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Ontario's Healthy Kids Panel

Archived Backgrounder

Ontario's Healthy Kids Panel

Ministry of Health

Ontario has created a Healthy Kids Panel that will provide the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care with recommendations to meet the government's target of reducing childhood obesity by 20 per cent over five years.

The Healthy Kids Panel is made up of 17 independent experts who are recognized leaders in their fields, possess a broad understanding of childhood obesity, and are connected to different sectors and communities including:

  • academia and research
  • health care and public health
  • physical activity
  • community-based organizations
  • media for parents and consumers
  • advertising and social marketing
  • education
  • food retail and manufacturing
  • consumer products
  • health promotion
  • human development
  • Aboriginal communities


The panel's co-chairs have experience building consensus among a range of stakeholders.

Alex Munter is Chief Executive Officer of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. He previously served as CEO of the Champlain Local Health Integration Network, Executive Director of the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa and was a city councillor in Ottawa, where he headed council committees responsible for health and social services. Alex has been recognized by many organizations for his work to build healthy communities including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Canadian Institute for Child Health, United Way Ottawa, Retired Teachers of Ontario, l'Association Canadienne-Française de l'Ontario and the Ontario Association of Social Workers.

Kelly Murumets is the President and CEO of ParticipACTION, the national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada.  She is a passionate leader who has a history of effecting change in organizations. Prior to joining ParticipACTION, Kelly was the president of a publicly traded American telecommunications company. She is a member of the Young President's Organization, Bishop's University Board of Governors, and the Dean's Advisory Council for the Laurier School of Business & Economics.  Kelly has been named to the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity Most Influential Women in Sport and Physical Activity list, named an Amazing Advocate on More Magazine's Top 40 over 40, and recently named one of Canada's Most Powerful Women.

Panel Members

Dr. Denis Daneman is currently Professor of Paediatrics and Chair of the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, and is Paediatrician in Chief and the R.S McLaughlin Foundation Chair in Paediatrics at the Hospital for Sick Children. His research relates to the care and outcomes of children with diabetes and other endocrine disorders of childhood. He has written over 200 publications, co-authored two books on disorders of glucose metabolism in childhood, and served on multiple expert panels in the field of endocrinology.

Carol Diemer has been part of the Sandwich Community Health Centre team since 2009.  She is a graduate of the Diploma Nursing Program at St. Clair College.  She is coordinating the implementation of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario's Best Practice Guidelines. Carol worked at the Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital for 24 years in neurosurgery, intensive care and mental health, and most recently as the unit manager for the Mental Health Inpatient Program.  She worked for seven years as a research coordinator with Allergy and Respirology/Critical Care Associates.  Carol coordinated the implementation of the Schizophrenia and Psychosis Project at Windsor Regional Hospital. 

Melanie Ann Ferris (Horse Clan) is a young First Nations mother. She is a member of the Long Plain First Nation and has authored many books on the topic of Aboriginal health. She delivers workshops for service providers and policy makers on engaging with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis families. Two of Melanie's recent publications include the healthy living resources at www.letsbehealthy.ca and Preventing Obesity in Canada's Aboriginal Children: Not Just a Matter of Eating Right and Getting Active.

Cheryl Jackson is an award-winning journalist and mother of three. As the host of tvoparents.com, she presents her own perspectives on issues that relate to kids, parenting and education. Cheryl began her career with CBC Saskatchewan, followed by reporting and producing for CBC Toronto. She's won the Canadian Investigative Journalism Award for her three-part documentary on health care, and was named best writer by the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Association for a CBC Rough Cuts documentary on family farming.

Michael Lovsin is currently the Senior Vice President, Health and Wellness, for Loblaw Companies Limited and is a member of the Retail Council of Canada's Health and Wellness Committee. With more than 30 years experience in the Drugstore, Beauty Indulgence and most recently leading Loblaw Brands, Michael is uniquely positioned to deliver overall strategy for Health and Wellness for the company.  Michael's experience at Loblaw has included leading product development, product management, packaging and design, regulatory affairs, food safety and quality management systems for both Corporate and National Brands.  

Dr. Stephen Lye is the Executive Director of the Institute for Human Development at the University of Toronto, which seeks to improve life-long health, learning and social functioning by optimization of development in early-life.  Dr. Lye's research is focused on interactions between an individual's genetic make-up and their environment during the first 2000 days of life that underlie obesity and cardio-metabolic disorders.  He has published over 170 research papers on pregnancy and maternal-child health and holds a Canada Research Chair in Improved Health and Function.  Dr. Lye is a Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Physiology and Medicine at the University of Toronto and Associate Director of the Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Medhat Mahdy has been a YMCA staff member since 1976, and has an extensive background in not-for-profit leadership, health promotion and community involvement.  In addition to his current role as President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Toronto, Mr. Mahdy is also President of YMCA Ontario, supporting 22 YMCA and YMCA-YWCA member associations across the province.  He recently served on the External Reference Group for the development of Best Start Child and Family Centres for the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

Rose Reisman is a health and wellness entrepreneur who has taken her passion for healthy living and developed it into a multi-faceted enterprise.  Rose is the author of 17 cookbooks, a regular guest on Canada AM, Breakfast TV, CityLine and 680 News, and a regular newspaper and online contributor to Dr. Oz's "Sharecare" website, the National Post, Huffington Post Canada, and Metro News.  She's the owner of Rose Reisman Catering and Personal Gourmet and is a menu consultant at Glow Restaurant and the Pickle Barrel chain.  Rose holds an MBA and is a Nutritionist and Adjunct Professor at York University's Faculty of Health.

Barbara L. Riley, PhD, is Executive Director of the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, a pan-Canadian enterprise founded by the Canadian Cancer Society and the University of Waterloo. Barb's career focus is linking population health science, policy and action. Her foundational research examined the dissemination of community-based initiatives, with a particular focus on those promoting smoke-free living, physical activity and healthy eating through behavioural and environmental approaches. Barb has extensive experience working with government and non-government organizations to evaluate complex public health interventions.  She also provides strategic and scientific advice through service on several national and international advisory boards, including the Scientific Advisory Committee for the International Obesity Task Force.

Neil Seeman has 20 years of experience in health web technology, data analysis, and communications. He is CEO of the Health Strategy Innovation Cell at Massey College and CEO of The RIWI Corporation, an Internet company for 24/7 global market intelligence. He is a prolific contributor to health policy research. Neil's non-profit work includes serving on the board of the Canadian Obesity Network, and his most recent book is XXL: Obesity and the Limits of Shame (University of Toronto Press).

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe began her appointment with the Sudbury & District Health Unit in 2000 as the area's Medical Officer of Health and Chief Executive Officer. She is the current Chair of the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health (COMOH). She has a longstanding interest in health promotion and population health and a keen understanding of how local public health efforts can effectively reduce social inequities in health. Rural and northern health, public health systems, and evidence-informed practice are areas of great interest to her.

Phyllis Tanaka is Vice-President, Food Policy Scientific and Regulatory Affairs with Food & Consumer Products of Canada.  She has a Master's degree in Nutritional Sciences and is a registered dietician.  Over the past 15 years she has been engaged in the key food, nutrition and health related policy and regulatory issues relevant to the food industry.  Phyllis was a member of the Multi-stakeholder Sodium Working Group that developed the Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada (2010), sits on Health Canada's Food Expert Advisory Committee, and represents the International Council of Grocery Manufacturers Association's Technical Committee at Codex Alimentarius committee meetings on Food Labelling and on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses.

Max Valiquette is one of Canada's foremost youth culture, media, and marketing experts. He founded Youthography and now works for Bensimon Byrne, a successful Canadian advertising agency.  Max has helped to create some of Canada's best-known advertising campaigns, and is also known as a TV host (TVOntario's VoxTalk) and commentator (CBC Radio, History TV's "What's In a Name"). Max is also an internationally-recognised speaker on issues pertaining to media and marketing. He is a Director of the Board of the Canadian Media Fund.

Robert Witchel is the head of the Canadian National Office of Right To Play and is responsible for programming in Canada overseeing both the PLAY (Promoting Life-skills in Aboriginal Youth) and Youth To Youth initiatives. Robert is also responsible for leading Canadian revenue development, athlete and sports alliances, communications and stewardship activities. He possesses over 20 years of multi-disciplinary business experience in international business development, sales, marketing and operations in Canada, the USA, Latin America and Europe. Following extensive experience with technology and financial services companies including Dow Jones, Reuters and E*TRADE, Robert entered the not-for-profit sector where he worked with the SickKids Foundation prior to joining Right To Play. Robert is a member of Right To Play's Global Leadership Team and is a director of four not-for-profit boards.

Soo Wong is MPP for Scarborough-Agincourt and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.  She is also the Vice-Chair of the Legislation and Regulation Cabinet Committee and a member of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. She is a former Public School Board Trustee, Professor of Nursing at the School of Health Sciences at the Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, administrator of a long-term care facility, a public health nurse and Manager of York Region Health Services.  Soo Wong arrived in Canada from Hong Kong at the age of eight, along with her father, mother and two siblings.  She speaks fluent English and Cantonese.

Current Programs

Ontario already has several programs that address the risk factors associated with obesity including:

  • Aboriginal Recreation Activator Program
  • After School Program
  • Curriculum revisions to encourage a healthy lifestyle
  • Eat Right Ontario
  • Healthy Communities Fund
  • Healthy Schools Initiative
  • Student Nutrition Program

Contributing to the Panel

Interested parties looking to provide input into the panel's work and discussions may visit www.ontario.ca/health for further information or send submissions to ChildhoodObesity@ontario.ca.

Media Contacts



Government Health and Wellness