On Saturday, June 21, I visited the University of Waterloo to participate in the Canadian Obesity Network’s Canadian Student Obesity Meeting (COSM). Shortly after my arrival, I was able to attend a panel discussion on Weight Bias and Stigma. This discussion was insightful and addressed topics that are very important to the work that I do with students who may or may not be living with obesity. Issues explored included how people with obesity are depicted in media (including well-meaning but misguided public health campaigns), the kind of language used in health discourse (moving towards people-first language, whether reclaiming fatness is beneficial), and how being overweight or obese can lead to an aversion towards seeking medical treatment (including for conditions which may be unrelated to one’s weight). Because I come from an Education background, rather than the Health Sciences, I have worked very hard to learn more about heart disease and its causes, risk indicators, and consequences. But as anyone who has done self-guided research knows, it is very easy to read the same opinions over and over again unless you actively search out other ideas. COSM provides a fantastic opportunity to be exposed to a wide variety of research and discussion. I plan to continue pursuing new knowledge in these areas and I hope to integrate what I learn into the health promotion that I do.
In addition to watching presentations, I was able to take part in a poster session to share the early stages of a proposed study on Student Self-Perception of Eating Habits in Relation to Peers and Reported Dietary Intake. I co-created the poster with Susan Down, who has written several blogs for Heart Niagara’s Journal Club and is also a MEd graduate from Brock. The poster outlines the data collection aspect of the Healthy Heart Schools Program (grade 5 stream) and explains that we plan to measure a) whether or not student perception of eating habits in relation to their peers matches with reported food intake and b) if there are any trends between student perception, matching results, and indicators of health. While the poster gives the example of looking at BMI as a health indicator, we could also consider cholesterol, blood pressure, and/or waist circumference ratio. I have included a .pdf of the poster below for anyone who wishes to read it. I look forward to seeing where this research can go and how it will be shaped by some of the new ideas I picked up on at COSM.
By Aaryn Secker
Aaryn earned her BEd at McGill University in Montreal and her MEd at Brock University in St. Catharines. She is currently the Education and Communications Coordinator at Heart Niagara and has an interest in community learning.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in blog entries are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Heart Niagara.