McGill Announces Inaugural Winner of Bloomberg Manulife Prize


Published: 5Dec2011

$50,000 research award to promote active health goes to Professor Steven Blair

McGill University, in association with Lawrence S. Bloomberg and Manulife Financial, is pleased to announce that Dr. Steven Blair, an exercise scientist at the University of South Carolina, is the winner of the inaugural Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health.

Widely regarded as a lead contributor to a new area of epidemiological research linking physical fitness with decreased mortality and numerous health benefits, Dr. Blair is seen as an academic leader in his field. He has advised governments and health organizations, has published over 500 scientific papers and book chapters, and is one of a handful of people outside the U.S. Public Health Service to be awarded the Surgeon General’s Medallion.

Dr. Blair was among the first researchers to show that even moderate increases in fitness, regardless of one’s weight, translate into significantly reduced mortality rates. His research has shown that as little as 30 minutes of physical activity a day is enough to drive down mortality rates by 50 per cent, and he contends that it is the lack of physical activity – and not obesity – that is the single biggest health issue we are facing today.

Launched in May 2011, the $50,000 CAD prize will be awarded annually to a researcher whose work promises to broaden our understanding of how physical activity, nutrition or psychosocial factors influence personal health and well being.

The prize was the brainchild of Toronto financier and McGill University alumnus Lawrence S. Bloomberg, chair of the Board of Directors of BloombergSen Inc. and longtime chair of the board of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. To better educate Canadians on issues of health and lifestyle, and to promote positive shifts in behaviour, Mr. Bloomberg joined forces with corporate partner Manulife Financial, with each pledging $1 million dollars to set up this 10-year initiative.

“The goal of the Bloomberg Manulife Prize is to honour research that has the potential to have transformative impacts on how people approach their health and wellbeing, be it through increased fitness, better nutrition or other behavioural lifestyle changes,” explains Mr. Bloomberg. “Thanks to Dr. Blair’s research, we have scientific proof that the key to living healthier and longer is just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day. It’s this kind of concrete, useful knowledge that we hope to bring to Canadians through this prize.”

Donald A. Guloien, President and Chief Executive Officer of Manulife adds, “We are extremely impressed by the caliber of our inaugural prizewinner. Manulife Financial firmly believes in encouraging and promoting forward-thinking academic research that enhances healthy lives. We are convinced that the pioneering work of Dr. Blair will be an important step in creating a better quality of life for Canadians.”

Dr. Blair will accept the prize at a special ceremony at the MaRS Centre in Toronto on Wednesday, Jan. 11, where he will also take part in a conversation about his research. This will be followed by a round table discussion on Thursday, Jan. 12 at McGill University in Montreal, where local experts will join the prizewinner to explore the topic of active health in greater depth.

The Bloomberg Manulife Fund also awards two research fellowships annually, valued at $22,500 each, to PhD students who show exceptional promise in their field. These recipients will undertake research projects at McGill’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. This year’s fellowship winners are Jeff Caron from Moncton, NB, who is researching the psychological aspects of concussions, and Fennigje Purves-Smith from Carstairs, Alta., who is studying skeletal-muscle aging.

The Bloomberg Manulife Prize is administered by McGill's Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. Sponsors include Westjet Airlines, The Globe and Mail, Shaw Communications and the Cambridge Group of Clubs.

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Dr. Blair’s work and awards:


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