February 18-19, 2016: Main Conference

Overview | February 17 (Pre-Conference) | February 18-19 (Main Conference) | Speakers

Keynote Presentations


Keynote Presentations

K1 – Learning Through Play: Naturally

Pierre Harrison, M.Sc, B.Ed, OCT/EAO, PLAYLearnThink


It is well established through practice and research that unstructured, child-led play is an essential developmental need for children. Play is so central to a child's healthy development that the United Nations has declared that play is a fundamental right of the child. Play is an evolving set of behaviours becoming more complex as children grow older - it is how they explore their environment. Through play, children experience awe for the world around them and joy in the freedom of their play. This leads to strong connections to the natural world and the development of a positive sense of self within this world. This presentation explored different aspects of free, spontaneous play with a focus on the importance of outdoor play in a natural environment.

Outcomes were many and varied for each participant:

  • Participants deepened their understanding of play and its role in child development.
  • Participants acquired knowledge to help them develop their indoor/outdoor space to help support children's unstructured, spontaneous play.
  • Participants added to their understanding of the need to document their observations of children at play in order to nurture the child's learning and to evolve the participant's work (co-constructing with children).

K2 – Let's Do Reconciliation: The Children's Version

Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada; Associate Professor, University of Alberta

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Part one

Part two


The Truth and Reconciliation of Canada’s top Calls to Action are for equity and reform in child welfare, Jordan’s Principle and education. This presentation described how ongoing inequalities for First Nations children continue to undermine their success and what every Canadian can do about it. Participation of children in reconciliation was emphasized.

K3 – "Mom, it's OK to be normal"

Dr. Vicki Van Wagner, RM, PhD, Member of Council, Provincial Council for Maternal and Child Health; Associate Professor, Midwifery Education Program, Ryerson

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In maternal and child health, more is not always better. This session shared activities underway at the Provincial Council for Maternal and Child Health (PCMCH) designed to promote a “systems of care” approach to maternal and newborn health services that promotes normal birth through innovation, standard care pathways, funding-reform and interprofessional practice. Through collaboration and adoption of system’s approach, PCMCH is aiming to create common ground across sectors and professions to advance a robust maternal care strategy in Ontario. The session sparked ideas and discussion on local, regional and provincial possibilities for quality improvement in client experience, outcomes and costs.


Thursday, February 18th (Morning)

A1 - In the Spirit of Creation - Traditional Tools and Ceremonies for Nurturing Native Children with FASD

Laurie McLeod-Shabogesic, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Program Coordinator, Union of Ontario Indians

It is Anishinabek belief that to be entrusted with the care of a child is a sacred responsibility, for when you are raising a child, you are also raising your grandchildren. Through this workshop, participants learned about traditional ceremonies and how they support the development of all Native children. They also discussed how certain components also innately include protective factors for children with special needs including those with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

The workshop also provided an overview of the importance of traditional parenting tools such as the Ojibway Moss Bag, cradleboards, moccasins, etc., as well as the traditional teachings associated with these tools. As children's ceremonies and traditional parenting practices were discussed, participants explored how these practices nurture the self-esteem and well-being of all children. The particular importance of these practices when working with children with FASD was highlighted.

The traditional roles of mothers, fathers, extended family and community were explored as they pertain to the nurturing of all children. The workshop also looked at elements of traditional teachings from the cradleboard to the Berry Fast and how these teachings can be used by both native and non-native families living on- or off-reserve, while still ensuring that critical elements of these sacred ceremonies are protected and intact.

A2 – Physical Activity and Early Childhood: Building Lifelong Habits

Lindsay Siple, Health Promotion Consultant, Best Start Resource Centre

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Physical activity is an important part of a child’s development but only 14% of children 5-11 are meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. During this interactive and engaging workshop, participants learned about why the early years are such a critical period for healthy development and how physical activity at this age can lay the foundation for an active life. Attendees also learned about strategies and activity ideas to increase the number of opportunities for physical activity for young children in childcare, at school, in the community and at home.

By the end of the session, participants:

  • Built their capacity and confidence to positively impact physical activity and physical literacy levels of young children.
  • Understood the importance of physical activity and physical literacy for young children.
  • Learned about strategies which will increase the physical activity and physical literacy levels of young children.
  • Participated in hands-on games and activities which can be incorporated into programming for young children.
  • Worked through common barriers which prevent physical activity in young children and identified solutions.

A3 – Addressing the Special Needs of Premature and Ill Infants: The Expansion of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative into Neonatal Care

Dr. Laura Haiek, Direction Générale de la Santé Publique, Québec’s Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux; Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McGill University
Dr. Sonia Semenic, Associate Professor, Ingram School of Nursing, McGill University; Nurse Scientist, McGill University Health Centre


The session provided an overview of the expansion of the WHO/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) to neonatal care - or “Neo-BFHI” – which addresses the specific needs of premature and ill infants. The expansion was developed by an expert working group involving representatives from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Quebec (Dr. Haiek), and was based on a review of the evidence, expert opinion and consultation in two international conferences. The group has published two peer-reviewed articles describing the expansion, and has produced a Neo-BFHI package containing a core document with the recommendations, educational materials and a self-assessment tool. The discussion focused on the new or adapted standards added to the original BFHI’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, such as continuous skin-to-skin contact/Kangaroo Mother Care (Step 4); acceptable criteria for initiation of feeding at the breast (Step 5) and practical opportunities for parents’ unrestricted presence in neonatal units (Step 7). Three Guiding Principles were added to ensure that the recommended practices focus on respect for mothers, a family-centered care approach, and continuity of care in hospital and after discharge. Participants had the opportunity to review the Neo-BFHI package and discuss potential facilitators and barriers to the implementation of the Neo-BFHI.

A4 – Physician Outreach: Communicating with Physicians to Influence Practice

Sharon Lobo, Physician Outreach Specialist, Peel Public Health

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Have you ever wanted physicians to do what you want? The need to communicate urgent and routine messages and influence their clinical behaviour occurs regularly in public health. In a time when everyone, not only physicians, is overwhelmed by advertising and messaging – from emails to text messages, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of Social Media - how do we engage and capture their attention?

At the end of this session, participants were able to:

  • Describe effective evidence-based strategies for communicating with physicians.
  • Develop a successful organizational physician outreach strategy.
  • Apply these strategies to their everyday work in preconception health, prenatal health and early child development by working through examples and case studies.

A5 – What To Expect: Maternal Cannabis Use during Pregnancy and the Impacts on Offspring

Dr. Amy Porath-Waller, Director, Research and Policy Division, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
Katie Fleming, Knowledge Broker, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
Dr. Alice Ordean, Medical Director, Toronto Centre for Substance Use in Pregnancy (T-CUP), St. Joseph’s Health Centre; Associate Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto

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This session reviewed the effects of prenatal cannabis exposure on the development and behavior of offspring. Dr. Porath-Waller and Ms. Fleming identified some of the implications of maternal cannabis use during pregnancy and how the impacts of prenatal cannabis use can affect cognitive function, behavior, academic achievement, substance use and mental health. The majority of information reviewed in this session was based on three prospective longitudinal studies. In addition to reviewing the research, Dr. Ordean also discussed approaches to health teaching for pregnant women who use cannabis. Dr. Ordean spoke to her clinical experience and gave participants examples of tools and approaches they need to address the public health problem of substance use during pregnancy.

Thursday, February 18th (Afternoon)

B1 - Creating a Made-in-Nunavut Parenting Program: The Story of Inuunguiniq

Gwen Healey, Executive and Scientific Director, Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre (AHRN-NU)

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For many years, community members in Nunavut have highlighted the need for parenting support. In 2009, the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre in Iqaluit, NU set out to develop a parenting program based on Inuit perspectives on childrearing and family. The Inunnguiniq Parenting Program was the result of 5 years of research and consultation with many organizations and communities. Qaujigiartiit piloted, evaluated and revised this evidence-based, culturally-responsive parenting program prior to releasing it for use in Nunavut in 2015. Ten communities completed pilots of the Inunnguiniq Parenting Support Program between 2012 and 2014.

In this presentation, the story of the creation of the program was shared and a broad overview of the core content was provided. Program successes and challenges were also discussed. Qaujigiartiit is an independent, non-profit community research centre governed by a volunteer board of directors. Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre enables health research to be conducted locally, by Nunavummiut, and with communities in a supportive, safe, and culturally sensitive and ethical environment, as well as promote the inclusion of both Inuit Qaujimajatugangit and western sciences in improving the health of Nunavummiut.

B2 - Small Wonders: Designing Landscapes to Nurture Child Development

Mr. Cam Collyer, Executive Director, Programs, Evergreen


There is untapped potential for school grounds and parks to be vibrant landscapes for play and learning, where children can explore nature on a daily basis. This workshop explored design and programming of children's spaces in cities. Case studies from Canada, the US and Europe were featured to stimulate the discussion with a particular emphasis on connecting children with nature, self-directed play and the role of risk in play. A design framework was shared that makes tangible links to children's developmental domains as well as local ecology and community. Participants left with an understanding of key principles employed by leading international designers of spaces for children.

B3 – Formula Feeding: Exploring a New Parent Resource

Sonya Boersma, Health Promotion Consultant, BFI Implementation for Ontario

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In the last year, the BFI Strategy for Ontario worked extensively with key stakeholders across Ontario to develop an evidence-informed provincial formula booklet. In this session, participants were introduced to this developing resource, and explored common practical challenges related to the use of a formula feeding booklet including how to manage informed decision-making and best practices around formula supplementation and preparation. Participants learned how we are working to align the content with key breastfeeding and nutrition guidelines. In addition, an interactive activity provided participants with the opportunity to practice using the draft resource in a variety of scenarios.

B4 – Show Me the Evidence!

Kara DeCorby, Senior Product Development Advisor, Health Promotion Capacity Building, Public Health Ontario
Jackie Muresan, Analyst, Research & Policy, Family Health Division, Peel Public Health

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There is often pressure to use evidence or take an evidence-informed approach. But we are all challenged by not having enough time. In this workshop, participants learned about strategies, tools and resources to save time and to increase confidence for finding and using the best available evidence. Participants left the workshop as more critical consumers of information and more confident producers of evidence-informed resources.

This workshop answered the following questions:

  • What constitutes evidence and how do I know that it is the best available evidence?
  • What other factors need to be considered, along with evidence?
  • What are the ways I can save time AND use evidence so I can confidently make suggestions that have taken evidence into account?

Participants became familiar with and learned to apply the concept of best available evidence, specifically with strategies to save time in doing the “work” of using research evidence to inform key messages, programs or policies. The interactive format of this session allowed participants to discuss how an evidence-informed approach can be applied to their work in maternal and child health. The workshop offered an opportunity to address challenges and problem solve where challenges exist.

B5 – NutriSTEP® 2015: Collaborating to Build Healthy Children Through a Community Screening Tool

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Nutrition is vital for support of optimal growth and development. Young children with nutritional issues are at risk for growth, behavioural and developmental problems. Screening to facilitate early action, where intervention may be less intensive and costly is a valuable tool in an effective primary health/public health care model. NutriSTEP® is a nutrition risk screening program that includes valid and reliable questionnaires for nutritional risk screening in toddlers (ages 18-35 months) and preschoolers (ages 3-5 years). In this workshop, participants:

  • Heard about the NutriSTEP® program milestones to date both in research and in practice
  • Walked through the updated resources now available in the refreshed NutriSTEP® Implementation Toolkit
  • Learned about NutriSTEP®’s role in public health accountability and beyond
  • Discovered the collaborations and partnerships that help make implementation successful
  • Gained insight into new developments for NutriSTEP®

In addition, participants engaged in groups facilitated by presenters to discuss the nuances of implementation and opportunities for working with potentially high-risk populations.

Friday, February 19th

C1 – Cultural Safety

Victoria Tenasco, Culture Coordinator, Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health

Our Elders tell us that Cultural Safety is a system, a process. Cultural Safety is an outcome. It is related to cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity and cultural competence but moves beyond these as self-reflexivity is a vital building block to Cultural Safety. Found within the domain of understanding, it requires the service provider to acknowledge their own lens and how the lens impacts practice. The process of self-reflection often challenges personal biases and perspectives leading to safer care. The holistic and cultural approach used in the presentation empowered participants as service providers on their learning journey. The workshop provided participants with wise practices for better delivery of care and the tools to interact with Aboriginal Peoples in a way that decreases barriers while promoting understanding and creating safer spaces for Aboriginal Peoples to feel safe to be who they are and to feel they belong.

C2 – Pregnancy and Obesity

Dr. Kristi Adamo, Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences and Faculty of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics, University of Ottawa; Founding Member, Healthy Active Living and Obsesity (HALO) Research Group, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute (CHEO RI)

Recognizing that pregnancy is the most critical period of growth and development, this session briefly touched on the developmental origins of health and disease and the contributions of maternal weight. Specifically; what are the expectations/guidelines surrounding gestational weight gain, and what is the evidence supporting these guidelines. Next participants discussed what can be done to mitigate excessive weight gain during pregnancy focusing on a tool recently developed in collaboration with the Canadian Obesity Network called the ‘5As of Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain’. This modified 5As framework is intended to help health practitioners discuss and manage gestational weight with their patients. This session offered participants the opportunity to interact with one another, practice their patient engagement skills and subsequently identify strategies for implementing the 5As in their regular practice.

C3 – Navigating the Challenges of Becoming Baby-Friendly

Kristina Niedra, Project Manager, BFI Strategy for Ontario and City of Toronto MCIT Program
Linda Young, MScN, EdD, Director, Maternal Newborn Child Mental Health, Interprofessional Practice and Organizational Learning

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From time to time, organizations may get stuck during a change process. Roadblocks are especially common in complex changes involving diverse stakeholders and multiple layers of practice change such as becoming Baby-Friendly. In this workshop, participants had the opportunity to share and explore some of these challenges with colleagues who are involved in this work. Stories and case studies from a variety of organizations were presented and discussed. Participants were also invited to share their own challenges and to work with colleagues on identifying new ways to approach them. Participants left with new ways to navigate challenges that they may have experienced including a "getting unstuck" roadmap with takeaway advice and tools.

C4 – Positive Discipline - How to Support Parents and their Children

Dr. Chaya Kulkarni, BA, M.Ed, Ed.D, Director, Infant Mental Health Promotion (IMHP), The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
Louise Choquette, Bilingual Health Promotion Consultant, Best Start Resource Centre

Part 1  https://youtu.be/dA5NRO0U-9Q

Part 2 https://youtu.be/ehYD_yAud5g

Part 3  https://youtu.be/EFXPHSyGkaM

Part 4  https://youtu.be/SXD8L1RqlQU

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This workshop was designed to help service providers intervene in a positive way with children and to help the parents offer similar positive discipline strategies to their children. It is a shortened version of the full-day regional workshops that were delivered across the province in the fall of 2015. The workshop included information on the Best Start Resource Centre awareness campaign Children See… Children Learn.

C5 – Daddy and Me: On the Move

Brian Russell, Provincial Coordinator, Dad Central Ontario
Marie Brisson, Bilingual Health Promotion Consultant, Best Start Resource Centre

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Sharing activities is a great way for dads and children to build a strong bond. Daddy and Me: On the Move is a new booklet from the Best Start Resource Centre. It offers dads information about child development, the importance of doing activities with children, an overview of the different roles a dad can take and ideas of activities dads can do with their children age 0 to 6.

This workshop gave participants exposure to the fundamentals of the father-child bond through activity sharing. Participants received hands-on exposure to different activities fathers can to do with their children. They also learned about key messages to build the most meaningful father-child relationship and ways to share these ideas with dads.