2015 Best Start Resource Centre Annual Conference

Overview | February 25 (Pre-Conference) | February 26-27 (Main Conference) | Speaker Biographies

February 26-27 Main Conference

Keynote Presentations

Trends in Early Childhood Education Across Canada

Zeenat Janmohamed, Visiting Scholar, Atkinson Centre for Society and Child Development, University of Toronto

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In this opening keynote presentation, Zeenat Janmohamed, Visting Scholar at the Atkinson Centre for Society and Development, reviewed the scientific, economic and social rationale for early childhood education as presented in Early Years Study 3 and emphasized the power of early childhood education in influencing family life and child outcomes. She also reviewed the ECE Report 2014 which monitors and compares how early childhood education is delivered across Canadian provinces and territories. The session closed with a discussion about how early childhood education fits with other child and family programs including maternal, newborn and child health.


Using Innovative Communication Technology to Deliver Preconception Care

Brian Jack, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Family Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine

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Dr. Brian Jack, in this afternoon keynote, described and demonstrated a new health information technology tool called “Gabby”, a computerized, animated character designed to emulate the face-to-face conversational behavior of an empathic clinician designed to deliver preconception care. Dr. Jack highlighted how Gabby can potentially reach a large number of patients, alleviate clinician time restraints, and control costs while simultaneously having high patient acceptability through culturally appropriate content and information appropriate to those with low health literacy. Dr. Jack reported on the design and programming of new, more sophisticated elements of Gabby and the results of a recently completed RCT among 100 women.


Children's Rights and Indigenous Children in Canada

Margo Greenwood, PhD, Academic Leader, National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health

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In this closing keynote address, Dr. Margo Greenwood discussed a partnership report between UNICEF Canada and the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health which examines the state of being for Canada's Aboriginal children. She highlighted the challenges facing Indigenous children, including the lack of a national poverty and childcare strategy. To help overcome these challenges, Dr. Greenwood proposed the implementation of a social justice education model which would provide information to children to help them develop a social and political consciousness. She also emphasized the importance of holding governments and agencies accountable for ensuring the rights of all Canadians, particularly those of marginalized Indigenous peoples.




Thursday, February 26th (Morning)

A1 – Revitalizing Indigenous Birth Traditions
Rebeka Tabobondung, Editor-in-Chief, MUSKRAT Magazine

Revitalizing Indigenous Birth Traditions was an interactive workshop that focused on the revitalization of Indigenous birth and maternal infant child and health knowledge. Based on community driven research that documents rich oral histories, the workshop explored traditional teachings and approaches and looked at ways communities are revitalizing, translating, and applying knowledge. The workshop also included a short video documentary. 


A2 – Women-Centred Praxis
Nancy Poole, Director, BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health; Prevention Lead, CanFASD Research Network

In this session, Nancy Poole, Director of the BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health, emphasized that, to support and improve child, women’s and family health, often a women-centered approach is recommended. This session explored what is meant by ‘women-centered’; how and where this approach is being applied; and how it links to other principles and approaches to practice such as child-centered, trauma-informed, harm-reduction-oriented, culturally competent, collaborative and empowerment-focused. Examples of women-centered practice in the context of alcohol and tobacco use in pregnancy were used as a focus for discussion and action.


A3 – Children See… Children Learn – The Best Start Resource Centre Campaign on Parenting without Punishing
Louise Choquette, Bilingual Health Promotion Consultant, Best Start Resource Centre

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Louise Choquette facilitated this workshop that introduced the Best Start Resource Centre’s upcoming awareness campaign on child discipline that is planned for the fall of 2015. She emphasized that the goal of the campaign is to reduce the prevalence of physical and emotional punishment of children from birth to age six. This workshop highlighted some of the background research conducted: key informant interviews, environmental scan, best practices review and parent survey. It also offered a preview of some of the materials that will be available to service providers to support this campaign.


A4 – Delivery of Preconception Health and Health Care for Clinicians
Brian Jack, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Family Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine

This session reviewed the history and definitions of preconception care and described the rationale for the inclusion of this care in clinical practice. The clinical content of care across 12 domains of clinical practice as described by the CDC Select Panel on Preconception Care was reviewed. The justification of key components of preconception care that should be included in clinical encounters and barriers to delivery of this care was discussed. Innovative programs and tools that are now used to assist the busy clinician in the delivery of care were demonstrated.


A5 – Developing Your Baby Friendly Journey: Many Paths to Success
Linda Young, MScN, EdD, Director, Maternal Newborn Child Mental Health Interprofessional Practice and Organizational Learning
Kristina Niedra, MA, Project Manager, BFI Strategy for Ontario and MCIT

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This session was recognized by IBLCE for CERPs approval (1.5 L-CERPs)

In this workshop, Linda Young and Kristina Niedra discussed the indisputable mounting evidence about the positive impact of breastfeeding on the health of infants and mothers. They highlighted how, over the past year, the BFI Strategy for Ontario has been developing tools, resources, guidance and supports for organizations across the province to become Baby-Friendly.  This presentation described the new resources and supports that are available to assist hospitals and community health organizations on their BFI journey.  Linda and Kristina described the potential paths to a successful BFI journey and the importance of partnerships along the way. Finally, they outlined how the success of the BFI Strategy for Ontario is measured.


Thursday, February 26th (Afternoon)


B1 – Working with Aboriginals: A Midwife’s Perspective on the Circle of Care
Carol Couchie, BHSc, RM

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The role of the midwife is often misunderstood and undervalued. This session situated midwifery within the broader maternal health landscape and illustrated how the midwife’s work can complement the work of other practitioners in the field. Drawing on experiences specifically with Aboriginal populations, the workshop outlined the integral role of the midwife within Aboriginal communities and provided specific strategies that can be used within health units and hospitals to better integrate midwifery within the circle of care.


B2 – Addressing Smoking with Women and Their Families – Strategies for In-home Support Services
Marie Brisson, Bilingual Health Promotion Consultant, Best Start Resource Centre
Janet Nevala, Nevala Consulting

This interactive workshop was designed for service providers who have the opportunity to discuss the health effects of smoking and offer smoking cessation support to women and/or their family members in the clients’ home or community. It included counselling tips and tools to help increase service provider confidence in providing tailored interventions with a women-centred approach. The workshop was based on the new Best Start Resource Centre resource, Addressing Smoking with Women and Their Families.  All participants received a free copy of this resource.


B3 – Physical Activity during the Early Years: Research Evidence and Practice Implications
Dr. Trish Tucker, Assistant Professor, Western University

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This session, presented by Dr. Trish Tucker, emphasized how physical activity during early childhood is very important as it sets the stage for a healthy active lifestyle in later life. This presentation provided an overview of current physical activity levels among preschoolers in Canada, with a particular focus on activity behaviours in early learning facilities (home and centre-based childcare). The impact of environmental influences in childcare facilities on physical activity behaviours was explored. Strategies were addressed to encourage physical activity among young children.


B4 – Strengthening Prenatal Education in Ontario:  Using the New Key Messages to Guide your Practice
Matthuschka Sheedy, RN, BScN, ICCE, Health Promotion Consultant, Prenatal Education

This session introduced participants to the new Prenatal Education Key Messages web-based tool developed by the Best Start Resource Centre. Matthuschka Sheedy emphasized how the key messages were designed to strengthen prenatal education in Ontario, in response to the recommendations made in the Healthy Kids Panel No Time to Wait report. Highlights from the background research were shared, and the development process was explained. Discussions included tips on how to use the tool and associated resources, and ways to promote uptake of the key messages in a variety of settings.


B5 – Using BORN Data to Understand Maternal & Newborn Health Outcomes
Paula D. Morrison, RN, BScN, MS, PNC(C), Public Health Coordinator, Better Outcomes Registry and Network (BORN)

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In this workshop, Paula D. Morrison emphasized the importance of defining the issues and examining the relevant data to effectively solve perinatal problems. This presentation included an overview of BORN (Better Outcome Registry and Network) and the BORN Information System (BIS). Established in 2009 to collect, share and rigorously protect critical data about each child born in the province, BORN Ontario manages an advanced registry that provides reliable, secure and comprehensive information on maternal and child care.  Morrison discussed the benefits of analyzing BORN data to provide a snapshot of provincial maternal demographic profiles, perinatal risk factors, and maternal/newborn health outcomes.


Friday, February 27th

C1 – Braiding in Trauma-informed Approaches to our Work with Women
Nancy Poole, Director, BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health; Prevention Lead, CanFASD Research Network

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This presentation introduced principles of trauma-informed care which guide interventions at the individual, organizational and systemic levels. The application of these principles was discussed in the context of:

  • Work being done in "one stop shop" programs supporting pregnant and newly parenting women with addictions and other complex life circumstances.
  • Indigenous models of care and practice.
  • Brief interventions by service providers discussing alcohol use with women in the preconception/perinatal period.

Strategies and challenges to inspire and guide the practice of service providers who work with women were presented for discussion, and resources for those interested in shifting towards becoming more 'trauma-informed' were made available.


C2 – Healthy Children on the Move:  Physical Activity and the Childcare Setting
Mary Jane Gordon, BNSc, Public Health Nurse, Reproductive and Child Health, KFL&A Public Health
Chantal L. Lalonde, MHS, Health Educator/Promoter, Eastern Ontario Health Unit

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This workshop focused on physical activity and the childcare setting. Participants learned about:

  • Key concepts such as physical activity, physical literacy and sedentary behaviour and gained an understanding of guidelines for the early years.
  • The importance of policies in childcare settings including a summary of best practices and sample policies.
  • How to put these concepts into practice using the Eastern Ontario Health Unit Physical Activity Environment Self-assessment and Planning Toolkit for Childcare Settings. 

Participants engaged in small group discussions to identify their needs, current activities and goals. Working from a list of key resources provided by the speakers, participants identified additional physical activity resources and tools, and selected the best physical activity resources for their circumstances.


C3 – Improving Sleep for Families
Robyn Stremler, RN, PhD, University of Toronto

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This workshop addressed common sleep issues from infancy through adolescence, as well as sleep for parents in pregnancy and beyond. Implementation of assessment strategies and behavioural sleep interventions were discussed, guided by case examples with a focus on typically developing children and their parents.


C4 – Adapting to a Changing World: The Evolution and Effectiveness of Online and In-person Public Health Prenatal Education Programs in Ontario
Gillian Alton, Public Health Ontario Locally Driven Collaborative Projects Healthy Pregnancies Team
Evelyn Vaccari, Toronto Public Health
Jeanell Vanbesien, Halton Region Public Health

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This interactive workshop examined how public health prenatal education has adapted to the increased use of technology. The workshop covered the following areas:

  • Overview of the adapted version of Gift of Motherhood, its dissemination and the joint evaluation taking place.
  • Overview of Toronto Public Health’s Welcome to Parenting and its dissemination.
  • Overview of the Public Health Ontario Locally Driven Collaborative Projects Healthy Pregnancies project.
  • Development of a Healthy Pregnancies Knowledge Tool to measure knowledge change.
  • Final results of the prenatal education study examining the difference in knowledge gains in pregnant women talking in-person compared to online prenatal education programs.

C5 – Breastfeeding Peer Support: An Effective Strategy to Support Breastfeeding
Hiltrud Dawson, Health Promotion Consultant/Breastfeeding Project Lead, Best Start Resource Centre
Michelle Buckner, Breastfeeding Buddies Project Coordinator, Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre
Mary Lynn Houston-Leask, RPN, Aboriginal Prenatal Nutrition Program Coordinator, M'Wikedong Native Cultural Resource Centre
Teresa Pitman, Writer, La Leche League Canada

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This session was recognized by IBLCE for CERPs approval (3 L-CERPs)

Peer support provides an empathic and safe environment for all women to learn about the art of breastfeeding from each other. It is an effective strategy in increasing breastfeeding exclusivity and duration rates among mothers who face barriers to breastfeeding or are challenged by social determinants of health. This session highlighted the benefits of peer breastfeeding support and discussed how organizations can initiate, incorporate and support peer breastfeeding programs. Some specific examples from breastfeeding community projects reaching populations with lower rates of breastfeeding will be presented.