Practising what we preach
BACKGROUND: In the past 30 years, the rate of obesity has risen considerably among Canadian children. Paediatric hospitals are in a unique position to model healthy environments to Canadian children. OBJECTIVE: To obtain an overview of healthy active living (HAL) policy and practice in Canadian paediatric hospitals. METHODS: Working in partnership with the local Canadian Paediatric Society HAL champions and the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres liaisons, a nationwide survey was conducted in 2006/2007 to identify healthy eating, physical activity and smoking cessation practices in all 16 Canadian paediatric academic hospitals. RESULTS: Policies addressing healthy eating and/or physical activity promotion were present in 50% of hospitals with a greater focus on nutrition. Wellness committees were created in 50% of the hospitals, most of which were recently established. Healthy food options were available in cafeterias, although they were often more expensive. Fast food outlets were present in 75% of hospitals. Although inpatient meals were designed by dietitians, 50% offered less nutritious replacement kids meals (ie, meal substitutions) on request. Options for play available to inpatients and outpatients were primarily sedentary, with screen-based activities and crafts predominating over active play. Physical activity promotion for staff focused on reduced membership fees to fitness centres and classes. CONCLUSION: Canadian paediatric hospitals do not adequately promote HAL for patients and staff. The present study findings suggest further effort is required to create necessary healthy lifestyle modifications in these institutions through Canadian Paediatric Society/Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres-led policy development and implementation initiatives. A national-level policy framework is required to regulate interhospital variability in policies and practices.