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Giving kids a healthier start in life

Ontario Challenges Communities to Support Healthy Kids

(NC) Ontario is challenging communities to work together to help give kids a healthier start in life.

Healthy eating and physical activity helps kids grow up to be healthy adults. That's why Ontario is launching The Healthy Kids Community Challenge – a community led program to help Ontario's children be the healthiest they can be.

Municipalities and Aboriginal Health Access Centres/Aboriginal Community Health Centres can now submit applications for funds and other supports to implement local initiatives that increase activity levels, improve healthy food choices and promote appropriate amounts of sleep for children and youth.

The challenge is the first of its kind in Canada and is based on a best practice recognized by the World Health Organization. It encourages communities to build partnerships with local organizations across all sectors — schools, health, public, private and non-profit — to promote healthy weights for kids.

The need for action is clear. About 30 per cent of Ontario children and youth are considered overweight or obese. Childhood obesity impacts health in childhood and beyond with 75 per cent of obese children growing up to become obese adults. Adult obesity is associated with increased risk of chronic diseases and conditions, and these conditions are estimated to cost Ontario $4.5 billion per year.

“A big part of keeping our kids healthy is promoting nutritious eating and physical activity,” said Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “This initiative will give local communities resources to make Ontario's children the healthiest they can be.”

Through an application process, communities from across the province will be chosen to participate in the challenge. Selected communities will receive funding, training, and social marketing tools over a four year period to develop and implement community based programs that promote healthy living.

“It is important our kids are equipped with all the right tools to succeed in life,” says Mark Holland, Director of Health Promotion and Children & Youth, Heart and Stroke Foundation. “Getting kids into healthy habits at a young age, can help set them on the right track.”

Examples of activities include after-school cooking clubs with dietitians, healthy breakfast clubs for children living in poverty and walking school bus initiatives. Municipal partners could include schools, recreation centres, parents, private businesses, health care providers and other community organizations servicing children and youth.

“The Healthy Kids Community Challenge is a great way for communities to come together to get children moving and developing healthy eating habits” says Kelly Murumets, Co-Chair of the Healthy Kids Panel and President & CEO of ParticipACTION. “We need all hands on deck to make the kind of changes that will allow our children to live longer, fuller lives.”

Interested communities can apply to participate in the challenge through their municipalities, Aboriginal Health Access Centres or Community Health Centres in Aboriginal communities. For more information on the program and how your community can get involved visit

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