Provincial government tackles childhood obesity

By Tanya Cronin
March 29, 2016 - 1:39pm Updated: March 31, 2016 - 12:45am

KAMLOOPS — It is a growing health epidemic, childhood obesity has consequences that can last a lifetime. 

The number of obese or overweight kids is on the rise at an alarming rate. 

But now, families with children throughout the province are getting more help in achieving healthy lifestyles. 

WATCH: Full story by Tanya Cronin

The BC Government is committing extra money, to support the expansion of a special program, and promote healthy habits at a young age. 

There's a need for a lot more of exercise among young people. But far too many kids seem to be huffing and puffing their way through physical activity, and it's a bigger concern than ever before.

"30 to 40 years ago we think okay it's fine to be a little bit pudgy when you're a pre-teen, you get into your teen years you'll outgrow it and be a lean adult, that just doesn't happen, in fact what happens is weight problems tend to get worse," says Dr. Tom Warshawski, Chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation.

Childhood obesity is getting worse right across the country. In fact, it has become a public health epidemic. In BC alone, 27% of kids are either overweight or obese, many of them don't even know it.

"We're unaware of it in part because it's so prevelant, so when you look around you and see 30% of youth either overweight or obese, at around 50-60% of adults either overweight or obese, you're not abnormal, it doesn't mean you're healthy, you're just not abnormal, but we do really need to address it."

Today [Tuesday] Health Minister Terry Lake did just that, by announcing $2-million in new funding for a program to help BC kids fight obesity. The Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It! program - or MEND - encourages a healthy body and self-image, with a focus on physical and emotional health.

"Focusing on families with young children I think gives us the best bang for our buck in terms of the reduced cost to the healthcare system, but more importantly the increased quality of life that families will have if they learn those healthy activities, healthy eating early on," says Terry Lake, BC Health Minister.

Since 2013, the MEND program, has been providing families with children aged 5 to 13 with the knowledge to promote healthy eating, goal setting and physical activity. 

"We saw the program in the Kamloops Activity Guide and decided to take it, thought it would be an opportunity for us to grow as a family," says Kamloops mother, Jackie Enders.

For the Enders family, it has been life-changing. Jackie, Dwayne and 11-year old Brooke, learned the skills needed to lead a healthy lifestyle, and it was just a matter of making some small changes. 

"You can start with changing your milk a little lower, 2%, 1% and then white bread, 60% to whole wheat, little tiny changes make a great big difference."

"Some kids need that extra support, some families need it too, there's a lot of confusing information out there, our hope is we're there to clarify and support," says Courtney Firlotte, Theory Leader for the MEND program.
Salty and sweet foods, and sugary drinks, are big factors in excess weight gain and triggering illnesses like cancer, diabetes, heart and liver disease. Experts say if the trend continues and children keep getting heavier, we could be raising a generation of kids that won't be as healthy or live as long as their parents.

"If you're overweight by age 40, on average you'll lose about 3 years of life, if you're obese by age 40 on average you'll lose 6 years of life, so this is a tremendous toll that people are unaware of," says Dr. Warshawski.

Warm weather has Kamloops residents soaking up the sun