Award brings attention to public health in the Highlands
By Darren Lum
Published Nov. 21, 2017
Local health promoter Sue Shikaze was honoured to be this year’s recipient of Ontario Public Health Association’s Award of Excellence.
“Any time someone recognizes you for something it’s a really great surprise and honour,” she said.
Shikaze accepted the award at the OPHA’s annual Fall Forum on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at the Chestnut Conference Centre in Toronto. She was notified by phone by the executive director prior to the ceremony.
Shikaze has been working for the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit in Haliburton and involved with public health since 2005.
OPHA is a member-based, non-profit organization whose mission is to provide leadership on issues affecting the public’s health and to strengthen the impact of people who are active in public and community health throughout Ontario, according to materials provided by Shikaze.
She said this recognition is an opportunity to shine an important spotlight on the achievements and efforts of public health, which can be difficult to see, since benefits are achieved in the long term.
Locally, Shikaze is most proud of achievements in active transportation, which can be seen with the Share the Road campaign. Share the Road was a partnership-based effort that included the local health unit, the Communities In Action (CIA) committee, Haliburton County and the four municipalities of the county and the Ontario Provincial Police.
It’s also satisfying for Shikaze to see healthy living and active transportation policies implemented in the official plans for the municipalities.
“Prior to 2010 those really didn’t exist,” she said. “When you get those policies in place that is a starting point for seeing changes implemented on the ground.”
This isn’t Shikaze’s first award.
She has accepted awards from Communities In Action and was named an “enviro-hero” by the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust. However, this is her first award from a provincial public health organization.
“It’s been a really good learning experience for me and really good professional development to be able to network with other public health colleagues who are doing great work in other places in Ontario. It enriches the work I do locally as well,” she said.
Getting to learn about how other health units do things broadens her perspective and helps her apply that knowledge here.
“The other thing that’s really good about working at a provincial level on initiatives with people is we know in public health that policy is what guides action and decision, so locally we work on advocating for healthy policies that will impact health. Provincially it’s important to do that too because there is a trickle-down effect,” she said.
She is grateful to have been nominated by her peers from across the province for her body of work, which includes provincial efforts. She has been a member of OPHA’s Built Environment Work Group, including being its co-chair for close to four years.
“That gave me the opportunity to have a leadership role with other public health colleagues working on provincial level initiatives. It was mostly people from that group who put together my nomination,” she said.
This nomination group included last year’s award recipient Kevin Haley, an environmental health specialist with York Region’s community and health services department. Haley is currently the co-chair of OPHA’s Health and the Built Environment Workgroup.
Coincidentally, Shikaze was a part of a group that helped nominate Haley for his award.
“I have a lot of respect for Kevin. I’ve learned a lot from him. We’re sort of [part of] the mutual admiration society,” she said, smiling.
From her acceptance speech in Toronto, she recalls saying, “If you want to look good, work with good people because when you work with good people great things happen.”