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Food and Drink

Acting up and shaping down

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The numbers are rolling in and they aren’t a pretty sight: 26 per cent of young Canadians between two and 17 years of age are overweight, a figure, pardon the expression, that’s tripled over the past three years.

At the provincial level, 37 per cent of B.C.’s adults are overweight and 18 per cent are obese. In the last 25 years, the number of overweight teenagers has doubled, and the number of obese teens has tripled.

And all this in beautiful British Columbia, home of the healthy and fit outdoorsy-types who used to feel more than somewhat smug and chauvinistic as we chided our cousins south of the border for growing larger and larger in the land of too much plenty. Now the “plenty” has caught up with us.

So this spring the provincial government started tackling our weighty problem, and other health challenges, through ActNow BC. The ultimate goal: not just lead North America in healthy living, but be the healthiest jurisdiction ever to host an Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

To tackle a wide range of issues, from smoking to poor eating habits, and give people a wide range of entry points that suit their lifestyles, there are more than 80 programs already underway.

One of the latest was recently launched at B.C. Children’s Hospital. Shapedown BC, aimed at the growing obesity problem amongst children and teens, is a weight management program based on a model that has been used in California for 20-plus years. It’s already helped about 100 families during a pilot project at Children’s Hospital.

In the new program, close to half a million dollars will go towards helping 200 families with youngsters who are obese.

“The criteria has been to select the ones who are most obese and the ones who have not had success working with their family physicians in their communities,” says Gordon Hogg, Minister of State for ActNow BC.

“This is taking a whole different approach and a much more holistic approach. Family physicians, to a greater or lesser degree, already have skills in this area. But this is really bringing together a specialist group that includes a social worker and counselling as well as the medical side.”

The Shapedown team, which consists of physicians, nutritionists and counselors, integrates primary care with specialist health care. These professionals work with families of young people who are dealing with obesity, targetting the underlying factors that often promote poor food choices and physical inactivity.

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