By Lorna McCue, HC Link and Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC)
On July 29th, HC Link hosted the final webinar of its series of three webinars based on the report of the Healthy Kids Panel "No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy", which was released in March 2013. The panel was convened to recommend strategies for keeping more kids at healthy weights. Each of the three webinars in this series were focussed on recommendations related to each of the three main prongs of the strategy:
1. Start all kids on the path to health.
2. Change the food environment.
3. Create healthy communities.
This webinar opened with a brief summary of the panel's recommendations on co-ordinating an "all-of-society approach to create healthy communities and reduce or eliminate the broader social and health disparities that affect children's health and weight".
The Healthy Kids Panel reported that parents want help encouraging their kids to be more active and engaged in their communities. The food strategies the panel recommended, which were discussed in our July 17th webinar, will be most effective when they are integrated with broader, community-driven efforts to raise healthy kids. Creating community environments that support healthy and active children is a complex matter, and the Panel carefully considered a number of areas, such as:
- The need for social change - we live in a time-stressed culture that has completely changed eating habits and activity levels. We're coping with unprecedented technological advances and many of us worry about financial stability, feel rushed, tired, socially disconnected and are experiencing high rates of mental health problems. We need to create supportive communities that promote and protect health, and help families find balance in their lives.
- The potential of a community development approach - a co-ordinated, community-driven initiative will have a higher impact on reducing child obesity than a number of fragmented programs. For example, EPODE (Ensemble Prévenons l'Obesité des Enfants – Together Let's Prevent Childhood Obesity) developed in France in 1992 and is now in use in 15 countries and has a highly successful track record.
- The role of schools and child care settings - the panel considered school food and beverage policies, the Daily Physical Activity guidelines, play-based learning and Healthy Schools.
- The importance of role models and champions - the panel stressed the importance of positive role models and champions in a child's life.
- The potential to leverage other strategies - other strategies are working upstream to address the underlying causes of unhealthy weights, such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.
- Access to timely support and treatment services - Ontario currently has a small network of pediatric weight management programs, but there may be more children who could benefit from these services.
The Panel made the following 8 recommendations relating to creating healthy communities:
- Develop a comprehensive healthy kids social marketing program that focuses on healthy eating, active living – including active transportation – mental health and adequate sleep.
- Join EPODE International and adopt a coordinated, community-driven approach to developing healthy communities for kids.
- Make schools hubs for child health and community engagement.
- Create healthy environments for preschool children.
- Develop the knowledge and skills of key professions to support parents in raising healthy kids.
- Speed implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy
- Continue to implement the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.
- Ensure families have timely access to specialized obesity programs when needed
Four guest presenters gave us some insight into the healthy community and capacity-building initiatives that they are working on.
Drew Maginn, Division Manager, and Margaret Good, Consultant, are working on the Healthy Schools & Communities program at Ophea to help kids develop the necessary skills to make healthy choices. They aim to create school communities that promote healthy, active living by developing and supporting the delivery of quality school-based health and physical activity programs and services. Drew and Margaret outlined a number of Ophea programs, and pointed us to the Healthy Schools section of the Ophea website which provides supports such as videos, planning tools, posters and research information, plus access to their consultation services and opportunities to partner on Healthy Schools initiaitives.
Tamar Meyer, Manager of the Health Promotion Resource Centre and Provincial System Support Program at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health explained that the CAMH resource centre can Provide system support, capacity building, content expertise and access to information and research for Ontario health promotion and public health audiences, related to mental health promotion and substance misuse. She talked about the "Connecting the Dots" report on how public health units are addressing child and youth mental health (see "suggested resources" in the links below), and described other mental health and healthy weight activities currently being undertaken.
Kayla Lee is the Coordinator of F.U.E.L, at Niagara Region Public Health. F.U.E.L. stands for Females Using Energy for Life. This is an innovative program that operates in several schools, with support from the Niagara Region Health Unit. Kayla noted that only 4% of children and youth meet physical activity recommendations, and that physical inactivity is associated with many physical and psychological health risks. This after-school, female-only physical activity program engages high school girls in non-competitve activities led by certified instructors, and is inclusive of any interested female student. It is peer-led and free of charge. Teachers are recruited to lead FUEL programs, with training and promotional materials provided by the Health Unit. Kayla reported that the program was very sucessful, and also told us about some of their challenges and a few things they had learned along the way.
In the Q&A portion of the webinar, an interesting question was asked by Michael Kerr, Coordinator, Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change:
"In order to achieve the desired equitable health outcomes - how do you go about ensuring coherent and consistent data capture ( by you, your transfer or other partners ) with respect to the demographic characteristics ( ethno-racial, gender, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, first language, faith-spirituality, gender identity, age, immigration or citizenship status, etc. ) of various sub-populations, program participants and relevant diversities of the clients served - particularly with respect to historically disadvantaged or equity-seeking groups and communities - we need a consistent template or protocol for the collection or capture of these demographic characteristics across all relevant and appropriate service delivery, program areas, regulatory platforms and policy environments?"
The presenters didn't respond directly to the question of disaggregated data collection within their programs, but they did explain their efforts to ensure that their programs were culturally sensitive and appropriate, and tailored to the specific needs and interests of the particular school or students.
Subsequently, Michael sent me some links to a new multi-dimensional disaggregated data collection template tool and OHRC data collection guidelines, which he thought might be of interest to others.
The Ontario Human Rights Code (the "Code") permits the collection and analysis of data based on race and other grounds, provided that the data is collected for purposes consistent with the Code, such as to monitor discrimination, identify and remove systemic barriers, address historical disadvantage and promote substantive equality. More information can be found at:
Count me in! Collecting human rights based data - Summary (fact sheet)
Count me in! Collecting human rights based data - Full Guide
This concluded the Healthy Kids Strategy webinar series, which was very successful. We have received a lot of positive feedback about the sessions and would like to thank all those that participated. I would like to stress, however, that there is much more in the Healthy Kids Panel report than was covered in these sessions. It really is worth your while to read the whole report from cover to cover.
Presentation Slides | Recording | Suggested Resources