By Christian Quequish
Ontario is looking to improve health at a young age, as a health panel seeks to bring down childhood obesity by 20 per cent over the next five years.
In a statement by the Ontario government released to Humber News, “Ontario has created a panel of experts to recommend how we can keep more kids at healthy weights.”
“The Healthy Kids Panel conducted its deliberations from May to December 2012, and submitted its report, No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy, to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care in March 2013,” the statement said.
The press release said the Ontario government is looking to improve the health of children and their families to “decrease the chance kids will be overweight or obese when they get older.”
Vidya Rampersad, an early childhood education professor at Humber College, told Humber News they have courses that teach students how to have a healthy lifestyle.
“We have a number of programs that address health. We have a course specifically called ‘Health & Safety’, which gears towards the child and the whole family,” Rampersad said.
“It includes healthy lifestyles not just for the child but the whole family, because as you know, children’s first teachers are their parents,” she said.
Rampersad said they look at health care within the day care system.
“Students are required to prepare enough gross motor activities to encourage physical movement and development. However, they must question the procedure, and the schedule of the day where snacks and lunch come,” she said.
Rampersad said one major issue early childhood education students bring up is that lunch will be served to the children and following with a nap. She said that meeting the demands of the dictated curriculum could be challenging.
Nazlin Hirji, director of continuing education, spoke on the role of nurses as being advocates for public health.
“It depends on what their role is, so if there is a nurse working in the hospital, their role would be addressing the fallout of obesity,” Hirji said.
“Health teaching is within the scope and mandate of nursing, so they would be teaching families about obesity, nutrition, using the food guide to do that education,” she said.
She said that different organizations have different mandates.
Laura Brown-Huesken, a certified dietitian at Humber College, told Humber News there is a lot of programming coming out from the government in the form of public health initiatives, and that schools are taking ownership of the issue.
“It’s a real struggle because on one hand we want to promote health and wellness, we also like convenience – really high fat foods, foods that are pre-prepared that kind of contradicts everything from the government’s point of view,” Brown-Huesken said.
She said that she doesn’t think there is just one direct cause for childhood obesity, but one way to promote healthier living is to return to a more natural diet – eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and maintaining a high-fiber diet.
“We have quite a obesogenic society, so it’s very difficult for one portion of the child’s life, whether it’s at home or school, to address obesity completely,” Brown-Huesken said.