Movement is Essential: From the President & CEO

More on the Authorship

#movementisessential: That simple phrase sums up how I feel entering the President’s role at PHE Canada. Movement is essential not only for the development of healthy active children and communities, but also for PHE Canada as an organization. Movement ranges on a continuum from pure pleasure and play to pure utility or survival. Whether for pleasure or survival, movement is one of those very rare human needs that may actually be called essential to our existence. One of the great ironies of movement is that evidence shows that although we like to move for pleasure, when given the choice we do not like to move too vigorously. Fortunately, our survival instincts are stronger than our pleasure instincts. We may just need to tap into them more often.

There is a growing government, private sector and public sense in Canada regarding the urgency to get communities moving using integrated approaches. It remains to be seen whether this policy sentiment helps the public sphere reach a tipping point towards enculturating physical activity as lifestyle the same way that smoking cessation was adopted. Integrative approaches include schools, community and families as sites of intervention against a backdrop of public sphere advertising and incentives for pro-health behaviours. The health care system may be primed for a shift from acknowledgement of our movement related problems to action.

Without too much “vigorous movement” PHE Canada is well situated to create integrated campaign-based approaches supporting our mission of “every child in Canada leading healthy and active lives.” We are national leaders in the arena of health-promoting schools as conveners of the biennial national Health Promoting Schools forum. PHE Canada works with multiple non-government, private sector and government partners already. Together the PHE Canada staff, Board of Directors, Council of Provinces and Territories, Research Council and our individual members share the wisdom and experience to succeed in tackling complex movement-related problems. Many of our members already work and volunteer across contexts (sport, recreation, education, family support, etc.). In short what we as an organization know and our members already practice is that physical and health education does not only occur in schools.

Like all constructs, the idea of movement for pleasure and movement for survival existing on opposite ends of a continuum can be challenged. If that continuum is bent into a circle, survival and pleasure co-exist side-by-side. As an organization, the pleasure ahead for PHE Canada relates to both a desire and a need for the organization to shift with the changing environment. This sentiment was captured by our recent member, board, staff and stakeholder surveys undertaken as part of our strategic review process. (A new strategic plan will be released in 2017). 

My predecessor Fran Harris, and executive committee members, Lori Sigfridson and Morgan Jarvis, deserve tremendous credit along with the rest of PHE Canada’s board of directors for bringing PHE Canada through a very important transition year in 2016. This group role-modeled through their volunteer work ethic that movement is essential. Organizations that will thrive in a landscape of funding accountability, social impact measurability and information over supply will have to be adaptive and demonstrate relevance. They will follow and lead in multi-partner projects. They will learn to adjust to emergent needs of their membership. They will engage in reflection on traditional operations that may no longer serve their mission. Essential movement for a 21st century sustainable NGO involves experimenting, iterating, sometimes failing, but always learning. #movementisessential