McGill announces winner of Bloomberg Manulife Prize


$50,000 research award to promote active health goes to psychologist James Sallis; his studies have shown how urban environments shape levels of physical activity, contributing to more thoughtful city planning
Published: 17Dec2012

Widely regarded as a leading expert on human behavior and its influence on fitness, Dr. Sallis began his career investigating how to successfully encourage individuals to incorporate physical activity into their lives. Sallis quickly realized that, although people could often be influenced to adapt their routines to include regular exercise, such changes were rarely permanent, and within six to 12 months people would revert back to their original, unhealthier habits.

This realization led Sallis to the question that would form the foundation of his acclaimed research: what are the root causes of inactivity, and how does the urban environment we live in—and in particular the layout of our cities and neighborhoods—make it easier or more difficult to stay in shape?

“The role that our physical environment plays in our ability to stay fit is one of the areas of research in the field of active health which has been completely overlooked until very recently, and so we are delighted to honour Dr. James Sallis, whose studies are having a significant impact in helping us understand this crucial link between the built environment and the barriers they present to healthy living,” said Helene Perrault, Dean of McGill’s Faculty of Education.

Dean Perrault says the jury, made up of leading academics from the field of active health, was most impressed by Sallis’s efforts to take his research findings beyond the laboratory and turn them into practical applications. For example, through the Built Environment Assessment Training (BEAT) Institute, he has helped create a free, online course that teaches researchers, policy-makers and others how to assess their local environment—including streetscapes, parks and trails— for physical activity.

Dr. Sallis has also presented his findings to legislators and other policy leaders, including members of the U.S. Congress, First Lady Michelle Obama and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – part of an effort to affect policy change through evidence-based research.

In addition to his academic appointment at UCSD, Dr. Sallis also serves as the director of the Active Living Research Program, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; he has been recognized with numerous honours and awards, including a Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine, the Vice Presidency of the American College of Sports Medicine, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.

Launched in May 2011, the $50,000 Bloomberg Manulife Prize is 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.

Last year’s inaugural winner was Dr. Steven Blair of the University of South Carolina, who was among the first researchers to show that even moderate increases in fitness, regardless of one’s weight, can translate into significantly reduced mortality rates.

The prize was the brainchild of Toronto financier and McGill University alumnus Lawrence S. Bloomberg, MBA ‘65, chair of the Board of Directors of BloombergSen Inc. and recently appointed Chancellor of Ryerson University. 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 funds to set up this 10-year initiative.

This year, four of Canada’s leading health organizations have joined the initiative: the Canadian Cancer Society, which is providing financial support to help promote the Prize, as well as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, ParticipACTION, and the Canadian Diabetes Association, who are providing in-kind support and opportunities for collaboration. 

“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,” explains Mr. Bloomberg. “These new health partnerships are a wonderful endorsement.  We are honoured that many of Canada’s largest health organizations are excited to work with us in promoting this important goal.”

“Manulife is very proud to support the important and forward-thinking work being done by Dr. Sallis,” adds Nicole Boivin, Chief Branding and Communications Officer at Manulife Financial. “We have a long history of supporting causes that improve people's health and well-being and this award is a tangible step in the fight against some of the most common health issues being faced by our citizens.”

Dr. Sallis will accept the prize at a special ceremony at the MaRS Centre in Toronto on Monday, Jan. 21, where he will also take part in a conversation about his research. This will be followed by a round table discussion on Wednesday, Jan. 23at McGill University in Montreal, where local experts will join the prizewinner to explore the topic of the built environment and 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 Hiram Cantu, a biomedical engineering graduate from Mexico who is studying movement difficulties in Parkinson’s patients, and sports psychologist William Falcao from Brazil, who studies and develops athlete training activities that promote health, education, and empowerment for women.

About the Bloomberg Manulife Prize

The Bloomberg Manulife Prize is administered by McGill's Faculty of Education. Sponsors include Westjet Airlines, The Globe and Mail, Shaw Media, Cineplex Entertainment LP, and the Cambridge Group of Clubs.  For more information:

About Manulife Financial

Manulife Financial is a leading Canada-based financial services group with principal operations in Asia, Canada and the United States. In 2012, it celebrate 125 years of providing clients strong, reliable, trustworthy and forward-thinking solutions for their most significant financial decisions. Its international network of employees, agents and distribution partners offers financial protection and wealth management products and services to millions of clients. They also provide asset management services to institutional customers. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were C$515 billion (US$523 billion) as at September 30, 2012. The Company operates as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia and primarily as John Hancock in the United States.

Manulife Financial Corporation trades as ‘MFC’ on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under ‘945’ on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the internet at

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Québec, in 1821, McGill is Canada’s leading university. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 11 professional schools, 300 programs and more than 37,800 students, including 8,300 graduate and post-graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, with more than 7,200 international students making up 20 per cent of the student body. Almost half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including more than 6,200 francophones. For more information, visit

Contact Information

Cynthia Lee
McGill University
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