Q: Why do we need research on healthy active living and obesity in children and youth?
Accumulating evidence shows that childhood obesity is related to health complications in childhood and morbidity and mortality in adulthood. New, robust measures of the physical activity level of Canadian children indicate that only 4% of girls and 9% of boys are meeting the new Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines and Canada consistently receives failing grades on the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card which assesses the physical activity of Canadian children and youth. Clearly, this is an important public health crisis and requires attention, resources and adaptations from all sectors. HALO
was created to provide leadership and research excellence in this regard.Q: How does your research contribute to the promotion of healthy active living in children and youth?
My research program is captured by the title “Children’s A-TEAM” – which stands for Children’s Activity Through Exchange and Measurement. My research program uses knowledge translation, mobilization and robust measurement strategies as interventions to provoke behaviour change at the individual, family, group, policy and environmental levels. I use comparative approaches (e.g. Amish compared to contemporary lifestyles), international outreach (e.g. cross-cultural comparisons like Canada vs. Kenya), communications and advocacy (e.g. partnerships with Active Healthy Kids Canada
, Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology
), and assessment and surveillance (e.g. Canadian Health Measures Survey, Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy) to drive changes in the social fabric towards healthy active living. Q: How is your research applied in real life?
We have many examples of practice-changing research in action! For instance, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines and Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines we created in partnership with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology can and should be used by pediatricians, family physicians, public health professionals, physical educators, teachers and parents alike in clinics, classrooms and homes across Canada. The development of the Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy is already changing practice right here at CHEO by making healthcare providers more aware of the fundamental importance of physical literacy to the health and wellness of both healthy children and those with a variety of physical and mental challenges. Q: What’s the global impact of your discoveries?
In addition to having impact within our own walls and community, the work of HALO and its strategic partners has an impact around the world. For example, I had the privilege of being the pediatric expert consultant for the development of the U.K. Physical Activity Guidelines, the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines and the WHO Physical Activity recommendations. Furthermore, the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card, for which HALO is the research engine, is now being copied in over 10 countries around the world as a means of provoking individual behaviour change, influencing policy-related decisions, and identifying research gaps.