Obese and overweight children and their families in British Columbia are being offered more support with the launch of a new provincial initiative that encourages healthy and active lifestyles.
The Childhood Healthy Weights Intervention Initiative will expand existing services and offer new services throughout British Columbia to ensure overweight or obese children and families have access to medical, nutritional and psychological supports, as well as healthy eating and physical activity sessions.
"Childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic across the country, including British Columbia," said Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid. "That is why our government is rolling out a new provincial program to support children through families engaging in healthy eating and active living, which will benefit both families and our health system."
The initiative includes:
- Expanding the Shapedown BC program, currently offered by the BC Children's Hospital, to all health authorities over the next two years. This program will provide medical, nutritional and psychological supports for obese children aged six to 17 years.
- Launching a new provincial program, Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It! (MEND) that will provide free healthy lifestyle learning and activity sessions for overweight children aged five to seven and seven to 13 years.
- Providing enhanced nutrition coaching by pediatric dietitians through Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC to parents who seek out weight management coaching for their children by contacting 8-1-1.
- Continuing the delivery of a Physical Activity Line that provides telephone and online support for families.
Through the Provincial Health Services Authority, an initial investment of $6 million was provided in 2011-12. A further investment of $2 million is being provided to bring the total to $8 million for the Childhood Obesity Foundation to plan, implement and evaluate the initiative.
"Obesity linked to chronic diseases - such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer - is a massive burden on the lives of British Columbians and their families as well as on our health care system," said Dr. Tom Warshawski, chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation. "Evidence shows that a healthy start begins in childhood."
Since 2006, BC Children's Hospital has run the Shapedown BC program and a resource centre in Vancouver. Approximately 1,000 families have been referred and 700 have completed the existing program offered through BC Children's Hospital. Within two years the program will be available in each health authority and it is estimated the program will serve up to 350 families over this time.
"Shapedown BC is about so much more than weight. It is about developing a healthy relationship between parent and child, and opening the channel of communication to talk positively about eating and activity," said Dr. Mary Hinchliffe, medical director, Shapedown BC.
In British Columbia, about 51,000 children (seven per cent) aged two to 17 years are classified as obese and 138,500 (20 per cent) as overweight. Obesity rates in children have almost tripled in the last 25 years and obesity-related illnesses cost the British Columbia health system an estimated $380 million dollars annually.
"We were getting tired of feeling like food was a struggle. We had to make some changes for the better-and the weight loss was secondary to the whole program," said Carlos Leon, whose child participated in Shapedown BC.
The new MEND program will be hosted by the YMCA and BC Recreation and Parks Association member recreation departments with assistance from the Childhood Obesity Foundation. Families with overweight children aged 5-13 can attend ten weeks of group physical activity sessions delivered by recreation staff. The sessions will also include classes on nutrition. The program will be available in 15 communities by 2014 and will serve up to 900 families.
"We're really excited to see MEND come to British Columbia," said Craig Sheather, YMCA's vice president of community engagement. "This is a program that really helps families live their healthiest lives."
"By bringing MEND to British Columbians, we're taking a big step towards reducing childhood obesity," said Suzanne Strutt, CEO of BC Recreation and Parks Association. "The program helps families learn how simple and beneficial being active can be."
Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, available by calling 8-1-1, are also expanding to include nutrition coaching from pediatric dietitians. This service will be complemented by the existing Physical Activity Line, available at 1 877 725-1149.
Childhood Healthy Weights Intervention Initiative supports Healthy Families BC, the government's public-health strategy that focuses on leadership, prevention and health improvement for British Columbian families and their communities.
A backgrounder follows.
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)
Childhood Healthy Weights Intervention Initiative
Shapedown BC at BC Children's Hospital through a multi disciplinary team screens and completes a comprehensive medical, psychosocial, and lifestyle assessment to assists families who have obese children aged six to 17 on referral from their doctor. Families are engaged in a series of fun, interactive group sessions twice a week, for a total of ten weeks that cover such topics as menu planning, family meals, communication, self esteem, teasing and bullying. The information classes are led by a registered dietitian and mental-health professional. Physical activity sessions are led by an exercise specialist from the YMCA or British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) member recreation departments. Since 2006, BC Children's Hospital has run a Shapedown BC program and a resource centre in Vancouver. Shapedown BC clinics are also available in Fraser Health in Langley and Surrey, and at the Vancouver Island Health Authority in Nanaimo. Within two years, the program will be available in each health authority and supported by BC Children's Hospital.
MEND Mind, Exercise Nutrition Do it!
For families with overweight children, MEND is a new, free program hosted by the YMCA and British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) member recreation departments with assistance from the Childhood Obesity Foundation. MEND will accept self-referral or health professional referral for children aged five to 13 who are overweight. Families will attend ten weeks of group session once or twice a week delivered by recreation staff. The sessions feature classes on nutrition and physical activities. MEND launches this month in the first five B.C. communities - Vancouver, Township of Langley, Kelowna, Prince George, Saanich - and will continue to roll out to 15 B.C. communities by 2014.
Dietitian Services at HealthLinkBC
Dietitian Services at HealthLinkBC offer no-cost telehealth nutrition service (phone, web, email, social media, and online resources). This service is being expanded to include pediatric dietitians and nutrition coaching for families with children by calling 8-1-1.
Physical Activity Line (PAL)
The Physical Activity Line is a free resource for evidence-based practical physical activity and healthy living information. This service educates, provides guidance and connects callers with qualified exercise professionals and community health and fitness programs by telephone at
1 877 725-1149 or through email at: email@example.com
Facts about childhood obesity
- From 2009 to 2011, about 20 per cent of Canadian children and adolescents were overweight and about 12 per cent were obese.
- Obesity and lifestyle behaviours track from early childhood to adolescence and adolescence to adulthood.
- According to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention, overweight school-aged children are 50 per cent more likely to become obese adults, with overweight adolescents 70 to 80 per cent more likely to become overweight adults.
- As obese adults, today's overweight children will display much higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, renal failure, amputations, blindness, cancer, and mental health problems.
- Approximately 2,000 British Columbians die prematurely every year due to obesity-related illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
- The total cost of obesity to the British Columbia economy is estimated at between $730 million and $830 million a year, due to productivity losses from premature death absenteeism and disability.
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)