCare Sudbury in this regard, with public education programs dealing with themes such as walkability, reduction of pesticide use, and food security to encourage Greater Sudbury residents to alter their lifestyle habits for the benefit the environment and their personal health. Furthermore, the SDHU is one of very few EarthCare Sudbury partners that has created an environmental declaration (the Greater Sudbury Food Security Charter) to establish formal commitments to the creation of a healthier environment in Greater Sudbury.  
  • Food
    Aside from continuing to play an instrumental role in the development and implementation of the Greater Sudbury Food Charter, the SDHU is a strong supporter of local organizations that champion local food.  
  • Pesticides
    The Pesticide Reduction Partnership touches on all of the actions and objectives laid out in the Local Action Plan to reduce the non-essential use of pesticides in Greater Sudbury. 
  • Youth and the Environment
    The Children's Water Festival exposes kids to water issues in a way that is not feasible in a classroom, thereby enriching their environmental education. However, the festival also enhances the in-class learning experience by providing teachers with current information to supplement their lesson materials.


Key Contact:  Shelley Westhaver
Address:  1300 Paris St., Sudbury, ON
Phone:  705-522-9200, ext. 289