Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate that the question round is usually where more lucid information is gathered, so I'll just make a brief statement.
First of all, I'll just thank the committee for undertaking this study. I know at this time of year, when it comes to committee schedules, there is not a shortage of work to be done, so I appreciate the effort that this committee has made to ensure that what I think is an important study will be undertaken.
I'll give a bit of the background of why I thought this would be an important private member's motion to bring to the House. I gave my speech in the House, as of course you do when you're moving a private member's motion, and I'm not going to reiterate all of that. That's available, of course, for the public record.
Just from a personal standpoint, I am now the father of two young boys and I am abundantly aware of how it's becoming increasingly difficult to get children—not just my children, but the cohort of their friends and their peers—to be as physically active as perhaps those of my generation were in our youth.
I had the good fortune of being the son of a phys. ed. teacher when I was growing up, so I grew up with, I think, a keen awareness of the importance of physical activity, the importance of play and the importance of just being active as a child. At the time, you don't appreciate it and you don't necessarily even realize what's going on. In hindsight and as I looked back and as I undertook the research I did to bring this motion forward, I realized how important that was in my development as a child and in my college years, and in the development of my peers, and how fortunate I was to have that environment and that upbringing.
My father, unfortunately, passed away the year of the election, 2015, just before I was elected, so he never got to see me become a member of Parliament, but a small part of me dedicates this motion to his legacy. That's why it's important from a personal level that I'm doing this, but it's also important on a universal and a national level.
As I spoke to stakeholder groups across the country, and even in my local community—we all have great recreation and physical activity groups in our local communities—I heard the acceptance that the level of physical activity of youth is such a key determinant of future outcomes and is so important, yet everyone agreed with me that we're not doing enough.
There seems to be a consensus that more needs to be done and that this is an important undertaking and that it's an important goal to have children and youth physically active, yet we're not getting to where we should be in this area.
I then of course continued on my research, and the Participaction report card happened to come out just a few months before I introduced the private member's motion late last year, I believe. We're failing, and the metrics are right there in black and white. I don't need to go over them. I know that Participaction will also be here on this study, I think later today or tomorrow, and they can obviously speak much more eloquently about those results.
It's clear to any objective observer that we're not doing enough and we're failing our children. As the research starts to evolve, pointing to the importance of mental health in our children and what role physical activity plays in ensuring mentally healthy children as well as physical health, I think it becomes even doubly more important than it was even in our understanding 10 or 15 years ago.
Physical activity was always seen to be important to have healthy bones, healthy muscles, a healthy weight and in reducing physical impairments like diabetes and things like that, but now we're becoming more and more aware of the important role physical activity in youth has on mental health and resilience to bullying and the ability to handle stressful situations.
All this stuff, it seems to me, would be a very positive solution and a way of ensuring that our next generation of children is healthy and capable and strong and resilient, and I don't think, as a federal government—or frankly, as provincial governments or even at the municipal level, that we're doing enough to make sure that we have all around healthy children.
I think some of the solutions are right in front of us. I know I'm going to have a lot of questions—and I can expand on a lot of this—but the ultimate goal of this private member's motion was just to promote and support physical activity of young Canadians, and it's as simple as that. What recommendations—concrete, specific, precise recommendations—can this committee make to the federal government in an effort to ensure that goal is reached?
The goal is simply that every child should be physically active. It's as simple as that.
The question is simple. The answer, obviously, is more complex.
That's where I come from on this motion.
As I said, I have two young boys. We encourage them to be physically active, but they also spend more time than I would like on screens. When I was a child, that wasn't a thing. We would watch TV every now and then, but we didn't have access to content 24 hours a day on things you can hold in your hand wherever you are. I don't think we, as a society, have even begun to realize the detrimental effects of that upbringing. We need anything we can do as a federal government to ensure a healthier lifestyle, such as guidelines or whatever we can do to promote physical activity, because when they're physically active, they're not on tablets and iPads and streaming Netflix. They're doing things that presumably are more productive for them and more beneficial to their development.
There's another thing I'd like to point out. There's also a disparity that struck me between young girls and young boys. Boys are not nearly active enough, but young girls are even less so. I would imagine there are a myriad of reasons for that, but I don't think it's at all fair, first of all, to not encourage all young people to be healthy and active, and when there is that disparity between genders, it's doubly unfair. As a federal government, we need to do what we can to ensure that young girls are as active as young boys and have the same opportunities and motivation to be active.
You can go across a bunch of different subsectors and cultures—there are different numbers in all cultures throughout Canada—but I think we need to bring everybody up to a level that ensures healthy children for the future. The benefits are indisputable.
With that, I'm happy to be in your hands, Mr. Chair.
Could I just add to that?
If you look at comparisons, you'll see that Japan is very interesting. They don't build a school more than four kilometres away from where the students live who are going there. Everybody in Japan walks to school. They're walking 20 minutes a day from home, so there and back means 40 minutes a day on average, just without anything else.
There isn't that concept in Canada. I mean, I know there are geographic and weather differences between Japan and Canada. I'm not going to suggest that we should walk 10 miles in the snow to school, uphill both ways, but maybe one day a month we could have the walking school bus sort of concept, whereby the person who lives the farthest away stops and knocks on the next person's door, and then they knock on the next person's door. By the time the group of students gets to school, there are 15 or 20 all walking the three- or four-kilometre walk together. Then they've done exercise for a day and they promote the awareness. That's safe as well. I think something like that needs to be undertaken.
The other issue I found, too, is that we don't let our children play outside as much as we used to. People say it's unsafe. Perhaps it is, but I think we have to make a distinction between risky and unsafe. There's risk involved in everything, right? This is the funny thing, the ironic part of this whole thing. If you talk to people from Diabetes Canada, who are doing good work raising awareness of the prevalence of diabetes, you'll hear there's I think a one in nine or one in 10 chance of contracting diabetes as a result of a sedentary lifestyle.
The risk of getting kidnapped is less than one in 13 million, I think, in Canada, if you just look at it from a strictly odds perspective. You think you're safe; you're keeping your children inside because you think you're protecting them, when in fact you're probably doing more harm than you possibly could doing otherwise, and it's much more foreseeable harm. That's a cultural thing, and an attitudinal change is needed.
It's changed since I was in about my teenage years. I noticed it because there were a few incidences of kidnapping locally in my neighbourhood, which made people aware of it, and people just kept their children inside.
The concept now in the research, at the beginning of a study, is that some people use the term “free-range children”. We have to get back to the concept of free-range children. Tell them to go out and play and come home when the lights are on or when they need to eat dinner. That wasn't a novel concept when I was an eight-, 10- or 12-year-old. That was just my normal day. We've moved away from that in 30 years.
I appreciate that question.
I know that your colleague Mr. Davies raised it in the House, but this motion is very distinct from Common Vision in a number of ways.
The Common Vision initiative does great work, and it's fantastic. I read it in its entirety and referenced it in both of my speeches and I also asked a Library of Parliament analyst to do a little report for me on the distinctions and what's missing, and there are a number of things missing.
First of all, if you talk to stakeholders about Common Vision, most people think it's a positive step and most people agree it's great work, but some of the recommendations are not as precise, concise or concrete as they could be. It's almost more a statement of principles than it is of concrete measures, and it's much, much broader than my study.
My study focuses on promoting physical activity in young Canadians. Common Vision is about all Canadians and focuses on a number on things, including the physical benefits of it as well. There's a little bit on the mental health benefits, but more on the physical benefits and how to get not only youth but adults and older Canadians involved as well.
My motion is much more precise, in that it focuses on youth, and not just because of the physical benefits, but specifically, I think, on the mental health benefits. Bullying is on the rise in young people. Children need to be more resilient to bullying, and the evidence shows that physically active youth are more resilient to bullying. They're able to cope with bullying, and they are less likely to be bullies because they appreciate the team spirit. They've been in environments where they're not the most important person out there and where sports creates this sort of ecosystem in which you rely on others. The science behind it indicates that.
This is not to disparage, dismiss or discount Common Vision at all. In fact, I think Common Vision should inform some of the recommendations that we make today. I'll leave my copy if the analysts don't have one, but it's easily accessible. You can look at that and then at the Participaction report card that came out, almost all the same time, incidentally. Participaction was one of the groups involved with Common Vision. There's some overlap because of that, of course.
Good afternoon, everyone.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here. It's a real pleasure. I'll be giving remarks on behalf of Andrew and myself, but we'll both be available for questions afterwards.
We're pleased to be here to address the committee regarding the Public Health Agency of Canada's role in improving the level of fitness and physical activity of Canadian youth.
As you know, the vast majority of Canadians do not get enough physical activity. At least eight out of 10 adults and six out of 10 children and youth do not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. We also know that there are sharp differences by gender for the five- to 17-year-old age group: Only one in four girls meets the physical activity guidelines, compared to almost two in four among boys.
Regular physical activity in childhood contributes to physical and mental health, as was mentioned earlier. We also know that it reduces the risk and/or delays the onset of chronic diseases later in life. These include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many forms of cancer.
Physical activity also provides benefits for the social development of youth, including self-confidence, academic performance and resilience.
Now here's a little bit about our role at the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Our role at the Public Health Agency of Canada is to help all Canadians be more physically active in safe and responsible environments. To that end, we obtain surveillance data to better understand the patterns and trends related to chronic disease, including the factors that put us at risk and those that protect our health. We gather, generate and share evidence to inform and guide stakeholder policies and programs. We design, test and scale-up interventions to promote healthy living and prevent chronic disease.
We do this in collaboration with partners inside and outside the health sector, because everyone must play a role in this field.
Here is a bit more about facts, specific activities and surveillance.
The agency measures and reports regularly on the levels of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep among Canadians aged five and over. We also examine patterns of physical activity where different groups of Canadians live, learn, play and work. This information from the chronic disease surveillance system and the pan-Canadian health inequalities reporting initiative is available in an online interactive platform.
Through funding and scientific support, we also support the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology , which you'll hear from after the break, in developing the 24-hour movement guidelines for both the early years and for children and youth. These were developed in collaboration with other national and international stakeholders and researchers.
These evidence-based guidelines are used by parents, health and education professionals, clinicians, policy-makers and others to inform surveillance, and more importantly interventions, with youth across the country.
The guidelines are promoted through a fun and interactive tool called “Build Your Best Day,” which encourages young Canadians to be more physically active.
Importantly, the guidelines hear from a variety of different means—sport and other forms of daily physical activity—in this notion of building your best day.
As far as key initiatives are concerned, the Public Health Agency of Canada is working in innovative ways and with a variety of partners to increase the reach and impact of our grants and contributions investments, focusing on measurable results for Canadians who are least active.
The agency has invested $112 million and leveraged $92 million in non-governmental funding through a program entitled “promoting healthy living and preventing chronic diseases through multi-sector partnerships”. This program funds projects that create supportive social and physical environments and address common risk factors for major chronic diseases, focusing again on physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour, unhealthy eating, and tobacco use. These are commonly referred to as the common risk factors for chronic diseases.
One example is that the agency invested $5 million over five years on a physical activity project entitled “build our kids' success”, or BOKS for short. It happens before school, and it's a physical activity program for elementary school children to help boost their physical and mental health. We had more than 1,300 schools register for the program, and 58,000 students participated in all provinces and territories, so it's scaled up over time.
Our evaluation results are demonstrating that children take an average of 30% more steps on these BOKS days than on other programmatic days. Interestingly, what we heard from school administrators was a reported reduction in negative behaviours in the school, which they definitely credit to the program. That means children are better able to focus and have a readiness and eagerness to start their day, and there are other benefits for specific students who may have had problems in the classroom prior to the program.
Importantly, budget 2018 also pledged $25 million over five years to support Participaction. We'll be hearing from colleagues from Participaction shortly. That is administered through the Public Health Agency of Canada. The focus there is to increase participation in daily physical activity among Canadians through the “let's get moving” initiative. This investment aims to change social norms through long-term multisectoral partnerships and coordinated public education, as well as engagement to get Canadians to move more and sit less, more often.
Earlier, we talked about collaboration between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Since physical activity is a shared responsibility, the federal Minister of Health works closely with other federal ministers and with provincial and territorial ministers responsible for health, sport, physical activity and recreation through intergovernmental mechanisms.
“A Common Vision for Increasing Physical Activity and Reducing Sedentary Living in Canada: Let's Get Moving” was released in June 2018. Federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as a wide range of other organizations and partners, developed this collaborative policy framework. It was intended as a mobilizing vision to support all Canadians and communities to move more and sit less through the different assets that different types of partners can bring to the table to advance this important challenge.
Internationally, Canada's efforts related to physical activity are very much in line with, and contribute to, current international policy directions, because we are not the only country facing this challenge. Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and is taking action to implement it . This includes the right to play and the right to recreation and the right to the best health possible.
In May 2018, during the 71st World Health Assembly, Canada endorsed the global action plan on physical activity 2018-2030.
This past September, Canada adopted the declaration at the third United Nations general assembly high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases. This term is used interchangeably with chronic diseases, which I referred to earlier. This declaration is a blueprint to accelerate action on non-communicable diseases to prevent and control them—because in many cases we know what to do to prevent major chronic diseases—and to advance our commitments to the 2030 sustainable development goals. Physical activity is a key element in advancing these commitments.
Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to the committee for inviting us to speak about the contributions of the Public Health Agency of Canada on this important issue.
Through data, evidence, innovation and partnerships, we look forward to building on our efforts to help all Canadian youth move more and sit less where they live, learn, play and work.
Andrew and I will be pleased to answer any questions. Thank you.
I can start with this, and again Common Vision outlines this quite nicely. There are quite a few different real and/or perceived barriers to physical activity for Canadian youth. It can be time; it can be money; it can be safety; it can be social norms; it can be bullying. A number of these other ones are outlined in Common Vision.
This is why the foundation is that different sectors have a role to play. Within a family environment, again, children often follow patterns that are typical for that particular family. I'll make an analogy with the food guide: the Canada food guide says it's not just what you eat, but even how you eat together as a family. We see similar patterns: families that move together tend to move together and eat together. Some of these notions are about how family environments have shifted, in many cases, over the last number of years, and how we can have supportive family environments.
Similarly, when you think about where youth live, learn, play and work, each of those environments has a set of actors, a set of different sectors that can influence how things unfold in those particular environments, through incentives in some cases, and in other cases through disincentives, I will say, for how things play out in those different settings.
That's why Common Vision outlines what different players can bring to the table. It was not intended as a specific implementation plan, but that work is under way now. As we speak, officials are working on the bones, the concrete steps about how we move forward, together with provincial-territorial governments and other sectors, to support that initiative.
What I would say is we have some very encouraging results from some of the work we have done in attempting to show what works and trying to scale that up.
I'll give another example, which is Trottibus, which was mentioned in the early remarks. We mounted a challenge a number of years ago that asked Canadians what they thought would work to increase physical activity for children and youth in Canada. The winning-prize dollar recipient, if you will, was Trottibus.
Trottibus is a walk-to-school program. It was an adaptation of what's been used in some other countries. It didn't have the features of the Japan model noted earlier, about regulating distance to school. Within a Canadian context, in Quebec winters, sometimes communities had new arrivals to Canada. In other cases there were linguistic barriers for some of those families and children. There were really interesting results in increasing physical activity levels for those children, but importantly, there were also other benefits in terms of fresh-air time, how to dress in the winter cold, how to practise sidewalk safety. Also, those communities, in some cases, then influenced the design of the areas around their schools so that they were safer—changing sidewalk access and arranging for less car traffic outside of the school so that the air quality outside the school was better.
We've seen some really interesting results. That was time-limited funding, but the results are quite promising, I would say, for potential applicability to other parts of the country.
Another example I'll use is APPLE Schools. In this particular one, it isn't a school-based setting. For many of us from our era, once we got to school, we stood in line and waited for class to start. If we'd been sitting on a bus or in a car all morning, to stand there for another 10 minutes to wait for a class to start is probably not the best start to the day. They've tried to change the social norms in the school setting, to say, “Here's the lineup, but what are you going to do on your spot?” You're actually lined up, but you're moving as you get ready to enter that school. It's really thinking about, within those different settings and the actors around, what can be done.
Perhaps I'll stop there. I have other examples I'd be pleased to raise if you'd like.
Thank you for inviting the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology to address this important issue. We applaud the committee for undertaking this study and MP Kyle Peterson for spearheading this initiative.
Our organization is the resource for translating advances in exercise science research into the promotion of fitness, performance and health outcomes. Our 6,000 members include academic researchers focused on the scientific study of exercise physiology, biochemistry and more, as well as highly qualified professionals working in rehabilitation, work physiology and high-performance sport.
CSEP, together with stakeholders that include CHEO, Participaction and the Public Health Agency of Canada, launched the world’s first 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth aged five to 17 years. Released in 2016, these evidence-based guidelines were the first to address the whole day, breaking it into four integrated movement behaviours: sweat, step, sleep and sit. They have been widely adopted by key partners in the sector, including the World Health Organization. More information about these guidelines is available in our brief.
Building upon this work, CSEP is currently spearheading an update to two additional guidelines focused on adults aged 18 to 64 and older adults aged 65-plus.
No one in this room needs to be convinced that fitness and physical activity are the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle. More and more, we are seeing what used to be everyday natural fitness opportunities fade away. Children are driven to school, new subdivisions have limited yards and often no sidewalks, and we are even seeing municipalities banning street hockey. This, coupled with screens being more and more readily available, is a dangerous recipe for the health of all Canadians.
Research has shown that significant health implications can be linked to childhood inactivity, including chronic diseases, metabolic disorders and more. Perhaps more alarmingly, obesity rates among children and youth in Canada have nearly tripled in the last 30 years. Approximately one-third of six-year-olds to 17-year-olds are considered overweight or obese.
Last year the federal government, together with the provinces and territories, released the Common Vision report, a national policy on physical activity. CSEP and other stakeholders were encouraged by this event. The report set forth common goals and identified strategic imperatives.
However, if we are to begin changing behaviours in a positive way and increasing the level of fitness and physical activity for all Canadians, we believe that concrete, long-term implementation plans are needed to achieve the goals set forth in the report. We believe that the commitment to sustained funding for the wider adoption and promotion of physical activity guidelines—including the Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines—will give more Canadians the tools they need to make healthy choices and lead to improved overall health.
Research has shown that there are more benefits to increased physical activity and fitness than just the obvious ones, including economic and social and mental health benefits.
CSEP believes that the federal government has a role to play to bring stakeholders together to promote the use of the healthy living guidelines in their respective regions. Encouraging collaboration and coordination among stakeholders to promote the use of these guidelines will benefit Canadians across the country.
Like stakeholders in other sectors, CSEP was encouraged by the federal government’s commitment to creating and advocating evidence- and science-based policies. In that regard, we would also call on the federal government to support the further development of evidence-based guidelines and increased support for population health measurement tools.
Finally, we believe that the federal government has a responsibility to demonstrate leadership to normalize physical activity in the lives of all Canadians—children, youth, adults and older adults.
The Common Vision report notes that “physical activity has largely been designed out of our lives.” What was once a common part of daily life—physical activity—is now something that Canadians believe they can only undertake during leisure time, which can be hard to come by in our busy lives.
We believe that with federal support and engaging traditional and non-traditional sectors, we can create a fundamental societal change that will have a profound impact on generations to come.
In summary, in order to bring the goals outlined in the Common Vision report to life, CSEP has three central recommendations.
The first is to commit to sustained funding for the wider adoption and promotion of the 24-hour movement guidelines.
The second is continued support for the development of evidence-based guidelines and population health measurement tools.
The third is for the government to take steps to normalize healthy physical activity in the daily lives of all Canadians.
In Canada, inactivity and obesity have become epidemic. It is clear that a new approach is needed to improve the overall health of Canadians.
We know that healthy children mean healthy adults and older adults. In that spirit, we look forward to working with the federal government and other partners to bring the goals outlined in the Common Vision report to life and to meet these challenges head on.
Thank you very much for inviting CSEP to participate in this study.
As June 1 is National Health and Fitness Day, we encourage all MPs and all Canadians to get active and find more ways to incorporate fitness and physical activity in their lives.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee. Thank you for the invitation to speak to you about the importance of supporting increased physical activity participation among Canadian children and youth.
As I hear all the presenters, I am struck by the consistency among their presentations and the points I'm going to make, so it may seem repetitive, but I think it's important that these issues be talked about more than once. It's also quite striking for me that many of the solutions we're proposing are very consistent, and we have not compared our notes prior to today. I think there's a lot of consensus among physical activity-related stakeholders with regard to what needs to be done.
As Canada's recognized physical activity brand, Participaction, a national not-for-profit organization, strives to help all Canadians to sit less and move more through innovative engagement initiatives such as our upcoming Canada-wide Community Better Challenge, which is being launched on May 31 as part of National Health and Fitness Day. I hope you all get involved with your communities, and through thought leadership. We are grateful for the federal government's support in these efforts, most recently through budget 2018's investment of $25 million over five years.
I do want to clarify that this funding is targeted for all ages and not just for children and youth.
Since 1971, Participaction has spoken out and made people aware of how our modern lives are leading to a physical inactivity crisis. As we move forward, however, our focus is on actually helping Canadians change their behaviour through a movement for more movement. By working with our various partners, such as CSEP and other stakeholders, we have tasked ourselves with making physical activity a vital part of everyday life.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the specific initiatives that Participaction is undertaking, but I certainly can do that as part of the questions and answers afterwards.
The evidence is very clear: Physical activity is essential to living a long, healthy and productive life. Unfortunately, 80% of Canadian adults fall short of meeting the national physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. Physical activity has been socially engineered out of our day-to-day lives, resulting in a social climate that permits and even encourages more sedentary living.
Children and youth are not immune to these downward trends. Only about one-third of Canadian children under 18 are engaging in enough physical activity to reap reported health benefits.
More specifically, this equates to 62% of three- to four-year-olds achieving 180 minutes of daily physical activity per day, 60 minutes of which should be energetic play. As they enter school, just 35% of five- to 17-year-olds are getting the 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day that they need.
Worse still, as you've heard, girls are notoriously less active than their male counterparts, placing this group at an even greater disadvantage. These trends become even more alarming, as research shows that inactive children become inactive adults.
In addition to the low levels of physical activity, sedentary behaviours are at an all-time high. Close to 76% of three- to four-year-olds and 51% of five- to 17-year-olds are currently surpassing national screen use recommendations of one and two hours per day, respectively.
As is the case with physical activity, girls reportedly engage in higher proportions of sedentary behaviours compared to boys.
As levels of physical activity tend to decrease with age, and sedentary behaviours increase, intervention is required early to ensure that children are establishing strong physical activity and screen-use habits at a young age to ensure healthy growth and development across their lifespan.
The benefits of physical activity are numerous. From a physiological perspective, regular participation in physical activity is associated with many positive health benefits, such as decreased risk for type 2 diabetes, improved weight management and musculoskeletal health, improved functioning of the brain, and decreased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Children and youth who are physically active demonstrate improved thinking and learning skills. Specifically, active kids problem-solve better. They think more clearly, retain and recall information more easily, and score better academically, particularly in mathematics, reading, language and science.
Physically active children and youth also have an easier time developing and maintaining peer relationships.
Regular participation in physical activity is associated with decreased symptoms of anxiety among children and youth. In terms of depression, engaging in physical activity, particularly at higher intensities, has reportedly not only improved symptoms of depression but also been shown to prevent the onset of such symptoms. Active kids also demonstrate increased self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem, and report higher resiliency to stressful situations.
Little evidence exists on the direct economic burden of physical inactivity among children and youth in Canada. However, adult data does exist. The Conference Board of Canada states that getting just 10% of Canadian adults to sit less and move more would increase workplace productivity and decrease absenteeism, injecting $7.5 billion into the economy. Additionally, it would reduce health care spending on chronic disease by $2.6 billion.
Addressing the physical inactivity crisis is complex and thus requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted solution. I've heard a lot of the questions and answers, and you are very focused on what programs would work, but I would suggest to you that it has to go beyond singular programs. From a government perspective, collaboration and alignment should be enhanced across federal departments and between federal and provincial/territorial levels to develop, support and sustain physical activity efforts, including research, program implementation and evaluation. Governments at all levels should intentionally address people with the greatest need by targeting policies to eliminate disparities in participation levels.
If we look to past successes, we see that the smoking cessation effort in Canada is one of the greatest wins from a public health perspective. Smoking was once regarded as a socially accepted behaviour. However, as evidence of its toxicity emerged, many key institutions—not just the health care system, but the education systems, business systems, community and religious institutes, and all levels of government—joined forces with a coordinated and aligned vision of decreasing the prevalence of smoking among Canadians.
Despite many noted parallels, few learnings have been applied from this social health issue to the physical inactivity social health issue. Regardless of the strong evidence to support the detrimental outcomes of physical inactivity, not only to the health of Canadians but to productivity and the health care system as well, little progress has been made in terms of shifting the needle toward a more active society.
Ironically, though, Canada remains a leader in the field of physical activity and sedentary behaviour research, as well as exercise science. Specific examples include the Participaction report card on physical activity for children and youth, which has now been replicated by 48 countries, as well as the 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth and the early years developed by CSEP, which has been recently endorsed by the World Health Organization.
Despite this recognized leadership of Canadian researchers and organizations on a global scale, there continues to be a significant disconnect between our international recognition and progress here in our own country.
In June 2018, you heard many times from the other presenters that after several years of development, the federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for sport, physical activity and recreation endorsed Canada's first singular policy focused on physical activity, “A Common Vision for Increasing Physical Activity and Reducing Sedentary Living in Canada: Let's Get Moving”.
This policy framework must now be supported by a comprehensive, coordinated and appropriately resourced implementation plan. We need to ensure that physical activity is embedded into our cultural and social norms and that it receives the priority, attention and level of investment commensurate with the smoking cessation movement.
Many recommendations have been highlighted in the literature by top national and international researchers pertaining to supporting increased physical activity participation among children and youth.
Overall, efforts to promote physical activity in Canadian children should be started as early as possible, given that evidence suggests that physical activity patterns in early childhood continue into late childhood and adolescence.
When developing strategies aimed at increasing physical activity, we must all focus on reducing inequalities by targeting high-risk segments of the population, such as teenage girls, racial and ethnic minorities, and low-income families.
There is a strong positive association between outdoor time and physical activity. We need to send our kids outside and ensure that they have adequate outdoor active play opportunities in a variety of settings, such as the home, at school and at child care facilities. We must embed nature in everyday places used by children, such as schools, backyards, parks, playgrounds and city streets, thus creating natural outdoor play spaces that promote physical activity.
Canada needs to create a culture of active transportation. This, however, may require strategies to alleviate parentally perceived safety concerns by informing them that the risks are very, very low. Physical education must be prioritized and treated as an important core subject area like others, such as science, math and reading. School curriculums should be promoting it to children and youth as a fun, inclusive and welcoming school subject. We must enhance capacity and training among educators to be able to provide opportunities for children and youth to develop physical literacy and to foster positive behaviours regarding physical activity and sedentary time outside of school hours.
We must also provide better support to programs and opportunities geared towards the entire family being physically active together in their communities. Finding time for parents to participate with their children of all ages and to be active role models will support a culture of physical activity in the home.
Lastly, communities should dedicate part of their capital plan to recreation facility revitalization.
Leadership development, training and community capacity-building should also be provided for those living in rural and remote communities, new Canadians and marginalized populations.
In closing, it is clear that the physical activity problem is a socially ingrained issue; consequently, it will not be solved quickly. However, progress is possible and critical. Our health care system is not equipped to handle the increased impacts of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour.
I urge this committee to consider two things. The first is to strongly endorse the development and resourcing of a federal-provincial-territorial coordinated implementation plan for Common Vision. It is time to move from common vision to common action.
I also encourage this committee to consider endorsing the establishment of a parliamentary secretary for physical activity to prioritize and champion the physical activity agenda within government and to ensure that the support, alignment and coordination required across all levels of government and non-governmental organizations is facilitated.
The Canada Fitness Award program actually wasn't that successful. It actually turned more kids away from physical activity than it turned on. It was very performance-based.
We are looking at other programs.
With respect to Hal and Joanne, I think the media landscape has changed and our society has changed. We're not convinced that's the right format as we go forward.
However, with the $25 million over five years, we have implemented three key initiatives. One is a new campaign called “everything gets better when you get active”. The notion is that Canadians need to understand that physical activity is something that will benefit them now, not 20 years from now. By being physically active, you can think better, you can focus better, you can be a better parent and you can have better relationships. We're trying to ingrain this notion of the immediate benefits of being physically active. That's our campaign and our strategy over the next five years: that everything does get better when you get active.
The second is something we're launching on May 31. You should be getting in your inboxes this week some information about the “community better challenge”. We're challenging every community across Canada to get their residents to be physically active, to track their physical activity over a two-week period and to try to identify the most active community in the country. We will then provide $150,000 to that community to support physical activity there.
Again, a challenge in itself is not going to change behaviours, but it does create awareness and it mobilizes community organizations to work together and to value physical activity and building community.
You might think the third is a bit odd: We've actually created a digital app. We've talked a lot about technology and the fact that technology contributes to being sedentary. We understand that, but we also understand that technology is not going to go away. With this in mind, we created a digital app that gives Canadians the targeted support and content to help them become more physically active. It customizes the content and the actual information that we provide to Canadians depending on their age, their location and their particular barriers to being physically active.
If everyone here had the app, you would all have a different experience with it. We just launched the app in February and we have over 50,000 people utilizing it.
The challenge is being launched on May 31. We already have about a thousand communities committed to participating.