The Transit Referendum: On our way to making Vancouver the Greenest City in the World?

By Crista Bartolomeu

Most of us are aware by now that vehicles are a huge source of carbon emissions. Despite trying to reduce my carbon footprint, I sit in traffic daily feeling as if I am negating all my other efforts. I am left wondering how this affecting my health. And can “we” – as a region – do what it takes to become the World’s Greenest City?

vancouver head on

Photo by Evan Leeson

In 2012 the City of Vancouver announced its Greenest City Action Plan to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. This is an ambitious goal, however one way we may aspire to reach this is through the improvement of our local transit system. The Mayors’ Transit and Transportation Plan would mean that 70% of Metro Vancouver residents live within 5 minutes of frequent transit service – a dramatic improvement. With a shift from cars to transit use will contribute to a healthier, more sustainable Vancouver.

Traffic-related contribution to greenhouse gases

 Photo by Jerry Meaden

Photo by Jerry Meaden

Unfortunately Vancouver currently holds top spot as the most congested city in the North America. With an expected population growth of 1 million residents in the next 30 years expected in Vancouver this problem will only get worse (move living). Transportation is the single largest contributor to GHG Emissions, with passenger vehicles being the largest source, with Metro Vancouverites making 3.4 million trips by car each day (David Suzuki).

How the Mayors’ Plan can help with air quality

Vancouver cannot deal with climate change and become more sustainable unless we commit to reducing our reliance on cars. The set of projects in the Mayors’ Plan will make transit a viable option, across the region. Even those who do use transit will benefit, if other drivers are able to shift from cars to transit and  reduce the amount of cars on the road. This has a twofold effect:

  1. less cars equal less emissions, and;
  2. less congestion reduces the amount of time that people who drive their cars are idling in traffic and emitting GHGs.

Additionally, air pollutants like carbon and nitrogen oxides (two gases that are emitted by cars) can be hazardous, causing inflammation in the airways that can lead to lung and heart conditions. Permit me to state the obvious – gases that are so harmful to our planet are harming us as well.

Much action is still needed to address our traffic related emissions. Expanding Metro Vancouver’s transit system across the region is an essential piece. Personally, with the light rail line I will be able to make my commute from Langley to downtown by public transit on a single route. Eliminating just a 32 km per day roundtrip, I will reduce my carbon emissions by 4,800 tonnes per year (APTA).

Why our vote now is important

In order to meet the goal of becoming leaders in tackling climate change we must address our biggest problem- transportation.

Don’t vote yes or no depending on whether you take transit. Vote yes because increased opportunities to reduce GHG emissions will help us all. This referendum will be our legacy on the environment and an example for other North American cities: what we do now dictates future actions to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world.


Crista is studying Health Sciences at SFU, and a Research Assistant at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility.

This blog was developed as part of a Special Topics in Health Science Health and the Built Environment course in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, offered as a CityStudio partner course.

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Celebrating Active Streets // Active People Research Participants: Looking back, and stepping forward

“It was lovely to see [your research team again] and to see the results of your study. I very much enjoyed being a participant and would certainly be willing to take part in any future studies.”

– Johanna, ASAP research participant

By Leigh Farran

P1040266After many exciting and hardworking months, the Active Streets // Active People, Senior team has officially completed data collection. Participants, team members, our funders- Peter Wall Solutions Initiative, and City of Vancouver affiliates, celebrated together on Thursday, February 12, at the beautiful Barclay Place Manor—home to the West End Seniors’ Network. Here we shared snacks and stories, and discussed the poster displays showcasing preliminary and related research findings (more details on this below).

An outstanding 51 people attended the event, exemplifying the ongoing enthusiasm and commitment from our participants – a key to the project’s success. Thank you to all of our attendees, and to Suzanne Therrien (ASAP Project Manager) for organizing the celebration!

Here is a recap of the research finding displays:

Seniors’ Walkability Environmental Assessment Tool

P1040262Rachel Wong and Caitlin Pugh (Centre for Hip Health and Mobility (CHHM) Research Assistants) showcased the Senior Walkability Environmental Assessment Tool

(SWEAT-R) street audits completed in the summers of 2012 and 2014 in Vancouver’s West End. Changes to the Comox Greenway were quantified in the street assessment. The visual map displayed both supportive features and barriers for older adults’ environmental walkability. At the event, ASAP participants marked what they found helpful and accessible on the photo display of street features.

I grew up on a bike’: Cycling & older adults

P1040244Thea Franke (PhD student), displayed the ASAP study findings on older adults cycling habits. Results showed that cycling mode share was three times higher (3.2%) than the mode share for older adults living in the Metro Vancouver region (1%). The bikeable infrastructure and improved ability to access a broad social environment facilitate cycling amongst the participants; however, safety significantly deterred many participants from adopting cycling as a commonplace transportation option.

What does walkability mean to you?

Callista Haggis (Knowledge Broker & Qualitative Project Manager) presented responses from one of the in-depth interview questions her team asked to a subset of 26 ASAP participants. She displayed quotations on a board and then asked the ASAP participants that attended the open house to put a dot beside the answers that were in line with their views.

P1040231What does walkability mean to ASAP participants? Here are the responses that were the most popular with those that attended the celebration event:

  • “Well, it’s exercise. You need exercise. And not only that you go cuckoo if you just stay inside all the time.”
  • “It means I can walk to the store, doctors, dentist, to do shopping basically. To do my chores.”
  • “I don’t see how anybody can be miserable when they’ve been out for a walk and [the natural environment] looks gorgeous.”

The secrets to a long and healthy life? – Walk to the coffee shop!P1040200

An analysis of older adults’ walking patterns in the West End revealed that coffee shops are very popular destinations! At the celebration, Stephan Zimmermann (CHHM Research Assistant) presented GPS track data, spatial analysis, and travel log entries which collectively showed coffee shops as a reoccurring destination in many participants walking routes. At the event, many participants shared and compared their favourite walking routes to those on display. It was no big surprise that Davie St. and Denman St. are particularly well-travelled areas of the West End- so next time you’re in the area, say hi to your fellow ASAP participants!

Transport-related physical activity

Christine Voss (Postdoctoral Research Fellow) presented GPS and accelerometer data regarding transport-related physical activity patterns of ASAP participants. Some of the main findings from this data set were:

  1. More than ¾ of all ASAP Sr. trips were by active modes (walk, bike, public transit).
  2. Although walk trips were usually the shortest, the pace was mostly at a moderate-vigorous intensity (the exercise intensity recommended by Health Canada).
  3. Public transit trips yielded as much physical activity as walking trips due to the walking to and from transit stops/stations.
  4. Transport-related physical activity contributes meaningfully to meeting physical activity guidelines!

Keep on walking and talking: Green neighbourhood design contributes to maintaining healthy communities

Lena Fleig (Postdoctoral Research Fellow) presented findings from ASAP accelerometery and questionnaire data. She addressed a gap in the current academic literature by analyzing how social activity and physical activity patterns changes over time. Although physical activity and mobility usually decline with age, her findings suggest that ASAP participants: “Keep on walking and talking” –participants were highly active prior to and after built environment changes, and women, in particular, maintained their social community engagement.

ASAP prize winners with Suzanne

The ASAP Sr. research team really enjoyed getting to know the all of the ASAP participants. The participants were engaged, thoughtful and had a diverse set of interests. Although there is an element of sadness to be concluding the data collection portion of the project, we look forward to diving deeper into the data to learn and share even more about what gets and keeps older adults active and moving within their neighbourhood!

Congratulations to our prize winners at the event, and a big thank-you to everyone who was involved in the Active Streets Active People Sr. project!


Leigh Farran is an undergraduate research assistant, studying Health Sciences in Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia. Her interests lie in the promotion of active aging and geriatric health.

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Why Physical Inactivity is the Cinderella of non-communicable diseases: 8 common myths de-bunked

Much like Cinderella, physical inactivity goes under-recognized and largely under-appreciated. Bull and Bauman (2011) state that physical inactivity receives a “poverty of policy attention and resourcing proportionate to its importance.”

Addressing physical inactivity needs to be a global public health top-priority. Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for preventable non-communicable diseases, “preceded only by tobacco use, hypertension, and high blood glucose levels, and accounting for more than 3 million preventable deaths globally in 2010.” (Bull & Bauman, 2011)

ABauman_CHHM-cReturning to the Cinderella analogy, who in the public health realm are the ugly stepsisters keeping Cinderella out of the limelight? How can we enable everyone to play a role as physical activity’s Prince Charming?

Stemming from an engaging recent talk with Professor Adrian Bauman at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, we highlight the common myths that contribute to physical inactivity’s treatment as the Cinderella of non-communicable diseases.

Myth #1
The strength of evidence of physical inactivity’s impact on health outcomes is relatively new and not fully accepted.

We’ve had epidemiologic evidence on physical activity, inactivity and health since 1953 (Morris, Lancet). Not only that but 20 years ago Morris described physical activity as the “best buy in public health”.

Myth #2
There is a lack of consensus-based guidelines on how much activity is needed for disease prevention.

We’ve had excellent physical activity guidelines for 13 years (Australia 1999, rev 2012); elsewhere, Global PA guidelines, WHO 2010.

Myth #3
Physical activity is not understood or identified as a discrete risk, because it is a behaviour embedded within everyday life.

In reality physical activity is defined as all large muscle-related bodily movement” (Caspersen, Powell, & Christenson, 1985) and can take on different meanings depending on your cultural and socioeconomic context. In low- and middle-income countries it can mean your daily activities, in other settings it can mean “sports activity”. Clearer communications about “physical activity for health” can be helpful here.

Myth #4
Physical inactivity cannot be measured reliably to provide valid estimates of risk.

Physical activity measures are well established in research (and have been for some time). (Taylor, 2014).

Myth #5
Physical inactivity is not recognized as a problem for low- and middle-income countries.

Low and middle income countries are increasingly affected by inactivity especially due to urbanization and economic growth.

Myth #6
Population-wide levels of participation in physical activity cannot be changed.

Emerging evidence shows that physical inactivity is difficult to change but not impossible as emerging evidence has shown (Pratt et al., 2014). Although complex, multi-sectoral approaches are needed and possible, plus we cannot afford to NOT fix it.

The physical activity community must communicate consistently that there is sufficient evidence to act. In 2011 an economic review of physical activity NCD Prevention: Investments That Work for Physical Activity identifies specific interventions, which are supported by evidence, and is available here.

Myth #7
Lack of “ownership” of the problem and control of the relevant solutions by any single government ministry requires integrated action and partnerships beyond the health sector.

At the individual, societal and political levels we share a responsibility for advocating for change and promoting physical activity as a way to prevent death.

Myth #8
There are insufficient use of advocacy and communications strategies to make a strong and convincing case for the importance of physical activity.

Understanding of the overwhelming burden physical inactivity has on population health is increasing. In accordance, NGO advocacy and improved strategic communication has been on the rise in the past 3 – 4 years.

In Conclusion
Sure, the causes of physical inactivity are more complex than just two ugly stepsisters. But with increased advocacy and support from national and provincial governments to create tailored on-the-ground, evidence-based strategies, action from professionals across disciplines, and individuals that serve as examples and daily champions, there are many opportunities for us to collectively save Cinderella so she can live an active life in good health.

Read Bauman’s article: Physical Inactivity: The “Cinderella” Risk Factor for Non-communicable Disease Prevention

Originally published on the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility’s blog.


Bull, F. C., & Bauman, A. E. (2011). Physical inactivity: the “Cinderella” risk factor for noncommunicable disease prevention. Journal of health communication, 16(sup2), 13-26.

Caspersen , C. J. , Powell , K. E. , & Christenson , G. M. ( 1985 ). Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: Definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public Health Reports , 100 ( 2 ), 126 – 131.

Pratt, M., Perez, L. G., Goenka, S., Brownson, R. C., Bauman, A., Sarmiento, O. L., & Hallal, P. C. (2014). Can Population Levels of Physical Activity Be Increased? Global Evidence and Experience. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2014.09.002

Taylor, D. (2014). Physical activity is medicine for older adults. Postgraduate medical journal, 90(1059), 26-32.

About the authors

Thea Franke is a PhD student in the Interdisciplinary Program at the University of British Columbia. Her doctoral work focuses on the intersections between the built and social environment, older adults’ mobility and health. Her recent publication in The Journal of Aging Studies examined key factors that facilitated physical activity in highly active community dwelling older adults.

Christina Thiele is the award winning Communications and Community Relations Manager at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility. She develops and implements strategic communications and community relations plans that support CHHM’s health promotion mandate.

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A vote for ASAP Jr. is a vote for “kids on the move” (please watch and “like” our short video)

Voting for ASAP Junior's

Active Streets // Active People Junior‘s Christine Voss has entered the annual Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH) Talks video competition. Their video, “Kids on the Move” highlights ASAP Junior’s work and shares some of the teams’ research findings about active transport in schools.

Voting works on “likes”, so check out the video on YouTube, click the Thumbs Up and help support a win for the ASAP Junior team. Voting closes on the first week of January!


The Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH) supports research that ensures the best start in life for all Canadians and the achievement of their potential for optimal growth and development.

The “IHDCYH Talks” competition is an opportunity to profile research within IHDCYH’s mandate to improve knowledge translation and help demonstrate the value of reproductive, child and youth health research in Canada. The objective of this competition is to encourage the production of videos that present evidence-based research to a lay audience and that incorporate a message designed to have a positive impact on the health of children, youth and families.

Click here to learn more about the video competition.


A first place prize of $5000 will be awarded in early 2015 and 3 runner-up prizes of $3000 will also be awarded.

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The repelling buzz of “The Mosquito” – Ageist public health promotion?

view from northshoreImagine sitting on your front patio on a warm summer day trying to read, or study, and be disturbed by a constant high frequency sound. The device that is responsible for this disruption is ‘the mosquito’. A Welsh company made this device several years ago in an attempt to rid the public of loitering youth and vandalism, since it plays a high frequency that only youth can hear. For some, this may sound like a decent idea; it would definitely be nice to solve community vandalisms! But in my opinion, having a high-pitched device that can only be heard by ‘youth’ under twenty-five is extremely controversial. Negatively targeting a specific age group is not a healthy public policy.

The environment in which we live is supposed to be inclusive to all, and not segregate based on age, gender, race, or other factors. Policies relating to the built environment are generally trying to encourage being outside and physically active. The incorporation of more bike lanes and the beautification of pedestrian walkways into new construction areas are some of the positive changes currently being made to our city. I find that the idea surrounding the mosquito deterrent is doing completely the opposite, and promoting a negative image towards youth and discouraging the ‘under twenty-fives’ in their attempts to be outside in locations where the buzzer is heard.

Policing public space goes private
Originally the ‘mosquitoes’ were meant to be placed in prominent public spaces such as malls and schools, and turned on after closing hours to stop the kids and young adults of the neighbourhood from lingering and causing chaos. Problems arise when people decide to take anti-loitering action into their own hands and install a ‘mosquito’ in their homes. Of course they don’t mind, since they are over the age threshold to hear the certain frequency. Heck, they might not even remember that they have it.

Currently in Vancouver there are no laws against these high-frequency devices. In Lower Lonsdale of North Vancouver, where I was living, someone in one of the surrounding condos installed this ageist deterrent and has it constantly turned on, day and night. During the summer when I was trying to enjoy the beautiful views and sunshine outside I was repeatedly forced to move inside because I could not handle the loud constant sound. I do not believe this is the welcoming built environment that community planners had in mind.

Re-thinking exclusion and inclusion along the life-span
When these devices are installed in residential areas, its portrayal is very “anti-young people”. Is this what we want Vancouver’s message to be to the younger generation? If there were a surge in crime rate from people over the age of thirty would we create statues that squirted water at them every time they wanted to walk around their neighbourhood? This probably wouldn’t happen. Not all people under the age of 25 are going to linger around back yards and graffiti garages; many young people just want to sit outside and enjoy their city. Young adults and youth in Vancouver deserve as much respect as any other age group; they are the future leaders, politicians, and public policy representatives. Promoting outdoor activity at a young age will create positive habits that will benefit the health care system and future generations to come.

By Caitlin Pugh


Caitlin is a Research Assistant for the ASAP Junior and Senior research programs, and is currently studying Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. She hopes to continue on to grad school to pursue research on the built environment and neighbourhood walkability.

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A guide for success during data collection: Top four lessons from my experience ‘in the field’ with ASAP Sr.

This past September and October, the Active Streets, Active People (ASAP) team set out for the second phase of the ASAP-Sr project. The 2014 core data collection team included: Suzanne (ASAP Project Coordinator), Paul and Lutetia (CHHM Operations), Vivian (an Engineer and UBC student) and me, Rachel (a UBC co-op student). Similar to 2012 data collection, we gathered information on various topics such as participants’ physical health, neighborhood perceptions of the built environment, and social wellbeing. Near the end of the session, we gave out accelerometers, GPS monitors, and travel diaries, to get really detailed information on a weeks worth of each participant’s trips.

Haro Park Data Collection Room

Haro Park Data Collection Room

After spending a good portion of August calling our participants to schedule interviews, it was great to meet them in person, hear their stories, and learn about how active they are within their neighborhoods! In total, we met with 155 of our original 193 participants—an excellent repeat turn-out – especially considering the passing of two years!

As a co-op student, here are four key learnings from my time on the ASAP-Sr data collection team:

  1. Organize your materials ahead of time but don’t forget that checklist. It’s a good idea to prepare your materials ahead of time so that you have them at the ready. Last minute changes to the schedule happen. In order to avoid feeling frantic when you’re in the field, scrambling to find where you placed that last participant booklet or monitor, it’s a good idea to always go through a checklist of items needed for each day. You may think after a while that this is not necessary, but it’s always a good idea to double check!
  2. Be ready for a change in pace. Some days we had up to four participants in a particular session, while others, there would only be one or two. Even within a particular day, our mentality during the interview sessions would be switched on to a go-go-go pace. But as soon as we were in those times in between interviews, we would find ourselves in a period of waiting and light preparations, where the pace was much slower. The key was mentally adjusting to the change in pace each day between the sessions.
  3. Learn to play to each staff member’s strengths. Our ASAP data collection team consisted of seven staff members, with a maximum of five of us going out into the field on any given data collection day. It was nice to work with staff from different areas. We quickly learned how to work with each other to get the different parts of data prep and collection completed efficiently.
  4. Appreciate each day of data collection. Although the beginning started off slow, once we got into the regular rhythm of data collection, the days started to blend together. Before we knew it, more than six weeks had gone by, 155 participants had gone by, and we realized that we had just spent over 10% of our year on the project (as our project manager pointed out)!

I would like to send a big thank you to all of my co-workers, our participants, as well as the staff members at Haro Park Centre and the Roundhouse Community Centre for making data collection this season such a great experience!


When not with the ASAP Sr team, Rachel Wong majors in Bio-psychology at the University of British Columbia. She hopes to continue to grad school to study Behavioural Neurology, while incorporating her passion for global activism and humanitarian development.

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“I’d Rather Stay” on the film fest circuit: reaching an international public

chicagoCommunicating research to an international public, while stimulating discussion, and challenging misconceptions about aging, neighbourhood environments, and health is integral to our knowledge translation and exchange strategy. I therefore represented with pleasure our team’s I’d Rather Stay documentary at two recent screenings on the film festival circuit.

(if you haven’t seen it yet, watch I’d Rather Stay online HERE)

Portland Film Festival (August 26th- September 1st, 2014)

This is a mid-size festival with diverse (experimental, character driven documentary, and Hollywood-esq) programming. I’d Rather Stay was unique as all other films were not connected to larger academic projects.

The film played to a sold out audience, comprised of a diversity of ages and socio-cultural backgrounds.

During the post-screening Q & A, I related I’d Rather Stay to urban planning in the United States – noting some cities are adopting trends of increased density and active transportation, while others continue to sprawl. The audience was also curious about the older adults selected for the film. I explained how the featured individuals stemmed from three mixed-method research projects. Via conversations throughout the festival, I learned that while Portland has many examples of engaged and progressive urban planning, issues specifically related to an aging demographic are not prominent in the public mindset.

Chicago International Film Festival for Social Change (September 26-28, 2014)

Festival programmers selected 43 films out of around 400 submissions – so needless to say the quality of programming was high, and I’d Rather Stay’s inclusion is a success in itself. CIFFSC programs films that are part of larger ‘social change’ initiatives. This brought together filmmakers, academics, public officials, and advocates from all over the world. Issues ranged from homelessness in Philadelphia, to gay rights in Uganda.

Short documentaries were programmed in ‘blocks’ of about 4 different films. After a ‘block’ there was a facilitated discussion crosscutting the films’ issues.  The thoughtful CIFFSC festival programming, effectively broke down barriers and created a ‘safe space’ for meaningful discussion about the most pressing social issues of our time.

Screening attendees combined with social media distribution, exposed I’d Rather Stay to a network of around 2000 individuals. We were the only film in the festival that addressed aging issues.

Our research findings (related to aging, health, mobility and the importance of social connectedness) translated into the documentary format, resonated with audience members from diverse geographical locations (from Ontario, to Chicago, to California).

Our discussion also addressed:

(i) Contextual differences and between the US and Vancouver,

(ii) Municipal and provincial government representatives’ responses to the film at previous screenings; and

(iii) ‘Next steps’ in terms of sharing the film with more developers and policy makers.


Throughout both festivals, I explained my role in relation to the Active Streets Active People research program and answered the question: “what is a Knowledge Broker?” A common response was “our organization needs one of those!”

By Callista Haggis, MAP, Knowledge Broker

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The secrets of highly active older adults: An interview with the author Thea Franke

September is buzzing with activity at the CHHM research institute. We are currently collecting data for Phase 2 of ASAP Sr. (read more about that research program HERE), and our team members’ publications are hot off the presses. For the first in a series of blogs highlighting our most recent articles, we interviewed Thea Franke, Project Manger for the Walk the Talk research program, about her article: The secrets of highly active older adults.

Hi Thea, can you give us a little bit of background about your work?

Well, there has been a lot of research on how the built environment encourages physical activity (via perceived safety, access to transportation, sidewalks and connectivity etc.) but not too much on community-dwelling older adults who defy physical activity norms and maintain a high (above average) level of physical activity. As you may be aware, although physical activity helps individuals manage many chronic diseases associated with aging, it tends to decline with age.

Only 15% of Canadians aged 20-79 are meeting the minimum physical activity recommendation of 150 minutes per week (based on the results from a 2007-2009 Statscan study). Needless to say, physical inactivity is a serious public health concern, especially with Canada’s aging demographic.

To address this, I analyzed the transcripts of 27 in-depth qualitative interviews with community dwelling older adults in Metro Vancouver. I looked at the similarities and differences between the 10 highly active participants and the 17 remaining participants.

Thea highly active blog

Why focus on highly active older adults?

Health researchers often pay the most attention to ‘what’s wrong’; in my subject area this means issues (i.e. obesity, dementia, frailty etc) associated with physical inactivity. Our team disrupted this norm by adopting a ‘strengths based perspective.’ We were curious about the factors that contribute to high levels of physical activity and mobility in later life, and what we could learn from them. To put it simply, what keeps active older adults active?

What were some of your most significant findings?

We identified three major factors that facilitate physical activity in highly active older adults:

  • Resourcefulness: engagement in self-help strategies such as self-efficacy (believing in their ability to be active), self-control (incorporating activity into their daily routine) and adaptability (adapting to life “scenarios” in order to maintain activity levels);
  • Social connections: the presence of relationships (friend, neighborhood, institutions) and social activities; and
  • The built and natural environments: features of places and spaces that support high levels of physical activity.

It is important to note that these factors are mutually reinforcing. For example, the social, built and natural environments strengthen and foster resourcefulness and vice versa. There’s a great quote from one of our participants that illustrates the intersection of these themes:

“…this class starts at nine-thirty but with the way the buses run, I can either be late or early. So I choose to be early and do little chores beforehand, go to Pharma Drugs, [grocery store] Green Grocers, whatever. And come in here still early, and chat with friends, we’ve known each other for many years, the same classes. Do the exercise. Go to the library or whatever wasn’t open before may be open. Sometimes I walk home. And the walk home is about two miles. And if it’s a nice day and my feet are cooperating I walk.” (Elizabeth, 72)

So interesting! How can I read more?

The full citation for the article is : Thea Franke, Catherine Tong, Maureen C. Ashe, Heather McKay, Joanie Sims-Gould, The Walk The Talk Team. 2014. Journal of Aging Studies. The secrets of highly active older adults. 27: 398409.

Do you have anything else to add?

Yes, I just want to acknowledge my amazing team that are dedicated to:

ONE, identifying factors that most effectively support and maintain independence, health and mobility across the lifespan, and

TWO, insuring policy makers, urban and social planners, and community collaborators have a better understanding of these mobility determinants in order to make effective change.

I couldn’t have written this article without their contributions! And most importantly, I would like to acknowledge and thank the older adults that volunteered their time to participate in this study!

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‘I’d Rather Stay’- Full documentary and support resources now available on our new website

STP for website

We are very pleased to announce the launch of: This new website hosts our team’s documentary I’d Rather Stay, as well as support resources for individuals and organizations interested in having their own video screening and discussion. The documentary, and additional information are designed as a conversation catalyst to help individuals and communities identify local issues and craft action-based solutions.

What actions must we take in the near, medium and long-term future to support healthy aging ‘in the right place’? also has opportunities to provide feedback. We want to know your thoughts about the documentary and: what makes a neighbourhood a good place to go old?

We look forward to hearing from you!

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A Global Fail? International Comparisons of Physical Activity of Children and Youth Report Cards

By Dr. Christine Voss, Postdoctoral Research Fellow


The 2014 Global Summit on the Physical Activity of Children recently brought together researchers, practitioners and policy makers to address the growing childhood physical inactivity crisis. There was an impressive agenda of scientific communications, workshops, debates, networking opportunities, and key note addresses. Notably including health knowledge translation phenomenon Doc Mike Evans (Watch his latest viral video: Let’s Make our Day Harder).

The Physical Activity Report Cards

One of the key highlights of the summit was the release of the 10th Report Card on the Physical Activity of Children and Youth (1), an important knowledge translation tool to inform policy and practice relating to Canadian children’s low physical activity levels. Alongside overall physical activity, supportive indicators that are scored in the report card include: Organized Sport Participation, Active Play, Active Transportation, Sedentary Behavior, Family and Peers, School, Community and Built Environment, and Government Strategies and Investments.

This year for the first time, 14 additional countries, from 5 continents, collaborated to publish their individual, yet similar, physical activity report cards (see Figure 2). Most countries scored relatively poorly for overall physical activity levels; however substantial differences in countries’ individual indicators exist. The international comparison of grades shocked mainstream media and produced headlines such as “Canadian kids near bottom of international physical activity survey” (The Globe and Mail, 20 May 2014; (3)).

Whilst the report fuels further, and necessary, debate over the global physical inactivity crisis, one must still take the findings with a grain of salt. For example, the report compares only 15 countries; 3 out of the 4 participating European countries were from the British Isles. There is disparity between each country’s gathering of information to grade each indicator; this depended on the available type of nationally representative datasets. Full methodologies for each country are available in an open access edition of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health (4).

Is it all about active transportation?

The international comparisons of different countries report cards sparked my curiosity for identifying significant patterns. I wondered whether a good grade in any of the supporting/hindering indicators relates to a good grade for overall physical activity. I assessed these relationships and found that only two of the indicators were meaningfully related to overall physical activity: ‘Active Transportation’ and ‘Community and Built Environment’ (Figure 2).

We already know from a wealth of scientific research that children and youth who walk or cycle to school are more physically active (5), so this finding is not all that surprising. We also know that a supportive neighbourhood environment is related to more physical activity in children and youth (6), so it was unexpected to learn that countries with a better community design score also scored lower for overall physical activity. It is of note that it is predominantly high-income countries that scored well on community design, which highlights that maybe we are comparing apples with oranges in the international report card: what matters a lot in some places, matters little – if at all – in other places. Regardless of methodological shortcomings, international comparisons carry great potential for identifying underlying CULTURAL differences that may be culprit or cure for the global physical inactivity pandemic.


Figure 2

Strong CHHM contingent at the summit

The Centre for Hip Health and Mobility sent a strong contingent to the summit. I presented on how the combined use of global positioning systems and accelerometry enables us to quantify physical activity during the journey to and from school. Amanda Frazer, Project Coordinator for ASAP-Junior, presented her MSc thesis findings on neighbourhood type and active travel to school, as well as the importance of parental encouragement for active travel to school.

Our Centre Director and ASAP-Jr Principal Investigator Heather McKay co-hosted a policy workshop on the scale up and implementation of school-based physical activity models. Research Associate Lindsay Nettlefold presented a poster on Action Schools! BC program implementation and children’s physical activity. PhD candidate Leigh Gabel’s poster presentation was on vigorous physical activity and bone strength.

All conference abstracts are accessible in an open access edition of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health (HERE) (7).


  1. 2014 Report Card on the Physical Activity of Children and Youth: Is Canada in the Running?
  1. Tremblay et al. Physical Activity of Children: A Global Matrix of Grades Comparing 15 Countries. 2014, J Phys Act Health, 11(Supp 1), S113 – S125;
  1. Global Summit on the Physical Activity of Children 2014 Special Issue. 2014, J Phys Act Health. 11(Supp 1), S1-S207.
  1. Larouche et al. Associations between active school transport and physical activity, body composition, and cardiovascular fitness: a systematic review of 68 studies. 2014, J Phys Act Health. 11(1):206-27. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2011-0345
  1. Ding et al. Neighborhood environment and physical activity among youth a review. 2011. Am J Prev Med. 41(4):442-55. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2011.06.036
  1. 2014 Global Summit on the Physical Activity of Children: Abstracts. 2014, J Phys Act Health, 11(Supp 1), S126 – S198;
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