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OCTOBER 11, 2012
Evaluation of the Quebec policy promoting health in schools
The Quebec Ministère de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS) promotes healthy lifestyles and obesity prevention through its Pour un virage santé à l'école policy. Published in the Fall of 2007, this policy translates the Ministry's engagement to act in collaboration with the Québec school system to offer its youth an environment that is favourable to adopting and maintaining healthy eating habits and a physically active lifestyle.
As part of the review of the policy's implementation, Circum Network Inc. surveyed nearly 1,300 Québec learning establishments on behalf of the MELS, including primary and secondary schools from both the private and the public sector, professional training centres (centres de formation professionnelle, CFP) and centres for adult learning (centres d'éducation aux adultes, CEA) between May and October 2009. Based on the observations and conclusions provided by Circum Network Inc., the MELS published three pamphlets presenting the results generated on three topics: Healthy eating, Physically active lifestyle, and Education, promotion and communication, and Partner mobilization under the Policy. Here are some of the main observations presented in these documents.
Theme 1: School Environment – Healthy Eating Aspect
- More than half (57%) of establishments offer a main food service, whether it be a cafeteria, a catering service or a snack bar; nearly a third (32%) of establishments offer no food service at all.
- Nearly all the establishments (98%) offer meals comprised of foods from all four Canadian Food Guide food groups, though there is still room for improvement. In fact, a small proportion of establishments is preferring whole grain products (21%), offers deserts and snacks made out of fruit, dairy or whole grains (33%) or a variety of 100% pure (unsweetened) fruit and vegetable juices, on top of milk and water (43%).
- Some differences were observed in relation to the type of school establishment, the school network and the region. Fewer primary schools than secondary schools or centres offered a variety of 100% fruit and vegetable juices, on top of milk and water, in their main food service. They were however more likely to reduce the fat content of its meat.
- Approximately 8 out of 10 establishments (79%) have eliminated soft drinks and drinks containing added sugar from their main food service. However, only about four establishments in 10 (43%) had also eliminated them from their vending machines.
- While the majority of establishments have eliminated from their menus products whose ingredient list begins with "sugar" or a synonym, these products remain offered in vending machines. Fewer centres (72%) and private establishments (69%) apply this priority component, compared to secondary schools (95%) and public establishments (88%).
- Two thirds (67%) of establishments make sure that the areas used during meal times are safe; however, only 38% make meals an enjoyable part of the school day, in part by making sure that the areas where the children eat are welcoming and user-friendly.
Theme 1: School Environment – Physically Active Lifestyles Aspect
- Nearly two-thirds of establishments have met the implementation targets for this aspect at a "good" to "very good" level. In other words, these establishments have adopted measures to encourage physical activity and have given the students numerous occasions to be physically active during breaks and recess (67%), organized child care periods (69%) and lunch time (59%).
- However, centres are getting significantly lower scores than primary and secondary schools for all the aspects, while the primary and secondary school scores are very similar.
- The variety of physical activities offered is also greatly important in stimulating youth. Approximately two thirds of establishments (from 58% to 69%) have taken measures to offer numerous activities that are adapted to the youth's interests and abilities.
Theme 2: Education, promotion and communication
- About 9 out of 10 establishments (90%) have organized activities to raise awareness and promote the adoption of a healthy diet and a physically healthy lifestyle; however, it should be noted that there was a greater proportion of primary schools that had undertaken these activities; centres were rarer.
- The teaching personnel were not forgotten: about three quarters (75%) of establishments organize activities for their employees that integrate healthy eating. However, as is the case for education and promotion activities that target the students, significantly fewer centres than primary and secondary schools organized education and promotion activities geared towards their staff.
Theme 3: Partner Mobilization
- The majority of establishments share and utilize the infrastructures that are available in the community.
- Nonetheless, ties to the community are more frequent in primary and secondary schools than in centres. Centres share and make use of less available equipment, and those who have established new partnerships are also scarcer.
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