Let’s Get Physical! Programs and Policies to Get BC Moving

BCHLA joined a group of 90+ enthusiastic participants for a webinar on how to get BC families moving together on February 19th.  We heard from a range of speakers on what’s new in BC, and best practices in programs and policies to engage families in increasing their activity levels ¬ – whether in the pool, at the park or in the woods.

Getting regular physical activity is one of the most important things a person can do for their health – both physical and mental. In BC, 60% of us are active which means we lead the provincial pack. But that still leaves far too many people at risk for chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes associated with sedentary lifestyles.

30 minutes a day is a good start for adults, but it’s 60 minutes for children, and the stats are not quite so good for our youth. The 2009 Canadian Physical Activity Levels Among Youth CAN PLAY study found that 85% of British Columbia’s children and youth aged 5 to 19 do not participate in enough activity.

Let’s Get Physical! explored what can be done to encourage physical activity at a community level and through good public policy. We had a multitude of questions for our speakers, as well as suggestions on future partnerships and ways to get more British Columbians involved. There is no doubt that after our time was up, people were inspired to take action on physical activity.

Noelle Virtue, MEND Regional Coordinator discussed MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It!) which is a part of the Childhood Healthy Weights Intervention Initiative that is funded by the Ministry of Health and was officially launched in April of 2013. She outlined how this family-based education program is helping children and their families get fitter, healthier, and happier.

Noelle cautioned that it is important to note that MEND is not a diet; it is not a weight loss program, nor is it telling families what to do.  What it is, is a free healthy living program for families where children and their families can have fun, meet new friends and learn new things. MEND is currently being piloted in 20 BC communities through BCRPA and the YMCA.

Temily McCutcheon and Sarah Walker are an energetic duo from the Natural Leaders Initiative of the Child Nature Alliance. The Natural Leaders Alliance “connects all Canadian youth to nature by empowering and supporting a strong network of leaders across the country that inspire positive social change.” And their vision is for “all young Canadians to love, lead and explore in nature.”

They discussed their work engaging youth leaders to get children and youth outside and active. They also invited others to participate, whether by suggesting interested youth to get involved or through partnerships.

Suzanne Allard Strutt, CEO of BC Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) explained the policy landscape for physical activity – what is happening now and what needs to happen in the near future to get more people, more active, more often. Suzanne gave great examples and good insights into BCRPA’s work at the policy level, focusing especially on the need for solid partnerships to share the work required to support physical activity and recreation in the province. Partners she mentioned are the Provincial Government, local governments, ParticipACTION and other local and national players.

Current policy discussions underway include the National Recreation Framework, Active Canada 20/20, and the BC physical activity strategy and action plan.