Local students and educators gave a big thumbs up to the Doctors of B.C. this fall. Once, that is, they’d pried those thumbs from their favourite electronic devices.
The Doctors of B.C. Be Active Every Day Challenge brings doctors into Grade 4 and 5 classrooms to teach students not only the principles of a healthy and active lifesyle, but how the choices they make will have a long-term impact on their chances for a healthy future.
This October, Dr. Satish Desai and a group of fellow physicians went into seven area schools to promote the challenge’s “Live 5-2-1-0” principles — eat a minimum of five fruits and vegetables a day, limit themselves to two hours of screen time, get one hour of physical activity and consume zero sugary drinks through the month.
Despite its name, the Be Active Every Day Challenge is about far more than simply physical activity.
“I’ve been teaching for over 20 years and in that time I’ve seen the impact the innovation of technology and devices can have on our kids,” said Kerri Faa, Grade 4-5 teacher at Nanoose Bay Elementary. “When students are aware of the decisions they’re making, it helps them move on to using technology as a support for other things in their lives. That includes activity but also diet, sleep, screen time.”
District 69 schools that took part in the program this year were Arrowview Elementary, Bowser Elementary, Errington Elementary, Nanoose Elementary, Ecolé Oceanside Elementary, Springwood Elementary and False Bay School, on Lasqueti Island.
Collectively, they represented more than one-fifth of the 36 schools provincewide involved in the challenge this year.
“It’s a good feather in our cap; for a small area we did very well,” said Desai, who has promoted the challenge here for several years. “It’s an excellent program. I’m hoping one year we’ll get all the schools taking part.”
The challenge features a “kickoff” visit by a local doctor, weekly videos from athletic stars who suggest a warm-up workout challenge to the youths and a wrap-up party at the end of the month at which certificates are distributed to each student who takes part.
This year’s theme was biking, and Team Canada mountain bike riders Sean Fincham and Miranda Miller were featured in the videos.
During the month, students set goals and write about their activities in a booklet they get along with goodies like water bottles, wrist bands and possible prizes.
“There’s a lot of swag,” Desai said with a laugh.
At the close of the challenge, students wrote a one-paragraph story about how they would use a bike to stay active, with some of the stories featured on the Doctors of BC website and the author of the best story earning the grand prize of a new bike.
“We do have pretty active kids in this school,” said Faa. “But the activity was complemented by increased consciousness of what they’re putting in their bodies and what they’re doing with their time. It gives them an awareness of the huge benefits upon those healthy activities they’re already doing.”
Across B.C., the program brings in help from nurse practitioners, public health units, MLAs and athletes.
Desai this year recruited fellow physicians Kathy Edge, Richard Henderson, Mark Morris and Larry McClure of Lasqueti Island to participate with visits to one or two schools each.
“We try to get all the schools, but we have to have enough physicians interested in helping,” Desai said. “I think it’s an important initiative; if you start these kids right, they’ll have less of an impact on the health-care system as they get older.”
Faa, who has been involved as a teacher for the past four years, welcomes the program and hopes it will continue.
“I’m sure the doctors are seeing in their offices the byproduct of what I’m seeing in the classroom,” she said. “As long as schools and health professionals can partner up in programs like this one, I think it benefits everybody.”