The architectural and urban environment of Québec’s polyvalente high schools could have the potential to stimulate and support the adoption of healthy lifestyles among adolescents.
So suggests a group of researchers in architecture, urban design, geography, kinesiology and nutrition from Université Laval, the Direction régionale de santé publique de la Capitale-Nationale and the Québec Heart and Lung Institute Research Centre by proposing the renovation of these schools built for the most part in the 1970s or earlier, and the revitalization of the urban areas in which they are located.
The students taking part in the study were divided into 5 profiles according to their healthy lifestyle habits.
This group of researchers conducted a 2-year study involving 240 Secondary 4 (Grade 10) students in 10 public and private schools in the Urban Agglomeration of Québec City, an urban analysis of 5 of the schools and an in-depth architectural analysis of 3 of them. The 240 students taking part in the study were divided into 5 profiles according to their healthy lifestyle habits, based on indicators of healthy eating habits, screen time, the practice of physical activities, and physically active travel.
First of all, very few of the participants attend their “neighbourhood school”. Most participants chose their school for its good reputation or a particular program offered. The distance from home to school is too far to walk, or even to bike, requiring a daily ride by school bus or car. Second, most of the participants live in new suburban developments on the outskirts of the city. There are few shops or sports facilities nearby, and few interesting destinations within walking distance. Third, fast food counters with their wide selection of low quality food are extremely present, not only in the form of popular franchises but also in many grocery stores and corner stores. These are undeniably attractive to young people, and have become hangout spots of choice. Fourth, the functionality and ambiance of the cafeterias and sports facilities at the “old schools” attended by the participants are frequently deficient, if not obsolete. In addition, the poor landscaping of the school grounds and low “walkability” of the surrounding urban areas provide no incentive for pedestrian activity.
A group of 24 Master’s students in architecture and urban design at Université Laval have devised practical ways to remodel the environment of the polyvalentes to stimulate and support the adoption of healthy lifestyles among adolescents.
Carole Desprès, Université Laval
Deposit of the research report: October 2012