Spatial Temporal Environment and Activity Monitoring

New research suggests that the physical environments in which we live, play, shop, work, and go to school, may have an influence on certain children’s health issues (such as child obesity) by making it hard or easy for kids to be physically active and eat healthy foods.

The objective of the ‘STEAM’ study is to assess how the physical environment (both natural and human-made elements) impacts physical activities and eating behaviours among elementary-school children in Southwestern Ontario. ‘STEAM’ stands for ‘Spatial Temporal Environmental and Activity Monitoring’. In this project, the research team, or ‘STEAM Team’, is mapping all the environmental features that are believed to be barriers or enablers for physical activity (e.g. parks) and healthy diets (e.g. fast food restaurants).

This study uses an innovative combination of observational tools including portable GPS, tiny physical activity monitors, activity diaries, focus groups, and interviews. The team is using these tools to investigate how the mapped environments are actually experienced and used by different groups of children and to determine if these environments have an effect on children’s activities, eating behaviours, and overall well-being.

The ultimate goal of this project is to provide solid research evidence to municipal planners and policymakers to help them create local environments that contribute positively to children’s health and quality of life.

This work is funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, in partnership with the CIHR Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health; Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health; Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis; Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes; and Institute of Population and Public Health.

Download the STEAM school summary in English or French.

The 2017 report presents the overall results of our 2016 Spatial Temporal Environment and Activity Monitoring Study, in three Northwestern Ontario communities. Featured topics include physical activity, active transportation, screen time, healthy eating, the built environment, health related quality of life and nature.

STEAM and Team in the News

  • London Community Foundation Responds to Rising Obesity Rates Across Canada

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    The STEAM project is featured in an article by the London Community Foundation. >>Read the article<<

  • Study suggests traditional playgrounds could do more to reduce childhood obesity

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    The STEAM project is featured in an article by the Globe and Mail’s Kate Hammer. >>Read the article<<