N.S. to spend $2M to combat childhood obesity
Decreased physical activity and bad eating habits prevail, says study
The Nova Scotia government will spend about $2 million over the next year to help reduce childhood obesity and associated health problems.
The province released a plan on Thursday that includes funding for consultation with schools, municipalities and health facilities.
"Nova Scotia is dealing with epidemic levels of childhood obesity, inactivity and unhealthy eating," said Premier Darrell Dexter.
The plan includes four key directions:
- Promote a healthy start with a focus on breastfeeding,
- Educate about nutrition and exercise in schools,
- Expand access to healthy food and exercise,
- Work with municipalities to build more trails, sidewalks and facilities.
The strategy comes on the heels of study that found physical activity levels among Nova Scotia's grade school students continues to decline and the majority of them don't eat right.
The study by St. Francis Xavier University researchers — called Keeping Pace — looked at eating habits and physical activity levels of more than 1,500 students in Grades 3, 7 and 11. They recorded what they ate and wore accelerometers to measure exertion.
Angie Thompson, one of the co-researchers on the report, said provincial standards recommend 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, five days a week.
"It's a lot of Grade 3s that are actually meeting it on four days per week. If they just do one more day, they'll be a lot closer. The same thing can be said for boys in Grade 7," she told CBC News on Wednesday.
"Sadly though, you can't say that about Grade 11 girls. More than 60 per cent don't even get 60 minutes on one day a week."
30 per cent of students surveyed are overweight or obese
Thompson has been working on the Keeping Pace project for a decade. Similar studies were conducted in 2002 and 2006, with students in more than 80 schools across the province.
She said younger students tend to do better at getting the recommended amount of physical exercise.
Among the surveyed Grade 3 students, about 80 per cent of both boys and girls met the physical activity standard on five or more days per week. By Grade 11, that number dropped significantly — about five per cent for boys and less than one per cent for girls.
Thompson blames electronic devices and poor attitudes for the problem.
"I think part of our problem is we don't really value and respect physical activity," she said.
"We don't value it to do it all the time and we don't respect the fact that we actually need to move."
Student eating habits aren't much better — 78 per cent of Grade 7 boys and a whopping 89 per cent of Grade 11 girls don't meet the minimum servings for vegetables and fruits, according to the study.
Just over 30 per cent of the students surveyed are considered overweight or obese.
With files from The Canadian Press