WHY ACT NOW: Wellness & Health in Youth – Aboriginal Communities in Transition NOW

Why Act Now logo darkAdolescence is a very important stage in a person’s life. It is a time to grow physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. For this reason it is important to know what specific issues affect youths’ health and how these issues may affect well-being. Improving the health and well-being of Indigenous youth will lead to improved health for all Aboriginal peoples and communities.

Through this project we are working with Indigenous youth, Elders, and members of the community to create a program that will identify and prioritize topics on health and wellness. The program will be created for the youth, by the youth, and will include stakeholders’ point of views. All members involved in the project will have the opportunity to provide guidance and direction in identifying health and wellness concerns of Indigenous youth. Together with the youth, a culturally appropriate and relevant program will be developed to address the identified concerns. The results of this program will be utilized for the creation of new policies relating to Indigenous youths’ health, and will also be used to develop similar programs for the rest of Alberta.


Phase I

Duration: 3 years (2011-2014)

– Alberta Health & Wellness
– Public Health Agency of Canada, Western Region

Purpose: Data Collection

Edmonton has the second highest urban Indigenous population in Canada and also a rapidly growing community of new Canadians. These populations are facing a unique set of challenges, particularly in combating chronic disease. The purpose of Why Act Now: Phase I was to investigate and interview all urban youth, not only Indigenous Youth and New Canadians, on issues of food access, nutrition status, physical health, and overall well-being. By collaborating with youth, education staff, Indigenous elders, and community supports, this investigation revealed the needs of our urban youth and gave direction to implement an action plan to combat the risk of chronic disease, in particular diabetes.

Phase II

Duration: 3 years (2014-2017)

– Alberta Health & Wellness
– Alberta Diabetes Institute
– Government of Northwest Territories
– Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation

Purpose: Program Development, Implementation and Evaluation

The Indigenous and Global Health Research Group at the University of Alberta, is leading the development and implementation of Why Act Now: Phase II – a first program of its kind in Canada geared to improve the quality of life for Indigenous youth between the ages of 13-18. Data collected in Phase I has revealed and confirmed that Indigenous youth and families face different barriers to achieving good health than other Canadians due to their social, economic and environmental circumstances and therefore are at a particular risk of poor health and nutritional status.

Dr. Sharma and team are working with Edmonton Catholic and Public schools to develop and pilot a culturally-appropriate intervention program to improve the nutrition and physical activity status of urban Indigenous youth in Grades 7-12. The team will develop presentations, handouts, recipes and other interactive activities and utilize social media to promote key messages and engage youth. The program will be refined and designed for the youth by the youth through open feedback and discussion. The project will further be conducted through extensive community engagement and already established relationships and partnerships. Upon completion, all program information, educational materials and a manual of program implementation steps will be available free of charge in a downloadable format on our website so that it can be shared with other schools and communities in Alberta.



Click here to view and download educational material


Click here to view and download Indigenous educational material



Click here to view publications


Video Links


Amiskwaciy Academy – Raven’s Rant – The Problem with Sugar – Indigenous Youth Perspective



Resource Links


Dietitians of Canada


Recipes – Alberta Milk
School Nutrition Manuals & Toolkits – Alberta Health Services
Healthy Eating Resources – Alberta Health Services

Physical Activity

Alberta Centre for Active Living
Physical Activity – Healthy Living (Public Health Agency of Canada)
Ophea Pan Am/Parapan Am Kids
Ophea Teaching Tools
First Nations Inspired DPA Activities
Be Fit For Life