Sept 2018 BOH - Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour-Program Service Information Report (BH.01.SEP0518.C16)

To: Board of Health
Meeting date: September 5, 2018
Prepared by: Sonja Vukovic, Health Promotion Specialist, Healthy Communities and Public Policy; Brianne Foulon, Health Promotion Specialist, Healthy Communities and Public Policy; Amy Estill, Interim Manager, Healthy Communities and Public Policy
Report no.: BH.01.SEP0518.C16
Approved by: Rita Isley, Director, Community Health and Wellness
Submitted by: Dr. Nicola J. Mercer, MD, MBA, MPH, FRCPC, Medical Officer of Health and CEO

Key Points

  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health’s (WDGPH) efforts to fulfill the requirements of the Ontario Public Health Standards for physical activity and sedentary behaviour include work promoting physical literacy, reducing screen time, and improving access to recreation.
  • WDGPH works on multiple health promotion and policy initiatives in collaboration with various community partners across Wellington County, Dufferin County and the City of Guelph. 

Strategic Directions & Goals

Health Equity - We will provide programs and services that integrate equity principles to reduce or eliminate health differences between population groups.

Building Healthy Communities - We will work with communities to support the health and well-being of everyone.

Operational Plan Objectives

Operational plan objectives for physical activity include:

  • To mobilize community partners to address identified gaps and barriers for recreation programs in Dufferin County.
  • To increase knowledge and skills among children, youth, parents and teachers about how to balance screen time with physical activity.
  • To increase the capacity of teachers to teach physical literacy.
  • To increase knowledge and skills among parents about physical literacy and resources to use with their children.
  • To implement public education, awareness and capacity building opportunities, and advocate for policy and infrastructure changes, that encourage daily active school travel via the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Active and Safe Routes to School committee.

Summary of OPHS Program Requirements

OPHS Program: Chronic Disease Prevention


  • To reduce the burden of preventable chronic diseases of public health importance.
  • Public health practice responds effectively to current and evolving conditions, and contributes to the public’s health and well-being.
  • To enable all children to attain and sustain optimal health and developmental potential.


  • Health Promotion and Policy Development
  • Disease Prevention
  • Program Evaluation


  • Chronic Disease Prevention and Well-Being requirements 1, 2a
  • School Health requirements 3a, 4i

Accountability Indicators:

  • N/A

Performance variance or discrepancy identified:

  • N/A


WDGPH’s work in physical activity and sedentary behavior encompasses a variety of topics that span a number of target audiences. In the past year, the program has focused on building physical literacy capacity in schools, informing the community about the importance of reducing sedentary screen time, addressing inequities in access to recreation, and promoting ways to increase physical activity among families.

Physical Literacy

In collaboration with Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) and Wellington Catholic District School Board (WCDSB), WDGPH hosted a half-day professional development workshop for elementary school teachers. The workshop consisted of two parts that aimed at increasing teachers’ capacity to foster physical literacy and mindfulness with their students.1 Moving EDGEucation and Experience Groove led the workshop sessions.

Overall, the workshops were a positive experience for the elementary school teachers. Through pre/post surveys, teachers reported improvements in their capacity to foster physical literacy and mindfulness in their classrooms.1

Balanced Technology Management (reducing screen time and sedentary behaviour)

Physical activity in childhood is essential for building healthy hearts and brains, maintaining healthy body weights, and building strong bones and muscles.2 When children engage in sedentary activities, such as recreational screen-time, they are not spending time engaging in physical activity and learning opportunities to build healthy bodies and brains. Excessive screen time use among children in the early years is associated with language development delays and a decrease in parent-child interactions and play.3 Studies have also reported an association between television watching in childhood and obesity risk in throughout the lifecourse.4 A balanced approach to movement that encourages high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary behavior, and sufficient sleep each day is recommended for optimal health.2

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for time spent in four different movement categories throughout the day: sweating, stepping, sleeping, and sitting (see Figure 1).2 According to the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card, 76% of 3 to 4 year olds, and 51% of 5 to 17 year olds in Canada exceed their screen time guidelines from the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines.5 The ParticipACTION report indicates that Canadian children are “sitting too much and moving too little to reach their full potential”.5 Locally, half of senior kindergarten parents in Wellington, Dufferin, and Guelph reported their children engaging in two or more hours of screen time per day in 2015 (49%, 47%, and 55% respectively).6 Additionally, the majority of Wellington, Dufferin, and Guelph students in grades 7 and 10 reported an excess of 2 hours of screen time per day in  (53%, 63%, 60%).6

Figure 1: Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines – Screen Time
Infant (1 year or less): sedentary screen time not recommended2
Toddlers & preschoolers (2- 4 years): sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour – less is better2
School aged children & youth (5-17 years): no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time per day2

WDGPH joined the Balanced Technology Management committee in late 2017 to address the growing issue of screen time among local children. This collaborative committee is co-chaired by Homewood Community Addiction Services (CADS), UGDSB and WDGPH, and includes diverse stakeholders such as: WCDSB, YMCA/YWCA, Ontario Provincial Police, Guelph Police, Energize Guelph, Guelph Community Health Centre, Guelph Family Health Team, and a number of local businesses and concerned citizens. The committee provides education and awareness events for parents to give families strategies for balancing recreational screen time and boosting physical activity.

The committee was a successful recipient of an Energize Guelph grant to promote the Power Off and Play Theme of the Healthy Kids Community Challenge. As a part of this grant, the committee planned and implemented the Power Off and Play campaign with a culminating event hosted on June 16.7 Over a seven week period, the committee raised awareness about the importance of balancing screen time in children ages 0-12 and provided suggestions to families on how to achieve balance through a social media campaign shared by the Let’s Talk Parenting Facebook and Twitter accounts. Additionally, in collaboration with students from St. James Catholic High School, the Balanced Technology Management committee created an interactive dinner placemat for children and parents to inform them about risks of excessive screen time and tips to help balance screen time on a daily basis. The placemat was shared at the event and will continue to be shared through the committee’s extensive network. The Power Off and Play event was a drop-in event hosted at Centennial CVI where local organizations provided families with information and suggestions about how to replace screen time with different activities. The committee is in the process of evaluating the campaign and event and will proceed with further evidence informed planning to determine future target audiences and activities.

Access to Recreation in Dufferin County

The Access to Recreation in Dufferin County working group is a recently formed collaborative chaired by WDGPH to reduce barriers to recreation and increase participation rates among children and youth in Dufferin County. The interdisciplinary working group includes representatives from the Town of Orangeville, Orangeville Public Library, Canadian Tire Jumpstart, Dufferin County Children’s Services, Community Living Dufferin and the UGDSB.

Using the Recreation Framework for Recreation in Canada, WDGPH led the group through a priority setting exercise to determine their goals and plan of action for this year.8 The group’s goal is to improve access to recreational activities and programs for children and families across Dufferin County. Considering the need, impact, capacity and partnerships available in the working group, the group has decided to focus activities on the Inclusion and Access and Supportive Environments goals and priorities of the recreation framework.

To better understand what is currently available to increase access to recreation in Dufferin County, the working group has initiated an inventory of services and opportunities provided by each agency part of the working group. The working group is currently planning a lunch and learn event with the goal of gathering a larger group of service providers as well as public and private recreation providers to facilitate further information sharing across the County regarding inclusion and access to recreation. Next steps include assessing what gaps exist in the community and how they can be addressed through collaboration and policy.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Active and Safe Routes to School

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Active and Safe Routes to School (WDG ASRTS) is a collaborative effort between the UGDSB, WCDSB, Services de Transport de Wellington-Dufferin Student Transportation Services (STWDSTS), and co-chaired by the City of Guelph and WDGPH. WDG ASRTS aims to implement a comprehensive, evidence based approach to encourage all students to be active on their school journey.

WDG ASRTS was successful in receiving an Ontario Active School Travel Grant that provides additional funding for this work from spring 2018 to spring 2020. This grant funded a school travel coordinator who is housed at STWDSTS to work on a variety of projects, including: a comprehensive policy review for relevant agencies with specific supportive policy recommendations; implementation and evaluation of a sustainable walking school bus model pilot; and foundational evidence gathering for sustainable support, resources and programming for WDG ASRTS. Comprehensive baseline data collection will occur to study the feasibility of a walking school bus pilot program in October of 2018. Follow-up data collection will occur throughout the pilot program to determine its impact and identify barriers for mitigation in the future.

Beyond the grant-funded projects, WDG ARTS has been involved in multiple public education and awareness campaigns aimed at elementary school families in 2018, including: Winter Walk to School Day in February, Spring into Action in April, and Bike to School Day in May. In October 2017, the UGDSB had the highest participation rate (70%) in International Walk to School Day across all public boards Ontario, walking a cumulative total of 6,770 kilometers. International Walk to School Day is currently being planned again for October 2018. WDG ASRTS has also created an evidence informed Active and Sustainable School Travel Charter with the goal of garnering commitment by local agencies to active and sustainable school travel principles. Engagement with key stakeholders and community members is planned for early 2019 prior to advocating for adoption by key agencies.

Happy Healthy Families

Happy Healthy Families (HHF) is a collaborative initiative aimed at making Wellington North Township the healthiest place to raise a child.9 The interdisciplinary collaborative engages diverse community partners, including: KidsAbility, the Mount Forest Family Health Team, Saugeen Fitness, and the Upper Grand Family Health Team to make healthy living the easier choice for families and children. HHF promotes healthy eating, increasing physical activity, drinking water instead of sugar sweetened beverages, reducing screen time, and increasing sleep.

As chair of this committee, WDGPH leads strategic planning and priority setting, ensuring that the EPODE (Ensemble, Prévenons L’Obésité des Enfants/Together Let’s Prevent Childhood Obesity) model is followed.9 HHF is currently planning activities for the Move and Play Every Day theme. Potential activities include: park activation, sponsored swim days and wheelchair basketball. These activities will promote physical activity and provide organizations with opportunities to connect with families and inform them about the benefits of physical activity.

Related Reports



  1. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. Physical Literacy and Mindfulness Workshop Report: Professional Development for Elementary Teachers in the Upper Grand District School Board and Wellington Catholic District School Board. Guelph: Ontario; 2018.
  2. ParticipACTION. Follow the Guidelines, Reap the Rewards [Internet].2018. [cited 2018 Aug 8]. Available from:
  3. Canadian Paediatric Society, Digital Health Task Force. Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world [Internet]. 2017 Oct 9. [cited 2018 Aug 3]. Available from:
  4. Obesity Prevention Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Television Watching and “Sit Time”. [Internet].2018 [cited 2018 Aug 8]. Available from:
  5. ParticipACTION. The Brain + Body Equation: Canadian kids need active bodies to build their best brains. The 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Toronto: ParticipACTION; 2018 [cited 2018 Aug 8]. Available from:
  6. Sedentary behaviour [Internet]. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Report Cards on the Well-Being of Children; n.d. [cited 2018 Jul 4]. Available from: 
  7. Lovell J. Power off and play, no matter what the signs say [Internet]. 2018 Jun 19. [cited 2018 Jul 4]. Available from:
  8. Canadian Parks and Recreation Association/Interprovincial Sport and Recreation Council. A Framework for Recreation in Canada - 2015 - Pathways to Wellbeing [Internet]. 2015 Feb. [cited 2018 Jul 4]. Available from:
  9. Happy Healthy Families [Internet]. About; n.d. [cited 2018 Jul 4]. Available from: