Around this time of year, many of us pause and reflect on the past twelve months and begin to think about the year ahead. It’s an occasion to think about the biggest events and changes of the past year, what those have meant, and where we should navigate from here.
A few highlights come to the forefront as I reflect on 2018. This year, our national conference returned to the west coast after a 20-year absence. The event’s welcome and opening ceremonies — traditional songs and dances performed by the Li’l Wat and Squamish First Nations — was heartwarming and a true privilege to experience. While in Whistler, and for the first time in PHE Canada’s history, all branches of our organization including the Council of Provinces and Territories, Research Council and Board of Directors convened to discuss a collaborative working model for knowledge mobilization and research to practice. PHE Canada Research Council opened its forum to all conference delegates, and the national conference offered research to practice sessions, establishing a national network and collaborative research to practice link. All of this makes our organization stronger and better able to speak with a unified voice to support the healthy growth and development of all children and youth across Canada.
In partnership with Growing Young Movers and the Prince Albert Grand Council, 28 physical education teachers and 15 communities participated in a pilot using the Move Think Learn resource to improve school effectiveness to better meet the needs of children and youth. The initiative was designed to support and enhance physical education in reserve schools and so far, it’s reached 23 schools and close to 7,000 students of the Prince Albert Grand Council. The feedback from teachers and students has been remarkable. Student engagement increased, exponentially impacting the health and culture of the schools and communities involved. This initiative is the first of its kind for PHE Canada. As we move into 2019, we’ll continue to explore many more PHE Canada firsts, to meet our mandate of championing for healthy, active kids.
Looking ahead to the coming months, PHE Canada will continue to engage in a strategic clarity process that will help us reflect on our current work and direct our future. This facilitated process will bring together members of our councils (Council of Provinces and Territories and Research Council), past presidents, current Board of Directors, and national office staff to examine our current efforts and gain greater clarity on what we aim to achieve, how will we achieve it and how we will measure our success. This will enhance our organization’s work and help us ensure we’re meeting the needs of our current and future members.
We will also have two opportunities to gather as a community of practice in 2019, with our National Conference scheduled for May 2-4, in Montreal, and our Healthy School Communities National Forum scheduled for November. These events will provide the opportunity for networking and personal learning, and allow us to capitalize on the energy generated when like-minded individuals come together to enhance their professional knowledge and practice.
As 2018 comes to a close, I want to take the opportunity to thank our Past-President Brian Storey for his commitment and dedication to PHE Canada. During his tenure, Brian worked tirelessly with national office staff, stakeholders and partners to support PHE Canada’s role as a national expert in physical and health education and comprehensive school health initiatives, moved the organization to an annual conference model, and hired a new executive director. Brian was also instrumental in the establishment of the Canadian Alliance for Healthy School Communities. The collaborative partners of this alliance broke new ground and have committed to a shared goal: ensuring that all schools have the tools, resources, networks and supports required to establish healthy school communities. We are very excited to work within this space.
I would also like to thank all our current and past board members for their passion and commitment to PHE Canada. We would not be where we are today without you.
I look forward to the coming year, and to working with such dedicated and passionate people. Our efforts will ensure our members have the tools they need to help Canadian children and youth develop skills to enhance their health and well-being.
Wishing you all the best 2019 has to offer,
(Article first published on PHE Journal Volume 84, Issue 3)