December 12, 2014 6:27 pm
Updated: December 15, 2014 6:37 am

‘Healthy Start’ combating childhood obesity in Saskatchewan

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Watch above: A new initiative is aimed at combating childhood obesity in young children and it’s gaining momentum. Aaron Streck introduces us to ‘Healthy Start’ and explains how it’s turning kids unbridled energy into a potential life-long lifestyle.

SASKATOON – Childhood obesity is a global health crisis. A Saskatchewan-based initiative has been developed to combat the issue in the early years and it’s gaining traction around the province and country.

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Kids are full of never ending energy, most can’t sit still. Since the fall, Robyn Gervais’ approach with her preschoolers has taken a healthy spin.

“They get really excited when I pull the binder out that has all the activities in it, they get excited and want to know what activities we’re going to do,” said Robyn Gervais, an early childhood educator.

The binder is part of Healthy Start, a bilingual initiative developed in Saskatchewan that increases not only physical activity but healthy eating in early learning environments.

“The research shows that children are not active enough and don’t eat healthy food generally speaking and the early years zero to six are extremely important,” said Dr. Anne Leis, the research lead with Healthy Start .

“We always talk about how any healthy habits that you have when you’re young are going to carry through when you’re an adult into the rest of your life, if you start them off where exercise is fun and they enjoy doing it and when eating healthy is a game,” said Gervais.

MORE: How this Danish doctor is battling childhood obesity around the world

According to Statistics Canada, 32 per cent of youth between the age of five and 17 were overweight or obese from from 2009 to 2011.

“We’re finding that if prevention starts earlier, if we’re able to support these children with environments and opportunities to live a healthy life it will benefit them for years down the road,” said Holly Hallikainen, the evaluation coordinator with Healthy Start .

After a successful pilot project, Healthy Start is now into it’s second wave of funding, $1.6 million over four years from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The program has also expanded to New Brunswick.

“We look at the literature, we look at the science behind promoting healthy eating and promoting physical activity in early year settings and we found some really great resources that were developed in British Columbia called LEAP.”

Healthy Start reaches dozens of early learning centres in Saskatchewan, with the goal to get 150 on board and another 50 in New Brunswick in the near future.

The Healthy Start initiative is a community-based partnership lead by the French Health Network in Saskatchewan.

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