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A healthier future for Saskatchewan children

A healthier future for Saskatchewan children

Apr. 8, 2011 - The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan (HSFS) was joined by Health Minister Don McMorris today to launch a new initiative aimed at improving the health of our province’s children.

“Heart Healthy Children & Youth is the Heart and Stroke Foundation's response to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, inactivity and other lifestyle choices that are putting Saskatchewan children at risk,” said HSFS President Dr. Karen Chad. “This is a province-wide initiative aiming to inspire individuals, families, communities, businesses and governments to take collective action to help children become more physically active, eat healthier foods and be smoke-free.”

According to HSFS, Canadian children may be among the first generation to have a shorter less healthy lifespan than their parents. Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 25 years and 29.1 per cent of Saskatchewan children are considered overweight or obese. At the same time, children are less active. According to Active Healthy Kids Canada, only 15 per cent of Saskatchewan children meet recommended levels for physical activity. And smoking rates among Saskatchewan youth are significantly higher than elsewhere in Canada, even among children as young as grade six.

“Childhood obesity is a growing concern in Saskatchewan,” Health Minister Don McMorris said. “The Heart and Stroke’s strategy coordinates well with the province’s recent commitment to a federal/provincial/territorial endeavour tackling this issue. As part of this commitment, the Ministry of Health is developing a healthy weights framework for Saskatchewan, working closely and collaboratively with provincial stakeholders to address the issue head-on.”

“We believe in a future where health flourishes and where today’s children are active and healthy adults,” said Chad. “They say it takes a village to raise a child. This program takes that one step further: it takes a healthy village to raise a healthy child.”

Heart Healthy Children & Youth will focus on supporting individuals, groups and organizations which are planning or already at work in areas related to healthy eating, physical activity and tobacco reduction. The program’s Community Action Coordinators will offer tools, information, and expertise; and will help provide linkages, so that community-level groups can learn and share from each other. By connecting communities, a small program can be part of a much bigger movement towards improving health. “Parents play a key role in making healthy choices for their children because the earliest decisions regarding food and physical activity occur in the home. But in today’s busy world, parents need a community of support,” said HSFS CEO Lucy Buller. That support is important at every level: federal and provincial governments have a role to play by keeping health central to discussions about public policy. Local governments can look at ways of making our social and physical environments more supportive of physical activity by building walkable, safe neighbourhoods. Industry has a role to play by keeping affordable, nutritious foods available in restaurants and on store shelves and reducing marketing of high fat, high sugar and high sodium foods. And we can all step up and create new ways that make it easier for children and their families to eat healthier foods and be more physically active.

“The good news is that while we are at a crisis point now, change is possible. Saskatchewan is known as a place where real change starts at the grass-roots,” said Buller. “And Heart Healthy Children & Youth will help great ideas become actions that will reach out to children and youth where they work, study and play, helping them get a healthy start to their lives.”

The project officially launched today, but Community Action Coordinators are already meeting with stakeholders in several Saskatchewan communities. Interested individuals or groups are invited to learn more about the program and may contact the coordinators at heartandstroke.sk.ca/communities.

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The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.

For more information, please contact:

Karen Grant
306-244-6822 ext. 237
1-888-473-4636 (toll free)
grantk@hsf.sk.ca



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