Healthy Schools Day is April 4, 2019

Healthy Schools Day proposes ‘do-able’ actions to reduce children’s exposure to diesel emissions from school buses

Thousands of Canadian school children are exposed to cancer-causing emissions from diesel school buses every day and, according to this year’s Healthy Schools Day campaign, it is time to make sure that all schools are taking every possible action to reduce those exposures and risks.

This year, Healthy Schools Day is on April 4th. In materials made available on the campaign website, the Healthy Schools Day campaign asks ‘Does your school get an ‘A’ for action on diesel emissions and children’s health?’

“There are real, do-able and no-cost actions that every school board can take to reduce our children’s exposure to diesel emissions,” says Erica Phipps, Executive Director of the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE).

“Things as simple as turning off the engines of buses while they are loading or unloading outside the school. Or, make sure buses are not traveling or idling so close to each other that the exhaust from one flows into the passenger cabin of the other,” she says. “Changing the timing of the school’s ventilation system to avoid drawing in pollutants during busy traffic times is another option, and one that many schools have not yet heard about."

While the campaign seeks to catalyze immediate and interim actions, it also urges investment in cleaner transportation technologies, such as electric buses powered by renewable energy sources, as the best way to protect children’s health and combat climate change.

The Healthy Schools Day campaign proposes four ways to reduce exposure to diesel emissions:

  1. STOP IDLING – Turn the engines off while school buses are waiting in loading zones or near school grounds.

  2. AVOID BUS ‘CARAVANNING’ – Ensure there is a gap between buses during travel and in loading zones to keep the exhaust of one bus from polluting the cabin air of another. 

  3. CHANGE THE TIMING OF SCHOOL VENTILATION – Help reduce the infiltration of diesel bus and other vehicle emissions into schools by ensuring that high ventilation periods do not occur during busy loading/unloading times or rush hour.

  4. UPGRADE AND REPLACE OLD BUSES – Emissions from older buses can be improved with pollution control upgrades, and new technology diesel engines offer vastly improved emissions performance. Best of all, replace old diesel vehicles with new buses powered by cleaner energy such as electricity.

A 2016 Health Canada assessment summarizes the multiple health problems associated with exposure to diesel emissions, including increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease, and worsening of asthma and allergy suffering, as well as some evidence of potential links to certain reproductive and developmental effects. Phipps also cites growing concern among scientists about the ability of ultra-fine diesel exhaust particles to reach and potentially harm the brain.

Scientists agree that children can be more vulnerable to respiratory effects from diesel emissions. Because children have more rapid breathing rates than adults, children can be more highly exposed to diesel particulates and other airborne pollutants.

Healthy Schools Day is an annual nation-wide campaign led by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE).   /

Cannabis Use, Harms and Perceived Risk among Canadian Students

It is clearly important to understand cannabis use by and harms to young people. With the recent legalization of non-medical cannabis use in Canada, youth and cannabis are a continued area of focus for prevention and harm reduction. Understanding use and harms helps ensure targeted policies, programs and services that effectively prevent cannabis use and reduce harm among young people.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), in collaboration with the Student Drug Use Survey Working Group, released a new report, Cannabis Use, Harms and Perceived Risks among Canadian Students. This report compiles data from five provincial and two national surveys on available indicators of cannabis use, harms and perceived risk among students in grades 7 to 12, for survey cycles occurring between 2007 and 2015.

Cannabis Use, Harms and Perceived Risks among Canadian Students shows that, among the included surveys:

  • Overall cannabis use decreased between 2007 and 2015. This decrease was valid when examining daily, monthly/past month and past year cannabis use.

  • Among students in grades 7 to 12, surveyed between 2012 and 2015, up to one-third reported using cannabis in the past year.

  • More frequent cannabis use (daily, monthly/past month) was more likely to be reported by male students.

  • Approximately one in five students who used cannabis drove a motorized vehicle after cannabis use. There is insufficient evidence to determine trends and this is an important knowledge gap to address.

Greater consistency in the cannabis indicators collected across provinces and territories is needed to better understand the impact of cannabis legalization on Canadian students in grades 7 to 12. This report is available through the Student Drug Use webpage on CCSA’s website.

Families Canada to host the CICH Profile on the Health of Canada’s Children and Youth

Since its inception in 1977, the Canadian Institute of Child Health (CICH) has published “The Health of Canada’s Children and Youth: A CICH Profile.” The Profile evaluates and summarizes data on the health and well-being of Canadian children and youth through graphs, tables and commentaries covering a broad range of health indicators. The Profile is a unique, easy-to-read educational resource and is recognized nationally and internationally for its breadth of expert knowledge.

Through an agreement with CICH, Families Canada is taking on this respected resource. Families Canada will work with CICH’s expert advisors and partners who have ensured the Profile reflects the latest evidence-based and scientific information on the health of Canada’s children and youth.

You can continue to access the profile at

Why Play? Brochures from Families Canada and the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development

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Posted on behalf of Families Canada and the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development

By popular demand, Why Play? brochures are now available at individually priced rates.

Now, not only can you order the rebranded Why Play? brochures in packs that include all three age groups, but you can also order separate age groups that best pertain to your organization.

Formerly only available in English and French, we now have the brochures available in four additional languages: Spanish, Arabic, Punjabi and Simplified Chinese!

Who: Families Canada and the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development

What: The ever popular Why Play? brochures

Where: You can find the online order form to place your order for group or individual packs at the following link: 

For more information contact:

Infant sleep duration associated with mother’s level of education, prenatal depression and method of delivery

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New research from AllerGen’s CHILD Cohort Study has found that babies sleep less at three months of age if their mothers do not have a university degree, experienced depression during pregnancy or had an emergency cesarean-section delivery.

“Sleep affects a baby’s growth, learning and emotional development, and is one of the most common concerns of new parents,” says AllerGen investigator Dr. Piush Mandhane (University of Alberta), one of the study’s lead authors and site leader for the Edmonton site of CHILD.

“While earlier research has linked a mother’s socioeconomic status, including level of education, to shorter infant sleep duration, we have not really understood the factors at play. Our study revealed that 30% of the effect of maternal education on infant sleep duration is actually mediated by a mother’s prenatal depression, as well as the type of delivery.”

There are several possible explanations for the association between maternal depression and infant sleep: “Mothers in distress tend to have sleep problems during pregnancy, which can be ‘transmitted’ to the fetus via the mother’s circadian clock and melatonin levels,” observes AllerGen investigator and co-lead author Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj (University of Alberta). 

“Maternal depression and emergency cesarean section also both lead to elevated free cortisol levels, which, in turn, may cause an exaggerated stress response in infants that negatively impacts their sleep.”

"Our study suggests that prenatal depression and birth mode are potential targets for healthcare professionals and policy makers to improve infant sleep duration," adds first author Brittany Matenchuk, an AllerGen trainee. "Mothers who experience prenatal depression or an emergency cesarean delivery may benefit from support so that infant sleep problems do not persist into childhood.”

The study, published inSleep Medicine, analyzed data from 619 infants and their mothers participating in the CHILD Cohort Study.

Read the AllerGen press release