Moving research to action to improve health of children

June 23, 2017

Human Environments Analysis Laboratory

“A policy or environmental intervention can have a greater impact than an individualized decision,” said Jason Gilliland, Professor in the Department of Geography and director of the Human Environments Analysis Laboratory. “If you try to work on an individual level, you can have a positive impact on a few individuals. But well-designed policies, at the provincial or school board level for example, can have significant impacts on children’s health at a population level; working on that scale is more impactful for improving children’s health.”

Gilliland is organizing the “Children's Health and the Environment Workshop & Symposium” running June 26 to June 28, bringing together researchers and policy makers from across North America. The symposium is focused on bringing people together to talk about interventions, programs, and policies which have been implemented (successfully or not) in their own communities, to help move “research to action” to improve the health of children.

“These topics we are covering are important right now,” said Jason Gilliland, “We realize one of the greatest risks to children is sedentary lifestyles. These health-related behaviours and outcomes are not just due to individual level factors. Our local environments play a role in whether we eat healthy and get physical activity, and can impact or mental health and emotional well-being.”

The public is invited to participate and learn how they can make changes to improve the health of children. On Tuesday, June 27, there will be a free public lecture at the Central branch of the London Public Library from 7:30-9:00pm.

The three speakers will be Dr. Candace Nykiforuk Director, Centre for Health Promotion Studies, University of Alberta, presenting Active Kids, Healthy Communities, Rachel Schofield-Martin Healthy Eating & Social Entrepreneurship Coordinator, District scolaire francophone Sud, New Brunswick, presenting Community Cafeterias: Creative collaborations to support healthy eating in schools, and Dr. Mariana Brussoni, School of Population & Public Health, University of British Columbia presenting Popping the bubble wrap: Are children too safe for their own good?

Presenters and participants are coming from across North America and will be a mix of academics, along with public health professionals, city planners, school board representatives, and others focused on the well-being of children.

“It’s good to have people from outside our own university and community to get different perspectives,” said Gilliland. “We need action, and the best way to do that is not just do research and publish academic articles, but to work with policy makers and decision-makers.”

“This is the first step, sharing knowledge, networking, making new collaborations, and then we need to build upon the momentum,” said Gilliland. “We are introducing a lot of people to new ideas, and hopefully this will lead to effective new interventions to improve children’s health in their communities.”