U of S and Saskatchewan Blue Cross announce $1-million investment to launch childhood obesity prevention program

The University of Saskatchewan has announced an exciting partnership with Saskatchewan Blue Cross to curb childhood obesity in the province.  Enabled by the generous $1-million investment of Saskatchewan Blue Cross, the College of Kinesiology will launch the Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It (MEND) program in Saskatchewan this September.

"The corporate social responsibility vision of Saskatchewan Blue Cross is the improved health and wellness of Saskatchewan residents.  We care about Saskatchewan people and feel a strong responsibility to address the pressing health issue of childhood obesity, as our children's health will determine the future health of our province," stated Arnie Arnott, president and CEO of Saskatchewan Blue Cross.

"We are very pleased to be the lead partner of MEND in Saskatchewan, creating a breakthrough pathway for young people to connect with a new obesity prevention program," Arnott continued.  "We are tackling the issue of childhood obesity by committing $1-million in start-up funding for a MEND program to be delivered at the University of Saskatchewan, the first of its kind in our province."

MEND inspires children and families to lead and sustain fitter, healthier and happier lives by changing behaviours that cause obesity.  Presently in Canada, more than a quarter of children ages two to17 are overweight or obese.  In Saskatchewan the problem is even more pronounced with a rate of over 29 per cent.

"The College of Kinesiology is particularly committed to this program.  Promoting a healthy lifestyle and highlighting the importance of increased levels of physical activity are key components in reversing this trend," said Carol Rodgers, dean of the College of Kinesiology.

"It is also a wonderful opportunity for students and faculty across the Colleges of Kinesiology, Nursing, Medicine and Pharmacy and Nutrition to work together in an inter-professional model of wellness program delivery," she added.

MEND is a program that has evolved into one of the most successful and internationally recognized obesity prevention initiatives in the past decade with programs in the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark.

In Saskatchewan, the program will begin as a three-year project, starting with Saskatoon in the first year and expanding to Prince Albert and northern communities in year two.  In its third year, it will expand throughout the province to include Regina and southern regions.  The programs are provided free of charge through the support of donors like lead partner Saskatchewan Blue Cross, and will offer three streams,  focusing on children aged two to four, five to seven and seven to 13.

Together with their parents, children learn about topics that range from nutrition and portion size to motivation and goal setting.  Additionally, children participate in group physical activity while parents discuss ways to improve the overall health of their families.

The leadership Saskatchewan Blue Cross exemplifies in supporting the MEND program is in line with its vision of improving the health and wellness of Saskatchewan residents.

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