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Centre for Healthy Active Kids

The Centre for Healthy Active Kids (CHAK) is dedicated to improving child health through innovative research and transformative approaches to clinical care and education.

We’re improving our understanding on healthy nutrition and physical activity, and obesity treatment and prevention. CHAK aims to advance research, education and family-centred clinical care locally and around the world in child and adolescent obesity. By preventing, understanding, and managing obesity and related disorders, we're improving health, wellness and quality of life for children and youth worldwide.  

Promoting healthy, active lifestyles for children and youth

Working collaboratively across SickKids, CHAK explores new methods of prevention, treatment, research, and education in the following areas. 

Healthy Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Wellness 

We aim to understand how optimal nutrition, physical activity and wellness improve health for all children, irrespective of body size.  

Prevention and Treatment of Obesity and Associated Risks  

We study the risk factors for obesity, how it evolves, and what can be done to prevent it. The team also researches clinical outcomes and predictors of how to better treat children to ensure healthy living and prevention of conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Mechanisms of Body Weight Regulation and Associated Complications 

We evaluate how the environment, biology, and psychology interact in the regulation of appetite and weight, including how exercise improves health and may prevent diabetes and heart disease in children being treated for conditions such as cancer and congenital heart disease.

Research themes

We have several collaborative research projects understanding the early origins of obesity and childhood disease through birth cohort studies.

An international birth cohort to prevent childhood obesity which includes cohorts from South Africa, China and India.

A research study enrolling healthy children aged 0-5 years linking early life exposures to health problems including obesity, micronutrient deficiencies, and developmental problems. 

Studying childhood obesity and bariatric care in Canadian children.

Other researchers are trying to understand the physiology and mechanisms of development of obesity and chronic disease.

We're examining the microbiome and its relation to the development of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and the impact of gestational diabetes on offspring epigenome, adiposity, and cardiometabolic risk factors. The team has also published Chronic Stress, cognition, and food cue reactivity in Prader-Willi Syndrome: A Magnetoencephalography Study.

  • CoMFORT (Cow’s Milk Fat Obesity Prevention Trial)
    • We’re looking at cow’s milk recommendations in the prevention of obesity. 
  • PREVENT (Probiotics for Every Newborn vs Treatment-as-Needed Comparative Effectiveness Trial)
  • Targeting child mental health and household poverty: Impact of a poverty intervention in primary care on preschool children’s emotional and behavioural health
    • This is a pilot study.
  • PARENT
    • Focusing on preventing obesity in toddlers through group-based parenting intervention in primary care.

STOMP

Medical trainee placements are available for elective rotations in obesity training in STOMP. More extended training placements are also available contingent on funding. We have training opportunities available in STOMP for allied health care professionals in nursing, dietetics, exercise counselling, psychology and social work. For more information on current training opportunities in STOMP, visit our project page below.

Project ECHO

Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) Obesity Management aims to connect community-based healthcare providers with specialists at SickKids. Project ECHO expands the knowledge base of healthcare professionals through innovative virtual mentorship and collaboration. This model uses a combination of highly interactive videoconferencing, educational presentations, and hands-on workshops.

Staff

CHAK brings together the brightest minds in research, education, and patient care to ensure every child leads a healthy, active life.  

We're working to understand the underlying mechanisms that impact childhood obesity and its related conditions through innovative research projects. Scientists Our team is working on a wide range of programs related to healthy lifestyles, including the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes in children, and exploring how changes in diet, environment and physical activity can improve metabolic health.  

We are clinicians, educators, students and researchers working together to understand how childhood nutrition, physical activity, behaviour, and metabolism affects child health across the weight spectrum. 

Milestones and achievements

Clinical

We have been collaborating with our partners in the SickKids Team Obesity Management Program (STOMP), Eating Disorders/Adolescent Medicine, and Psychiatry to develop the Eating for Well Being Program, a facilitator’s guide for group programming that addresses the complex needs of patients with binge eating disorder. As part of the Medical Psychiatry Alliance, we completed a pilot day treatment program with a focus on healthy living for youth with mental health diagnoses.  

Research

Several CHAK projects have received funding, including several new collaborations involving fundamental and applied scientists from SickKids, UofT and the international scientific community. 

Highlights include:  

  • The TARGet Kids (The Applied Research Group for Kids) cohort (Birken CS) 
  • Visceral fat, neuroinflammation and brain health: towards early detection and prevention of preclinical dementia (Pausova Z) 
  • The impact of gestational diabetes on offspring epigenome, adiposity, and cardiometabolic risk factors (Hamilton JK) 
Education

SickKids’ Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) for Obesity Management is a telehealth education program that expands the knowledge base of healthcare professionals through virtual mentorship and collaboration. TeleECHO clinics, core curriculum, and bootcamp offered 32.5 hours of programming, with a total of 233 participants registered, representing inter-disciplinary professionals from the primary care community and all 11 network sites of the Ontario Pediatric Bariatric Network (OPBN).

Advocacy/Knowledge Translation

Meant2Prevent is a type 2 diabetes prevention initiative for children and youth presented by Sun Life is a national collaboration with 13 children’s hospitals in Canada and is led by CHAK. We have created a series of tools, resources, and programs directed towards healthcare providers and patients/families to support the prevention of pediatric type 2 diabetes. 

Healthy living tips and resources for families

We’ve put together a number of useful resources – including links on parenting, nutrition and food, mental health, obesity, sleep, and more – at Meant 2 Prevent and Meant 2 Prevent Kitchen!

Check out these handy articles, too!

Contact CHAK

Contact CHAK

Have a question? Get in touch with us today.

Education and Training Opportunities

Education and Training Opportunities

Interested in getting involved in our research? Contact us today for current opportunities!

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