Healthy Schools

Healthy Schools Approach

The Foundations for a Healthy School is designed to help contribute to a learning environment that promotes and supports the child and student well-being, their cognitive, emotional, social and physical development not just academic success. The research is clear; healthy students are better prepared to learn, and education is a key determinant of health. These five interconnected areas will help schools, school boards, parents and community partners to work together to develop a comprehensive approach to healthy school policies, programs and initiatives:

Curriculum, Teaching & Learning
School & Classroom Leadership
Student Engagement
Social & Physical Environments
Home, School & Community Partnerships

The Healthy Schools Toolkit is designed to guide schools through the steps to creating a healthier school. School Health Committees may choose to use all or any of the resources in the Toolkit to support their Healthy Schools work. Contact your school’s public health nurse to help you get started!

GBHU Healthy School Toolkit


Becoming a Certified Healthy School

The Grey Bruce Health Unit along side with the school boards wants to create a healthy school environment for all children so they have the capacity to reach their full potential. By becoming a certified healthy school you are showing everyone your commitment to health. Contact your public health nurse for more information on certification.

OPHEA certifies schools as well. Click here for more details!

Public Health Staff are available to support Grey Bruce schools by providing curriculum support and resources. We are committed to working in partnership with our School Boards and Schools to help influence the development and implementation of health related policies and supportive environments.

What Can Public Health staff provide for you?

  • Provide evidence based health education supports and resources to all school community members
  • Be a part of a comprehensive team that fosters a positive school climate
  • Support the implementation of school health policies
  • Link teachers to reliable health education resources
  • Empower students to develop personal skills

To Contact Public Health Staff associated with your school, see the attached map and list of schools to see who your Public Health Nurse is. You can also call us at 519-376-9420.

Healthy School PHNs 2018/2019

Healthy School Coverage


To Book any of these resources or inquire about any other resources please call Grey Bruce Health Unit at 1-800-263-3456

Healthy Eating

  • Food Safety table top display – complete with roasted turkey pull out – trivia questions included with Velcro doors to reveal answers
  • Canada food guide kitchen – 3 panel standing display board – trivia questions included with Velcro doors to reveal answers
  • Drink display – bin of beverage containers and the amount of sugar in each represented with sugar packs – handouts included
  • Food Model Kit – 12 food models with portion backgrounder and portion plate to bring Canada’s food guide portion size to life
  • Blender bike – Learn about how to borrow the blender bike.

Physical Activity

  • Pedometers – to track how many steps people take in a day
  • OPHEA’s Yoga Alphabet Cards – Playful alphabet poses to support students in learning the basics of yoga while developing physical literacy and language skills
  • OPHEA’s 50 Fitness Cards – A set of core on-the-spot fitness moves that can be used on their own or to add variety to existing activities
  • OPHEA’s BrainBlitz- 25 activity cards that make it quick, fun, and easy to take an active break during learning, and can be used as an opportunity to improve attention
  • OPHEA’s One a Day For Active Play – 200 creative game and activity cards that can be used for ice-breakers, warm-ups or support the implementation of DPA

Sexual Health

  • Birth Control Kits – Includes samples of all types of birth control plus pamphlets for detailed information
  • Most Secondary Schools should have their own ask your administrator

Hand Hygiene

  • Glo Germ – teaches how to wash hands using a glow Germ black light!
  • Interactive games and handouts are also available

Substance Use

  • Marijuana Plinko Game – Includes a plinko board with questions on marijuana and your health, statistics and the law.
  • Pigs' lungs – Includes 2 inflatable pigs' lungs, one that is healthy and one showing the effects of smoking.
  • Impaired driving goggles – See what your vision is like when you are impaired, fun twist rent out the jenga game and see if you can play!
  • Jumbo Jenga Game – 54 Jenga blocks that can be written on with chalk pen. Create your own interactive game!
  • Vaping Campaign Materials and Trivia Wheel Activity – Includes gum to use as giveaway, trivia wheel with questions, posters, pamphlets and a banner of 'walk through history'
  • Giant Earth Ball – Large plastic inflatable call to be used to raise awareness about the impact of commercial tobacco on the earth
  • Polaroid Camera – Instant polaroid camera to capture a moment, film can be supplied for tobacco related projects
  • Button/Magnet Making Press and Supplies – Includes button press, buttons, punch supplies. Customize magnets with your campaign message of use them as a way for students to express themselves!

Cannabis Toolkit Brochure


Cannabis Health Effects

Cannabis is also known as: Marijuana, kush, pot, weed, Mary J/MJ, grass, ganja. Cannabis is used today for medicinal and/or non-medical purposes. Non-medical use of cannabis will be legalized October 17 2018. It comes in the form of dried plant buds, hashish (dried resin from plant leaves) or oil (boiled resin). There are many ways that cannabis can be consumed. These include:

  • Smoking, such as a “joint”, in a pipe or bong
  • Ingested as an edible or drink
  • Consumed through vaping

Adolescence is an important time for the developing brain since most brain development happens before the mid-20’s. The THC in cannabis disrupts the same biological system in the brain that guides brain development. This means that youth are particularly at risk of the negative consequences that can result from cannabis use.

Adults can help reduce youth marijuana use

Source: Healthy Kids Colorado Survey 2015


Public Health is committed to assisting educators to incorporate healthy eating and active living into the classroom setting, as well as role modeling healthy habits for the students to last a lifetime. Public Health Dietitians support your schools by working with student nutrition programs and offering training to school staff to create healthy school nutrition environments.

A power point presentation (with accompanying notes) was developed by Public Health Dietitians to review the key messages and healthy behaviour recommendations from Canada's new Food Guide. Educators can use the presentation to teach the new Food Guide as well as raise awareness about local food programs, national food campaigns, and larger food systems issues such as climate change and marketing to kids.

Bright Bites

On BrightBites teachers will find free and engaging activities, lesson plans, and curriculum supports. Elementary and Secondary schools (or individual classrooms) can earn BrightBites badges by participating in fun activities that help boost school nutrition. The more badges earned, the higher a school will rise in the BrightBites Hall of Fame. Taking part may help your school meet the Ontario School Food and Beverage Policy (PPM 150).


Food For Thought : School Food Environment Report and Summary

An environmental scan was completed by a dietetic intern during her placement at Public Health in 2017 . The goal of the scan was to identify and assess facilitators and barriers to a healthy school food environment in local schools throughout Grey County and Bruce County.  The executive summary highlights the findings and provides recommendations for action in order to improve the school food environment.  You can read the full report by clicking here.


For more information on Nutrition for Schools, visit our Eating Well page.

Regular physical activity offers a wide range of health benefits - even modest levels of activity can have a positive effect. It is recommended that children and youth participate in one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity everyday while adults are encouraged to accumulate 150 minutes of physical activity every week. Research has shown that physical activity in segments as small as 10 minutes still provide positive health benefits. Click here to view the Canadian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines.

Health Benefits

  • Feel better
  • Be healthier
  • Burn calories
  • Feel stronger
  • Sleep better
  • Meet new friends
  • Feel more energetic
  • Live independently

1440 minutes in a Day! Get active for 30!

PLAY in Bruce Grey is the collaborative, physical activity initiative for the Grey Bruce region. Check out PLAY in Bruce Grey for active living tips, local events and the latest news.

Play in Bruce Grey Logo

Active Schools and Communities

Physical activity is an important part of meeting the growth and development needs of children and youth. Communities, schools and parents can work together to help students develop attitudes and skills for life long physical activity.

By creating supportive environments and encouraging children and youth to make informed choices, we can help them establish patterns for healthy living that they‘ll carry into adulthood.

Research has shown the many benefits of physical activity. Children and youth

  • Improve their performance in math, reading, memorization, and categorization (Keays & Allison, 1995)
  • Are more likely to be active during their leisure time if they participated in a physical education class that day (Dale, Corbin, & Dale, 2000)
  • Are less likely to smoke or consume alcohol or drugs (Tremblay, Inman, and Willms, 2000)
  • Experience increased self-esteem and perceived physical competence, enabling them to cope with mental stress (DeMarco & Sidney, 1989)

Click to read the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card; it is the most comprehensive assessment of child and youth physical activity in Canada.

For more information on Physical Activity and ways to get your school, more active visit our Active Living Page.

Sun Safety

The Grey Bruce Health Unit provides education and works with partners to create and sustain community initiatives that promote and improve all aspects of health. This includes healthy sexuality. In addition, we provide limited confidential services related to

  • sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment
  • pregnancy testing and options
  • access to low-cost contraceptives

Find out more about these services by calling 519-376-9420 or 1-800-263-3456 Ext 1256. You can book appointments Mondays (10 am - 4pm) at the South Bruce Grey Health Centre in Walkerton, or Wednesdays (9 am - 3:30pm) at the Grey Bruce Health Unit office in Owen Sound.

Note: All of these services can be provided by your family doctor or nurse practitioner! We urge you to consult with them in order to obtain the comprehensive care that is best for your overall health.

If you don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, contact Health Care Connect for details or call us at one of the numbers above.

For free, anonymous counselling 7 days a week call the AIDS and Sexual Health InfoLine at 1-800-668-2437.

Teaching Sexual Health

An objective of the Grey Bruce Health Unit is to support educators in the implementation of the sexual health components of the curriculum by providing resources to assist and enhance their teaching plans. Refer to the following sexual health resources and call 519-376-9420 extension 1256 for more information.

Resources Available

Consultations with a Public Health Nurse are available. Please call 519-376-9420 extension 1256 or 1-800-263-3456 extension 1256.

Resources for Parents

Contact the Bluewater District School Board for information on their resources to assist in teaching sexual health related topics.

There are many online resources available to assist with teaching sexual health topics. The following websites provide fact sheets, teaching tools and lesson plans.

For more information regarding sexual health, STIs and Birth control visit our Sexual Health page

Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey

The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) is a population survey of Ontario students in grades 7 through 12. The survey provides current and reliable information about the health behaviours, attitudes and beliefs of Ontario adolescents, and it tracks changes over time. OSDUHS findings have been widely used by health, education, and government officials in setting health priorities and facilitating preventative policies, programs and services that address youth needs.

2017 Results

For more information on Alcohol and other Drugs, visit our website

Resources for Parents, Teachers, and Youth

Talking with your Teen about Vaping

Vaping and Youth: Information about health risks, laws and marketing influences

JUUL Newsletter January 2019

Vaping and Smoking Laws Youth Infographic

Youth Vaping Health Risks Infographic

Catch My Breath Curriculum


What is an E-Cigarette or Vaping?

A vape or e-cigarette is a battery-operated device that heats up a liquid chemical into an aerosol that is then inhaled.


This is often called vaping. E-liquids or “E-juice” do not contain tobacco. However, most of these products contain substantial amounts of nicotine which is the addictive substance also found in cigarettes. Other chemicals and metals are found in e-liquids. Some of these chemicals are the same ones found in tobacco cigarettes.

Vaping has not been proven to be a helpful quitting aid. Nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, inhalers and gum do not heat nicotine so using these products to manage cravings does not expose the user to the types of chemicals that are found in tobacco and vaping products.

It’s just water vapour right?  False!  E-cigarettes may be less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, but that does not make them safe!


A Puff of Truth

A recent study found that vaping youth had a number of chemicals that could be detected in bodies.

  • Youth who were vaping had up to 3 times as many chemical organic compounds in their bodies as non-vaping youth.
  • Those who smoked and vaped (dual user) had up to 3 times as many than those who were only vaping.1

If you don’t smoke, don’t vape.


Types of E-cigarettes

Common terms for e-cigarettes include:

  • vapes
  • tanks
  • mods
  • pods
  • e-hookah,
  • e-pipe
  • vape pen


Vaping tanks are devices that can be refilled when empty and can be parts modified.  They may allow the user to turn the heat up or down. Turning the heat up creates larger vapour clouds, but is known to also increase the amount of nicotine and chemicals inhaled. There are also products specifically on the market to vape cannabis.



JUUL is a product which looks very similar to a USB stick and can be very small.

  • Each pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
  • JUUL always contains Nicotine - high amounts using a liquid of Nicotine Salts.
  • The less harsh nature of this product, high nicotine content and fruity flavours put youth at risk for quickly becoming addicted..
  • This product has captured half of the e-cigarette market in the U.S and the FDA has sounded the alarm about the numbers of youth and young adults using JUUL.
  • JUUL’s websites lists the following ingredients in the pods: Glycerol, propylene glycol, natural oils, extracts and flavour, nicotine and benzoic acid.


What is in E-Liquids (E-Juice)?

Most e-liquids include a mixture of:

  • propylene glycol
  • vegetable glycerin
  • nicotine
  • flavour ingredients

It is not just harmless water vapour, but an aerosol. Many vaping websites state that propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and flavourings have been considered safe food additives by the FDA. Many flavour chemicals are recognized as safe for eating, but there is no evidence to show that they are safe when heated and inhaled into the lungs.

E-liquids do not contain tobacco. However, most of these products contain nicotine which is the addictive substance also found in cigarettes and derived from tobacco leaves. A new form of nicotine has been developed called, nicotine salts and is used in vape pods.  This new form is a mixture of freebase nicotine (from tobacco plant) mixed with an acid. The body can easily and quickly absorb this form of nicotine.

Some products are labeled as having zero nicotine, but many are not correctly labelled and do in fact contain some nicotine. Even when labelled as containing nicotine, some e-juice has been found to have a greater amount of nicotine than what is listed on the label.

E-liquids also contains a number of chemical compounds and metals. Some of these are the same ones found in tobacco cigarettes. When the ingredients in e-juice are heated, they break apart into toxic organic compounds such as:

  • acrylonitrile
  • acrolein,
  • propylene oxide
  • acrylamide
  • crotonaldehyde.

Metals such as nickel, tin, and lead have been found in e-juice. This is likely because the e-liquid comes into contact with the metal coil used to heat the liquid into an aerosol.

Thousands of Flavours are marketed and sold for use in e-liquids.  Flavours in tobacco products were found to appeal to youth and this appears to be the case with vaping flavours. Flavouring chemicals carry their own health risks for the user. When some ingredients are heated they undergo chemical changes.  The Flavour and Extract Manufacturers Associations warns that their flavours were not designed to be heated and inhaled and state some flavours are known to cause respiratory damage. For example, saccharides are used to make e-liquid flavours that are sweet, but this ingredient can degrade and produce furans and aldehydes that are known to cause respiratory irritation. Cinnamaldehyde is used to make cinnamon flavoured e-liquid but has been shown to be toxic to living cells.  In laboratory research, some studies have shown that lung cells exposed to the vaping aerosol of e-liquids that include several flavour chemicals mixed together, appear to cause more damage than vaping aerosols with one flavour chemical.


Health Concerns for Youth


Youth who do not use tobacco are beginning to experiment with vaping believing that it is safer. Nicotine is highly addictive, especially for the growing teen brain. It may lead to difficulty concentrating, problems with impulse control and there is evidence that nicotine addiction can lead to use of other drugs. For more about the health concerns for youth and Nicotine, visit


Transition to Tobacco Cigarettes

The evidence is showing that vaping increases the risk of youth and young adults of ever using tobacco products. Also, there is moderate evidence showing that vaping increases the use and frequency of combustible tobacco products like cigarettes among youth and youth adults.



There is moderate evidence that vaping causes increased coughing and wheezing in youth. It also worsens asthma symptoms.


Dry Nose and Throat Irritation

One of the main ingredients in e-juice is called propylene glycol. It is a chemical that absorbs moisture. It can cause the sensitive lining of the nose to dry out. Bloody noses and throat irritation can also be a problem.


Dental Problems

Studies of online posts by vapers show one of their top complaints is a dry mouth.  Saliva helps wash away bacteria in the mouth. Over time, people who vape could be at increased risk for dental and oral problems. This includes periodontal disease or gum disease, which is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place.


Germs and Infectious Diseases

Sharing a vape? Then you are likely swapping some spit and maybe other nasty stuff! Cold and flu viruses, mono and the bacterium that causes strep throat (group A streptococcus) are all passed through saliva.


Nicotine Poisoning

Nicotine is a toxic substance and too much can lead to serious health issues and even death. Nicotine poisoning is a risk if the e-juice is ingested, touches skin or if too much is inhaled.

Small children are most at risk for nicotine poisoning. Just like other toxic substances, all e-juice and vaping products should be out of reach and locked up as the bright packaging and fruity flavours get the attention of small children. Know the signs of nicotine poisoning and get medical help right away if it is suspected.


Long-term Health Effects

Many of the toxic chemicals found in e-cigarettes have been linked to various types of cancer. The long-term health effects of vaping may not be known for many years. Those vaping may be putting the health of their heart, lungs and other organs at risk.


Allergic Reactions

The ingredients in e-juice can cause allergic reactions for some people. Signs or symptoms could be similar to other allergic reactions such as difficulty breathing, hives, and feeling unwell.


Device Safety Concerns

There have been reports of explosions related to batteries in e-cigarettes and issues with charging cords.  Caution should be used with batteries, altering of products and use of charging cords.

Promotional Images


Promotion of Vaping

Vaping is now a multi-billion dollar industry and all major tobacco companies have vaping brands. JUUL alone is worth about $18 billion. Slick advertising, fruity flavours and messages that convey fun and safe are contributing to the growth of use among youth.

The advertising for e-cigarettes is very similar to the messages and themes used by the Tobacco Industry to make smoking seem normal or to make some products seem less harmful.

Youth are also allured into becoming reviewers of products in video reviews on platforms like youtube. These unofficial spokespeople do not always state that they have received money to review and even endorse a product. This increases the promotion of vaping among young people and it makes it appear more popular than it really is..


What is the situation?

There has been a dramatic increase in youth vaping in Canada.  Dr. David Hammond and colleagues conducted online research with youth aged 16-19 and found a dramatic increase in vaping for Canadian youth between Aug/Sept 2017 and Aug/Sept 2018.  

During those two time periods, groups of youth from Canada, England and United States filled out online surveys about their use of tobacco cigarettes, vapes and cannabis.  The youth reported whether they had ever vaped even once, in the past 30 days, in the past week or had vaped 15 days or more in the last 30 days.

In each of these categories, there was an increase in vaping by Canadian youth.  In the first group of youth in 2017, 8.4% reported vaping in the last 30 days.  In the group surveyed in 2018, this jumped to 14.6%. This research also showed an increase in cigarette smoking and cannabis use for these Canadian youth. 

This seems to match what school staff, parents and public health staff in our region have experienced in recent months.  The increase took place over the time that vaping products with nicotine could legally be sold in Canada.  Starting in May 2018, many vaping brands came onto the market and were heavily promoted.

To read more about this research, visit

The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey outlines recent data, but was collected and released prior to the legalization of nicotine in Canada.  


Starting the Conversation

Has your family talked about vaping?  What it means and the risks?  It’s a good idea to discuss substance use and how it can affect health and future goals. It’s good to be critical and practice thinking about the motivation of companies that sell these products – especially given the past history of tobacco companies, who now own vaping brands.  These resources will help get the conversation started:

Talking with your teen about vaping: 

Parents Matter:  Strategies for Parents to Prevent or Delay Alcohol and Other Drug Use

Government of Canada Vaping Information:



Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey

Public Health Ontario: Current Evidence on E-cigarettes:

Prevalence of vaping and smoking among adolescents in Canada, England, and the United States: repeat national cross sectional surveys:

Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes:

Canadian Dental Association:

Surgeon General Report on E-cigarettes:

Canadian Paediatric Society Position Statement on E-cigarettes:

For more information on other school related topics click on the links below