Hopeful news for the Canadians among us – Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan has introduced a motion calling on the government to take action on the extremely low levels of physical activity among Canadian children and youth. Better yet, other Canadians can also help out.
Here are her motions from May 9th (emphasis mine):
M-371 — May 9, 2012 — Ms. Duncan (Etobicoke North) — That, in the opinion of this House, the government should recognize that: (a) evidence shows that physical inactivity is a major public health issue in Canada; (b) children and youth are getting an average of 6 hours per day of screen time outside of school hours, and over 7 hours on weekend days; (c) only 9 percent of boys and 4 percent of girls meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines; (d) Canada remains without a national physical activity strategy; (e) in 2005 Canada’s federal/provincial/territorial ministers of health agreed to the Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy; (f) in 2010, Canada’s ministers responsible for health declared that the promotion of health and the prevention of disease, disability and injury are priorities, necessary to the sustainability of the health system, and that there has been little follow-through on this declaration from the government; and (g) there is a disconnect between the government’s articulation of the importance of the childhood inactivity crisis, and its demonstrable leadership and investment.
M-372 — May 9, 2012 — Ms. Duncan (Etobicoke North) —That, in the opinion of this House, the government should immediately resume discussions with the provincial and territorial ministers responsible for health to develop a comprehensive pan-Canadian strategy to promote physical activity, commit to the resulting strategy, and make the necessary investments.
Here’s how others can help out:
I have embedded a petition below, which also calls on the Canadian government to take action against childhood inactivity. If you feel strongly on this issue, please print the form and get at least 25 signatures from other Canadian citizens (they all need to sign on the form itself, no digital signatures or faxes). Also feel free to embed the petition on your own websites, Facebook, etc.
Once you’ve got 25 signatures, send the petition to:
Ms Kirsty Duncan, MP
613 Confederation Building
House of Commons
For those who prefer an online approach, you can join the “Canada needs a youth physical activity” Facebook page.
Why is this petition important?
Each time that Ms Duncan gets a petition with at least 25 signatures, it essentially buys her time in the Hours of Commons to read the concerns of the petitioners. And the Government then has to respond to each petition. The more petitions, the more times it gets brought up. And hopefully if it gets brought up frequently enough, the government will take some action.
If you are working in an area related to physical activity (e.g. personal trainers, phys ed teachers, healthcare workers, parents, youth sport coaches, health researchers, etc) or if you simply care about physical activity, please consider printing the form and getting it signed by your friends and colleagues.
As an aside, I’m not promoting this petition as a partisan thing. I’m not aligned with any political party, and would quite frankly be happy with any party that took physical activity and chronic disease prevention seriously. So if you’d like to contact an MP from another party to get them on board, then please go ahead. The more the merrier!
Why a petition about childhood physical activity?
Canadian children are not very physically active. As the below figure illustrates, Canadian youth spend about 8.5 hours per day (more than half their waking hours) sitting down. They also spend more than 6 hours per day in front of TVs and other screen-based devices. And only 7% of Canadian kids are meeting current physical activity guidelines (60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity per day, on at least 6 days per week). In fact, Canadian kids get so little vigorous physical activity that it is almost impossible to find in the below pie chart (look for the narrow purple slice at the top of the pie – that’s how much vigorous PA Canadian kids are getting on a daily basis!).
Given the low level of physical activity and high level of sedentary behaviour among Canadian children and youth, it’s not surprising that the general fitness and health of this group has decreased substantially since the 1980’s, as we have discussed previously (and new evidence here).
So physical activity levels are very low, and indications are that the health of Canadian kids is heading downhill. And yet, the Canadian government has no actual strategy for increasing physical activity levels in children and youth. Ministers responsible for health declared disease prevention to be a priority necessary for the sustainability of the Canadian healthcare system in 2010, but there hasn’t been any action in the 2 years since (aside from the Fitness Tax Credit, which has not been much success in actually increasing physical activity levels, especially among those who need it the most).
So if you find any of this important, please print off and sign the petition, and join the Facebook page.