Elgin County, City of St. Thomas, Middlesex County, City of London, and Oxford County
Active & Safe Routes to School is a community-based initiative that promotes the use of active transportation to and from school, addressing health, physical activity, and traffic safety issues while taking action on air pollution and climate change. At the forefront of public health agendas across Canada, childhood obesity has become a serious concern with rates tripling over the last 3 decades. A major objective of ASRTS is to address this issue by reducing perceived risks and barriers of active travel to school, and in turn, increasing physical activity among children.
Active & Safe Routes to School began with grassroots efforts of parents who were concerned for their children’s health and safety. Over the past decade it has evolved into a national movement supported by a large network of Canadian organizations who believe active transportation on the trip to and from school increases health and happiness, and creates daily fitness habits for life.
The flagship program of ASRTS is the School Travel Plan (STP), which is a program that engages schools and community stakeholders in identifying and addressing barriers to active travel to and from school. Schools who participate in the STP program are expected to develop a living document that is used to help facilitate active travel to and from school. Key community partners include city officials, police, public health professionals, community organizations, school boards, educators, parents, and children.
Role of the HEAL
The ASRTS steering committee of St. Thomas, Elgin, London, Middlesex, and Oxford is comprised of many community groups, including the HEAL at Western University. The HEAL has been part of this committee since its inception. Our role on the committee is to help identify challenges and potential solutions to school transportation problems in the region.
In particular, the HEAL is part of the STP working group, with the responsibilities of collecting and analyzing baseline data and developing the action plan. To do this, a representative of our lab acts as a co-facilitator in the distribution of youth and family surveys in the schools. Once surveys are completed, the data is securely transferred to the HEAL for processing. Basic analysis of the data is conducted, and major issues and trends are identified. Results are summarized and presented to the school’s STP committee for further use in the development and implementation of the Action Plan.
The STP program has passed the ethical standards of the Thames Valley District School Board and the London District Catholic School Board.
For further inquiry into the STP program, or ASRTS committee please visit their website.