In May 2016, Vancouver Convention Centre became the first convention centre in North America to become a Healthy Venue, certified by the World Obesity Federation. This coincided with World Obesity hosting its International Congress on Obesity at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Hannah Brinsden, World Obesity’s Head of Advocacy & Public Affairs, shares her experience of developing the Award and of hosting an event at an accredited healthy venue.

Last year alone the Vancouver Convention Centre hosted 557 events including conventions, conferences, congresses and corporate/business meetings, which resulted in 511,000 non-resident delegate days (these are days when people from outside British Columbia attend events at the Convention Centre and likely rely on nearby hotels, restaurants and amenities).

Unfortunately, meetings, conferences and work life in general rarely support healthy lifestyles. With little opportunity to break up long periods of sedentary behaviour and get outside for fresh air, a loss of routine and a reliance on eating out, the whole affair risks leaving you and your delegates feeling a bit blah!

Stimulating change…

This is why we launched the Healthy Venue Award in 2015, to help improve the conference experience for everyone involved, with a specific focus on promoting health. Healthy meetings, no matter how big or small, have the potential to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of participants and to increase alertness and engagement.

Our Healthy Venues Award was developed in conjunction with an expert advisory committee across three elements that we believe help create healthy meetings and healthy conference centres – Catering, Reducing Sedentary Behaviour and Promoting Workplace Health. With a few changes here and there, venues are realising that by becoming healthier, they also become more attractive to conference organisers and delegates.

Putting it into practice at the International Congress on Obesity

We held our International Congress on Obesity at the Vancouver Convention Centre earlier this year, just in time for the Centre to put into practice many of the elements which make up the Healthy Venues Award. Working closely with the Vancouver Convention Centre, we were able to create a healthy meeting space with healthy catering which kept our delegates healthy and alert!

Our catering plan ensured that fruit was available in breaks and that meals were fresh and healthy. This included sushi and salad lunches, as well as healthy snacks and smaller portions of desserts so everyone could have a bit of what they fancied. The most innovative (and popular!) offering at the Vancouver Convention Centre to help support healthy meetings is definitely their ‘hydration stations’ - water coolers naturally flavoured with mint, orange or cranberry, and no sugar or sweetener – simple, tasty and they look pretty too. These were a great way to provide our delegates a cool and refreshing drink without unnecessary sugar or additives.

Our healthy venues award isn’t just about the food though. The Vancouver Convention Centre were also on hand to help us to encourage activity and reduce sedentary behaviour amongst our guests. Vancouver Convention Centre provided standing space at the back of the halls and actively promoted the stairs throughout the congress. The location of the Centre is also ideal for encouraging everyone to get outside, breath in some of that sea air and stroll along the famous waterfront!

To further add to what Vancouver Convention Centre provided us with, we also promoted standing ovations throughout our session and offered activities as part of the social programme, including morning runs and urban polling.

Benefit from hosting your own event at the Vancouver Convention Centre

At World Obesity we are always seeking to organise healthy meetings, and encourage others to do so too. Of course, we understand this isn’t always a priority for everyone, but that’s the beauty of the Healthy Venue Award. Now everyone who chooses to host an event at the Vancouver Convention Centre can benefit from the changes that they have made. Some of the highlights include:

  • Hydration stations
  • Wide range of healthy menu options including low salt, sow sugar, wholegrains and more
  • All food made in the “scratch kitchen” from fresh and local ingredients, including all sauces, soups and dressings
  • Recreation maps of walking routes and fitness centres in the neighbourhood
  • Packages that include custom yoga classes for delegates

Well done Vancouver Convention Centre for leading the way, and we are excited that everyone can now choose to have healthy meetings at your venue!