Introducing our CON-SNP 2017-18 National Exec

Today’s post comes from Amanda Raffoul. Amanda is a PhD candidate in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. She is also the current Chair of the CON-SNP National Executive. You can find more about Amanda here

September is here! This month can be bittersweet – it’s the end of beach days and long cottage weekends, but it also brings back-to-school excitement and the unofficial start of fall.

For us at CON-SNP, September is the best time of year because there is so much to look forward to. Melissa and I are excited to serve as the Vice Chair and Chair for this year’s National Executive, and proud to introduce you to the new exec team. Say hello to everyone!

Chapter Representative – Nadia Browne

Financial Director – Alexa Ferdinands

Vice-Chair – Melissa Fernandez

Social Media Coordinator – Andrew Hanna

Bilingual Communications Coordinator – Maryam Kebbe

Resource Coordinator – Megan Lamb

Chapter Representative – Stéphanie LeBlanc

Recruitment Coordinator – Lindsay Leduc

Special Events Coordinator – Taniya Nagpal

Outgoing Chair – Eva Pila

Chair – Amanda Raffoul

Communications Director – Janet See

Outgoing Vice-Chair – Corrie Vincent

You can learn more about our 2017-2018 team and the amazing things everyone is up to here.

When we said there is a lot to look forward to this year, we really meant it! We’re thrilled to be hosting the 6th Canadian Obesity Student Meeting (COSM), which will be held at the University of Western Ontario in London, ON in June 2018. COSM is a multidisciplinary conference for students and trainees to connect and show off their incredible research. Feeling competitive? We’ve got you covered – we host several nationwide competitions, including the Infographic Competition, Pedometer Challenge, and Research Blitz. And there’s more! We heard from dozens of SNPs last year about wanting to connect with other trainees, and there will be some new initiatives coming up to increase networking and professional development opportunities.

Glenn Carstens-Peters

Want to get involved? We regularly look for volunteers to write posts for our SNP blog, and if you want to help out with your local CON-SNP chapter or even start a new chapter at your school just let us know. We look forward to meeting and connecting with SNPs across Canada this year, and can’t wait to hit the ground running this September.


Amanda & Melissa

CON-SNP Chair & Vice Chair

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Kindness- You Still Exist


Today’s post comes from Jodi Krah. Jodi is a member of the CON Patient Engagement Committee and frequent blog contributor. You can read Jodi’s other posts here and here

A couple of weeks ago I did an interview with a local newspaper reporter and we discussed what it was like to have obesity. In all honesty I was worried about speaking out in my local paper. Obesity isn’t easily explained; it is greatly misunderstood and carries a great deal of stigma. What reaction would my community, my employer, my coworkers, friends and family have? Would I face ridicule? Would people be open to looking at obesity as a disease? It was an uneasy feeling to say the least. Logical concerns based on my history. (more…)

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How can families set priorities in pediatric weight management?

Today’s post comes from Maryam Kebbe. Maryam is a PhD Student, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Alberta

The Canadian Obesity Network lends access to a wide variety of clinical tools and resources, including Conversation Cards© (CCs). Developed in 2012 via a process of knowledge synthesis and qualitative data, this tool comprises a deck of 44 cards. Each card contains an individual statement pertaining to a challenge or enabler faced in weight management. The cards are organized across six categorical suits:

  1. Communication
  2. Interpersonal relationships
  3. Nutrition
  4. Parenting
  5. Physical activity
  6. Weight management

Prior to families’ initial clinical appointment, CCs are presented by clinic or research staff as an icebreaker activity. Families are instructed to select their top priorities as reflected by the cards, and document them on a one-page chart note. This page is then inserted into children’s medical records and serves as a resource for clinicians to identify families’ preferred areas of change.

Recently, we published a retrospective medical record review on CCs in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior in pediatric weight management since the time of their integration at the Pediatric Centre for Weight and Health (Edmonton, AB); press release and podcast can be accessed here for more information. Through this study, we aimed to describe families’ selections of CCs and examine CC-related differences based on families’ characteristics.

We retrieved a total of 146 children’s medical records. This represented around 50% of the families who visited the clinic during 2012 – 2016, indicating that CCs can be integrated in this setting. Families were not restricted by the number of cards that they could select; on average, families selected 10 ± 6 cards, with a relatively equal proportion of cards selected across suits. We found that cards indicating less healthy eating behaviors (p = 0.001) and physical activity (p = 0.002) were chosen more for teens (vs children) and that goal-setting was perceived to be a motivator across several sociodemographic characteristics, including having a higher level of education and a lower household income (p < 0.05).

The top 5 most frequently selected CCs included:

  1. “I am ready to make healthy changes” (n=73; 50%)
  2. “I think it’s good for my child to be involved in discussions” (n=61; 42%)
  3. “It is important for my child to share his/her thoughts” (n=59; 40%)
  4. “I would like to learn how to make healthy foods fun” (n=57; 39%)
  5. “I would like a specially-trained fitness instructor to work with my child” (n= 56; 38%)

These card selections spanned families’ motivation, patient engagement, and healthy behaviors. The fact that not all families were universally motivated to participate in care highlights the importance of incorporating effective strategies (e.g., goal-setting, motivational interviewing) to help more families reach that stage.

Families presenting to multidisciplinary pediatric weight management reported a variety of issues that can make it easier or more difficult to make healthy changes. Our study suggests that CCs can be used by families to set priorities that clinicians can subsequently help attend to on an individualized level.

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How University Students Are Leading the Charge to Repair our Broken Food Systems: Part 2

siamak djamei

Today’s post is part of a two-part series by Kirsten Lee and  Katelyn Godin. Kirsten and Katelyn are both graduate studuents at the University of Waterloo. 

Universities have a unique opportunity to engage students in creating change towards a more environmentally sustainable and healthy food system. Just as with Meatless Mondays in Part 1 of this blog series, PUSH is an initiative that leverages the voices of student to drive change, specifically to tackle the challenge of food insecurity. Post-secondary students have a powerful voice in PUSHing for a greater focus on food and nutrition security on campus.

Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH)

PUSH is a global movement that advocates for university leaders and administration to support the eradication of hunger and malnutrition. When universities sign the global PUSH mission, their campus will join a coalition of university leaders around the world in making a commitment to advocacy and leadership related to accessibility of food for all, at both the campus- and international-levels. A University of Waterloo chapter was formed by a group of undergraduate and graduate students in the fall of 2016 to advocate for this mission on their campus.

Recognizing that food insecurity and hunger are complex issues that require partnerships at varying levels, PUSH has recently collaborated with the University of Waterloo Meal Exchange Student Chapter. Meal Exchange is an organization that is championing food system change across universities to improve food security and sustainability. This collaboration was an important step in empowering students to contribute to a just and sustainable food system, both on- and off-campus. Findings from Meal Exchange’s study suggest that food insecurity is a serious issue for Canadian post-secondary students as approximately 40% of surveyed students have experienced some degree of food insecurity in the past year.

We asked the students of this collaborative group to chat about their involvement with PUSH/Meal Exchange. Here’s what they had to say: (more…)

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How University Students are Leading the Charge to Repair our Broken Food Systems: Part 1

Amber Bayly

Today’s post is part of a two-part series by Kirsten Lee and  Katelyn Godin. Kirsten and Katelyn are both graduate students at the University of Waterloo. 

Our 21st century food systems are in strife. An enormous proportion of our food is wasted, while billions of people around the world go hungry. Food swamps are widespread, resulting in people having limited access to healthy, affordable food options in grocery stores and markets. Unsustainable farming practices are common and greatly influence the environment. Food insecurity affects many families, leaving many people with inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial limitations. These systemic issues have dire consequences, including perpetuating social inequities, degradation of the environment, and accelerating the development of obesity and other chronic diseases. If there is a time where reform of our food systems is needed, it’s now.

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are national and global movements underway, in which impassioned individuals are using advocacy, practical interventions, and innovation to remedy some of these faulty systems at the local level. Some of these local efforts are found within our universities, and are often pioneered by students.

Students and faculty at the University of Waterloo have recently launched and sustained two campus food systems-related initiatives: Meatless Monday (MM) and Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH). We chatted with the students that are leading these initiatives to learn more about their organizations’ goals, advocacy work, and why it’s critical to engage students in efforts to improve our food systems. Part 1 of this series focuses on the MM movement at UW, while Part 2 describes UW students’ efforts in PUSH.


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Let’s make our day harder

Today’s post comes from Jennifer McConnell-Nzunga. Jennifer is the Special Events Coordinator for the CON SNP Executive and a PhD Candidate in the Social Dimensions of Health Program, University of Victoria.

Although we live in a society of convenience seduction, where your smartphone can close your curtains and your favorite take-out can appear by swiping right, the easiest choice may not be the healthiest. Dr. Mike Evans released a series of videos on the importance of getting active and introducing a little inconvenience into our lives (check out how to make your day harder here). Maybe you’ve seen them? The news media picked up on it and it’s turned in to a movement (

Many of the suggestions included in the video aren’t new and will likely remind your grandparents of “back in my day…”. Some of the suggestions that really resonated with me include:

  1. Take the stairs instead of the elevator (even take the elevator up too far and take the stairs back down a few floors)
  2. Park further away from your destination
  3. Ride your bike
  4. Get off the bus one stop early
  5. Plan a walking meeting
  6. Go for a walk at lunch
  7. Buy a push-mower, snow shovel, or rake


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Is it (finally) time for Canadians to impose a sugar tax?


This week’s post comes from Dr. Allana LeBlanc. Allana is a Post Doctoral Fellow with the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the Communications Director for the CON SNP Exec. This post was cross posted on Obesity Panacea

When will the sugar tax come to Canada?

It’s become a question of when and not if we will start taxing sugar sweetened beverages like Coke and Pepsi. Let’s just hope Canadians are a bit quicker on jumping on the bandwagon for this than they were for the implementation of banning trans fats.

Taxes on sugar sweetened beverages (commonly known as SSBs) have gone from debate, to reality in many European countries, and many cities across the United States. In Canada, we’re dragged our heels so much that trenches have started to appear. No really.  Forget implementation, we’ve only gotten so far as to hear recommendations on perhaps/maybe/sometime-in-the-near-future implementing such a tax (namely in the recent Senate report on Obesity in Canada, although there no timeline included in the report).

The main point of contention has been between “big soda” and health care providers/researchers/clinicians/community members. I’ll let you guess who has more money to put towards the cause. Let’s just remember that increase in taxation has made the single largest contribution to decrease in tobacco smoking worldwide (Gravely et al, 2017) .

As far back as 2014, the city of Berkley, California approved the implementation of a tax on SSBs. Specifically, they voted for a tax of $0.01 USD per fluid ounce on beverages with added caloric sweeteners. So if you think of your typical can of Coke, you’re looking at an increase in$0.12. The tax officially went into effect March 2015 and has now expanded to numerous other cities in the US (e.g., San Francisco, and Chicago metro center). The implementation of the tax provided researchers with a unique chance to look at consumer spending habits pre- and post-taxation. The results of this study were published yesterday in PLOS Medicine.  Specifically, they compared records from 15.5 million checkouts between purchases in Berkely, and comparable cities. They also completed a telephone survey of Berkely residents spending habits and self-reported consumption of SSB.

Main outcome measures were changes in price (i.e., cents per ounce), consumer spending, and usual beverage intake in terms of kilocalories per day. Basically, did the tax do anything?

What were the main findings? (taken from the paper, sodas _ g l o b a l i z a t i o n _ Flickremphasis is mine)

  • “In the 15.5 million supermarket checkouts studied, 67% of the amount of the tax was passed on to consumers across all SSBs, and the tax was fully passed through for sodas and energy drinks; in the 26-store survey, the tax was more than fully passed on in Berkeley large and small chain groceries and gas stations, especially for carbonated beverages; partially passed on in pharmacies; and not passed on in small independent gas stations and corner stores.
  • Sales in ounces of taxed SSBs fell by 9.6% [p>0.001] in relation to predicted sales in the absence of the tax, while sales of untaxed beverages rose 3.5% and total beverage sales rose in Berkeley. Consumer spending per transaction (average grocery bill) did not increase, nor did store revenue fall more in Berkeley, while SSB sales rose 6.9% in comparison cities.
  • Berkeley residents were low consumers of SSBs at baseline (consuming only 34% of the national average of SSBs). Dietary intake surveys [i.e. self-report measures] found shifts of −19.8% (p = 0.49) in mean daily SSB intake (grams) and −13.3% (p = 0.56) in mean calories from SSBs that were not statistically significant, while caloric intake of untaxed beverages (milk and other diary-based beverages) increased.

As the authors noted, even before the survey, Berkely residents drank less SSBs than the national average in the U.S. and they still saw an almost 10% reduction in sales of SSB. They also saw an almost 16% rise in sales of bottled water. While I don’t necessarily agree with bottled water from an environmental perspective, this is a huge step in changing consumer taste preferences (and therefore shopping habits). Although change self-reported consumption of SSBs did not reach significance, consumers were buying less, so maybe they didn’t even realize their consumption went down?

Finally, and perhaps the most important result in seeing widespread implementation of this type of taxation, consumer spending fell LESS in Berkely than in cities that did not implement the tax. Consumers just shifted their spending habits to include more non-taxed beverages like water, milk, and fruit juice.

Win. Win. Win.


Featured image by Mike Mozart.

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Five Things to Love about Nutrition Month 2017: Take the Fight out of Food!


Melissa Fernandez is the Chapter Representative for the CON SNP National Executive, a PhD student at Université Laval, and a registered dietitian. She is the regional representative for Nutrition Month in Quebec City. You can find out more about Melissa here.

The Dietitians of Canada have been hosting Nutrition Month for over 30 years and every year it gets better with more resources, more partners and more engagement from the public.

1.    A great strategy

This year’s theme highlights the fact that a lot of Canadians have daily struggles with making healthy food choices for themselves and their loved ones, and this does NOT need to be the case. Eating and feeding your family doesn’t have to be a “fight”, so the Dietitians have Canada outlined three steps to help overcome common challenges:

  1. Spot the problem.
  2. Get the facts.
  3. Seek support.

Check out the free fact-sheets for examples!

2.    Free resources and tools for the public

No need to be a member of professional association to access credible healthy eating resources. The Dietitians of Canada provide free resources and tools available for download by private institutions, health professionals and the public. A team spends an entire year developing content and attractive material to put into these resources, which fit very conveniently into workplace health programs, educational settings or community services. There are healthy recipes, ambassador toolkits, “Take the Pledge” certificates, ready-to-use ads, messages for Twitter, posters, fact-sheets and videos. Personally, my favorite resource are the recipes that come out every year. They look delicious! For a full list of free resources check-out the Nutrition Month website.

3.    National mobilization

From coast to coast, dietitians are putting out the same messages and creating awareness about healthy eating. This type of mass-media health promotion strategy is a winner. A single overarching message, that is being reinforced and repeated by multiple national partners and individual dietitians, avoids confusing the public with different messaging about food and healthy eating.

4.    Events all month long!

Dietitians and organizations in cities across Canada put together special activities for the public from conferences to kiosks. These activities are hosted in schools, work places, communities, and by health professional or groups of people interested in creating awareness about healthy eating. In Quebec, our local Nutrition-Month committee has partnered with the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods to host activities for the public, for our affiliates and for local dietitians. Check out the Canada Activity Map to find out what’s going on in your area.

5.    Recognition of professionals

Dietitians belong to professional associations and have to be licenced to practice and provide primary care, private consulting services or information to the public. As part of licencing requirements, dietitians update their skills on a regular basis so that they stay abreast of the latest science and best standards in their field of practice. They are the most qualified professionals to provide you with information about nutrition and your diet. Every year, to recognize dietitians across Canada, the second Wednesday of March is “Dietitians Day”. This year, on March 15, dietitians across the country opened their ears to the public.

We’re nearing the end of nutrition month, but that’s no reason to end your commitment to eating better. Small changes to your diet sustained throughout the year can have big impacts on your well-being.

Spread the word about Nutrition Month and stay tuned for March 2018!


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Staying Active for Good Mental Health: Why Students Should Exercise During Exam Season


Today’s post comes from Andrew Hanna. Andrew is a M.Sc Candidate at Western University in the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. His research  focuses on the benefits of exercise to treat chronic disease, specifically depression and other mental illnesses. 

Finding time to stay physically active in university can be difficult. The balance between maintaining healthy day-to-day habits and academic responsibilities places students in a dilemma, since prolonged periods of studying generally require long bouts of sedentary behaviour. As academic workloads increase, many students find it difficult to set aside time for physical activity. However, it may be especially important to stay active during stressful times since physical activity can help to improve mental alertness, reduce stress and improve quality of sleep (Sharma, Madaan & Petty, 2006).


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Comment augmenter son nombre de pas quotidien – Défi National Podomètre 2017

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and nature

Today’s post comes from Janie. You can learn more about her at the end of this post!

 Vous avez décidé de participer au Défi National Podomètre? Félicitations! Il s’agit d’un pas de plus vers l’adoption et le maintien d’un mode de vie actif. Il faut être prêt à y mettre l’effort, mais sachez que des petits gestes peuvent faire toute la différence.

La Société Américaine du cœur recommande de faire au moins 10 000 pas par jour dans le but de prévenir le développement des maladies cardiovasculaires. Si cela vous semble peu, c’est un nombre assez difficile à atteindre dans le contexte où la majorité de la population effectue un travail en position assise. Voici quelques trucs simples pour vous permettre d’atteindre 10 000 pas quotidiennement:


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