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REF NO.: 182

SUBJECT: Multisectoral healthy active living strategy needed for children in Newfoundland

DATE: June 29

A report released today, Monday, June 29, explores the gaps and opportunities of healthy active living initiatives and programs for school-aged children and youth in Newfoundland. The study focused on the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dr. Michelle Kilborn, assistant professor with the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation (HKR) at Memorial University, led the Healthy Active Living in Newfoundland Research Project along with HKR’s Drs. Erin Cameron, Erin McGowan and Linda Rohr through partnership funding from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Seniors, Wellness, and Social Development and Recreation Newfoundland and Labrador.

“The future of this province is only as healthy as the next generation,” said Dr. Kilborn. “Building a culture of healthy, active living with a more holistic wellness-oriented approach has been identified in this study as essential to improve the health and wellness of children and youth in Newfoundland. Programming must include a balance of physical activity, mental well-being and healthy eating.”

Dr. Kilborn and her team recognize more knowledge is needed of the types of healthy, active-living initiatives that exist targeting children and youth in Newfoundland. For this study, they conducted an environmental scan to provide a better understanding of the landscape of such activities across Newfoundland.

The study was comprised of three parts: a review of literature and an online scan of programs related to healthy, active living; focus group meetings with key representatives from the healthy, active living community; and an electronic survey distributed to education, sport, recreation, health and community partners.

The report lists 12 recommendations and encourages the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to use the information for community, regional, and provincial strategies and planning to more effectively support a healthy Newfoundland population. Recommendation themes include facilities, programming, program leads, funding and evaluation.  

“The provincial government has demonstrated a commitment to helping people and communities achieve lifelong active health and well-being through government initiatives,” said Dr. Kilborn. “While supporting community programs is an important component of promoting wellness, it is a challenge to co-ordinate these programs effectively and understand the impact these initiatives have on health, learning, and performance outcomes.”

Analysis indicates a multi-level, collaborative strategy between different sectors and communities is needed to ensure better balance and a more interconnected approach to promoting healthy, active living for children and youth. Improved communication of successes and best practices would also be beneficial, as well as a comprehensive, ongoing evaluation process that is accessible and available to the public.

It is evident participants believe there is an appropriate amount of programming for school-aged children and respondents are proud and appreciative of what is offered to youth. However, the majority of healthy, active living programming for school-aged Newfoundlanders is focused on physical activity with few initiatives that provide opportunities to participate in healthy eating and positive mental health activities. A shift in what is being offered needs to reflect a commitment to a holistic approach. Researchers also identified many programs need improvements to funding, resources, expertise, diversity, partnerships and prioritizing of healthy, active living.

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For further information, please contact Krista Davidson, communications co-ordinator, Office of Vice-President (research), Memorial University, at 709-864-4073 or kdavidson@mun.ca.   

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