Physical inactivity has become a serious health issue for Canadian children and youth. In 2005, the Ontario government created the Daily Physical Activity (DPA) policy. This policy requires school boards to ensure that all elementary students have a minimum of 20 minutes of sustained moderate to vigorous physical activity each school day during instructional time.
PHO has conducted a series of three studies assessing the DPA policy on a provincial level.
The first of these studies consisted of a retrospective analysis of the initial development and implementation of the DPA policy. This analysis provides evidence both unique to the Ontario context and relevant to studies of physical activity policy and program implementation in other jurisdictions.
The analysis was based on a series of semi-structured interviews with key players involved in the development and implementation of the policy. A summary of the major themes identified is presented below.
Publications: Development and implementation of the Daily Physical Activity policy in Ontario, Canada: A retrospective analysis
Influences on policy development and implementation
Participants identified health-related factors that contributed to the development of the DPA policy. The policy was influenced by obesity trends and was seen as a way to increase physical activity among children.
Participants indicated that two provincial ministries and the Liberal Party platform influenced the development of the policy to address physical inactivity and obesity among children. Additionally, participants reported that Ontario was influenced by other provinces who had already implemented physical activity policies.
Participants discussed that evidence existed to support the need to address physical inactivity and the development of most of the policy’s components, such as its flexibility, which made it more relevant and feasible to those in the education system.
Communication and funding were key factors influencing the initial implementation of the policy. Discussions arose regarding the tight funding timelines and lack of strategic funding plan.
Roles and relationships
Participants named key players involved in the development and implementation of the policy, such as provincial political leaders, health and education ministries, and Ophea.
The importance of positive working relationships between ministries and between the Ministry of Education and Ophea was discussed as being integral to the development and implementation of DPA.
Barriers to implementation
The tight implementation timeline and lack of support, such as having few Health & Physical Education specialists in school boards and insufficient teacher training were discussed as barriers to implementation.
Lack of teacher readiness, the burden placed on teachers to implement the policy, and having an interim Health & Physical Education curriculum as opposed to a final version were all discussed as barriers to implementation.
The lack of an accountability mechanism to ensure that DPA is being correctly and consistently implemented was a strong theme discussed by participants as being a barrier to implementation.
Current status of DPA
Participants had mixed opinions regarding the status of DPA implementation. While some indicated that DPA implementation was inconsistent across the province and that DPA had fallen off the radar over the years, others indicated that they had not heard of any major issues.
Participants discussed the need for a policy implementation evaluation, increased focus on policy sustainability, and having better integration of DPA across other curricula.