Reaching for the Top: National summit brings together leading experts in child and youth health

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The Sandbox Project hosted its 8th national stakeholder gathering on April 12th at TELUS House in Toronto, creating a venue for experts and conference participants to work together on strategies to improve health outcomes for young people throughout Canada.

This year’s Sandbox Summit marked the tenth anniversary of The Sandbox Project’s foundational report, Reaching for the Top: A Report by the Advisor on Healthy Children and Youth. In 2008, Reaching for the Top highlighted that Canada was slipping further behind its peer countries when it comes to key health indicators for children and youth. It proposed a number of recommendations for how all sectors need to work together if we are to see meaningful improvement.

Joined by the author of Reaching for the Top, paediatric orthopaedic surgeon and Founder of The Sandbox Project, Dr. K. Kellie Leitch MP, participants took a collaborative look at Canada’s progress in child and youth health and wellbeing outcomes. While there is excellent work taking place across the country, the reality is that Canada continues to rank unacceptably low among our peer countries when it comes to children’s health: According to the latest UNICEF data, Canada ranks 25th of 41 wealthy countries. 

Throughout the day, the Summit heard updates from leaders across child and youth health on progress made in several key areas over the past year. Highlights from Sandbox-partnered initiatives included:

In the field of children’s advocacy, Children First Canada presented the Canadian Children’s Charter, a call to action to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of children. The Canadian Child and Youth Health Coalition, a coalition of national paediatric health organizations, shared updates on the critical advocacy discussion taking place around establishing a Commission for Children and Youth in Canada. 

Participants enjoyed a delicious lunch supported by Real Food for Real Kids, a social real food enterprise that uses Ontario and Canadian sustainably & organically grown foods and is a pioneer in catering and delivering nutritious foods to kids in childcare centres, elementary schools & camps.

Key to the annual Sandbox Summit is the opportunity for cross-sector collaboration to solve the most pressing issues in child and youth health and wellbeing as identified by the organizations in the room. This year, during “Open Space” collaborative sessions, individuals and organizations from across the Sandbox network brought their own promising practices and opportunities for stakeholder collaboration. Some of these sessions included:

  • A YCRH-led roundtable to help inform the Government of Canada’s first-ever Youth Policy
  • A consultation on reintroducing the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit
  • A working group session on Mobilizing new CHILD Study findings on breastfeeding and introduction of solid foods
  • An interactive session on the Sandbox Youth Mental Health Initiative
  • A stakeholder feedback discussion on the new Injury Prevention primer
  • An update from the Brock Healthy Youth Project, including early Focus Areas and knowledge mobilization plans
  • To join the Sandbox Summit discussion on Twitter, please follow #Sandbox2018.

For further details, please contact us

The Time is Now: Establish a Commission for Children and Youth in Canada

Today, the Canadian Child and Youth Health Coalition (CCYHC) announced a Call to Action for Canada to establish a Commission for Children and Youth. A Commission for Children and Youth in Canada will bring together experts and stakeholders from across Canada who will help to inform and guide government in ways to:

  • Ensure all children in Canada have a good start in life by addressing social inequality
  • Improve Canada’s standing in the world as it relates to child & youth well-being (currently ranked 26th out of 41 countries, UNICEF 2016)
  • Achieve long-term health, social and economic benefits for individuals, communities and Canada

The Call to Action was developed with the participation of 10 national paediatric health organizations working together with a common vision to advance the health and health care of Canada’s children and youth. As a Coalition member, The Sandbox Project endorses this Call to Action: A non-partisan, collaborative approach is needed to take on emerging issues on a national level in order to ensure a healthy start in life for children and youth living in Canada.

CCYHC will be sharing an update and leading an advocacy discussion on this subject at the 2018 Sandbox Summit in Toronto. Join us and our partner organizations on April 12th as we work together to bring this important idea forward. 

Call for mandatory radon testing focus of national Healthy Schools Day petition

Despite known cancer risks, most provincial and territorial governments in Canada do not require radon testing of schools and child care programs


This Healthy Schools Day, April 3rd, the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE) and the Canadian Child Care Federation (CCCF) will launch a national petition urging mandatory action on radon in schools and child care programs across the country. The Rule Out Radon petition is accessible at

Erica Phipps, CPCHE’s Executive Director explained why: “To reduce the exposure of children to the dangers of radon gas, this Healthy Schools Day we are asking parents, educators, students — and anyone concerned with the well-being of Canada’s children — to make their voices heard by signing the Rule Out Radon petition.”

Radon exists in all regions of Canada and is the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. Formed by the gradual breakdown of uranium found in rocks and soil, radon is a radioactive gas that can seep through foundations and build up to harmful levels indoors. Since radon is both colourless and odourless, the only way to know if radon levels are too high inside a home, school or other building is to test for it. Testing is simple and inexpensive. If elevated levels are found, the problem can be fixed.

Despite some recent progress, most jurisdictions in Canada still do not require radon testing in schools and child care programs. 

“Radon exposure is a well-known and avoidable cancer risk that may be present in schools and child care settings at levels considered unsafe by Health Canada,” said Phipps. “We would not send our children to schools with exposed asbestos, or where the water has not been tested for safety. So why allow children to spend time in schools and child care programs not checked for high levels of radon?”

According to CAREX Canada, only four of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories have ensured that all schools within their jurisdictions have been tested for radon at some point in the past decade (see below). Only Yukon has legislation that now requires testing.

The extent to which testing has taken place in child care facilities is largely unknown. Recent policy announcements by the Yukon, Alberta, and BC Interior Health Authority to require testing in child care programs suggest the issue is starting to garner the attention it deserves.

“The well-being of children attending child care programs across Canada, and the women and men who work in them, must be a priority. Radon focused regulations and licensing need to explicitly make testing mandatory in the jurisdictions that are lagging behind,” concluded CCCF CEO Don Giesbrecht.

View the full release and backgrounder

Source: Randee Holmes, Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE)