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Introduction to upstream

This one-minute film was created as an introduction to Upstream, an organization that works to “create a healthy society through evidence-based, people-centred ideas.” The animated video introduces the concept of upstream thinking through the example of saving drowning children in a river. Rather than putting all our effort into pulling children out of the water as they come downstream, we should ask “who keeps chucking these kids in the river?” and head upstream to find out. Introduction to Upstream outlines the various ways we are currently suffering from downstream thinking and offers that thinking upstream can lead to improved health policies and general health. The film asks “what better goal could Canada have than creating the conditions for all people to enjoy true health and experience physical, mental, and social well-being?” This statement proposes that healthy equity is the best way to measure our success and upstream thinking is the best way to achieve that success.

Use this resource to

  • initiate discussion about upstream thinking and how to address the social determinants of health
  • illustrate how current approaches to health and well-being can be considered reactive rather than proactive or preventative.


Upstream: Institute for a Healthy Society. (2013). Introduction to Upstream. Retrieved from

Tags: Community engagement, Healthy public policy, Key concepts, Video

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