More funding for MEND: Healthy living program expands

KAMLOOPS – Families with children throughout British Columbia soon will have more help in achieving healthy lifestyles and healthy weights with $2 million to support the expansion of the free Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do it! (MEND) program.

MEND is modelled on a U.K.-based program, which empowers families with children above a healthy weight to become healthier by participating in twice-weekly sessions focused on healthy meal planning, goal setting and physical activity.

“As a dad, I know having fun, learning healthy behaviours and growing together as a family are all great steps toward preventing chronic disease before it starts,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Through accessible programs like MEND, making an active lifestyle a lifelong habit is easier for B.C. children and families.” With

MEND, children in B.C. aged five to 13 years, gain access to fun, interactive support in adopting healthier behaviours to help achieve a healthy weight. B.C. families were first introduced to MEND in 2013, and the new funding will help the program continue in existing sites and allow for expansion to more sites provincewide.

“The MEND program is not a diet or about being told what is right or wrong,” said Todd Stone, MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson. “Having the MEND program in local recreation centres creates new ways for families and children to learn, play and be supported in making healthier choices together.” MEND is delivered in partnership with the Provincial Health Services Authority and the Childhood Obesity Foundation, which work with the YMCA and B.C. Recreation and Parks Association to bring MEND to communities throughout the province.

MEND is available in 23 B.C. communities, including seven new expansion sites that opened in winter 2016: Fort St. John, Burnaby, Surrey, Richmond, Kent-Agassiz, Squamish, Penticton. For a comprehensive list of all current MEND sites, visit: www.bchealthykids.ca. “We were very pleased to see that families who participated in MEND 7-13 made healthy lifestyle changes and planned to make more changes after finishing the program,” said Dr. Tom Warshawski, chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation.

“Children participating in the MEND program increased physical activity and met Canadian physical activity guidelines. MEND also helped families to build physical activity into their daily routine. In addition, children participating in the MEND program increased fruit and vegetable intake and MEND helped families to better understand healthy eating and to build it into their daily routine.”

“We’ve seen how MEND helps children and families make positive decisions about their health and are thrilled to be a partner in bringing the program to more B.C. communities,” said Andrew Tugwell, director of Health Promotion & Prevention, BC Children’s Hospital, Provincial Health Services Authority. “MEND is a fun and effective way for kids and families to take the first step toward healthier living,” said Rebecca Tunnacliffe, CEO, B.C. Recreation and Parks Association.

“This funding enables more families to be active in this program and learn these life changing skills. As the network expands, the message about the achievable lifestyle goals is amplified beyond the core participants.” MEND encourages a healthy body and self-image, with a focus on physical and emotional health. Examples of MEND activities include teaching healthy skills to parents and children, like healthy eating, grocery store tours and one hour of physical activity for children. “We are proud to be hosting a beneficial program like MEND,” said Craig Sheather, YMCA’s vice-president of operations.

“It’s a great way to help B.C. communities get healthy and stay healthy.” MEND is just one component of the government’s strategy to promote childhood healthy weights. Other programs within the strategy include the Shapedown BC program, offered in five health authorities, which provides medical, nutritional and psychological assessment, education and support for children with weight management issues by physician referral. In addition, the HealthLink BC Eating and Activity Program for Kids is a telehealth service that helps British Columbia children, teens and their families reach healthy weights and improve their overall health and quality of life.

Launched in February 2015, the service provides healthy eating and active living coaching for at-risk families in rural and remote parts of the province who may have limited access to the direct, in-person supports provided in MEND and Shapedown BC. The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) provided $6 million in 2011-12 to the Childhood Obesity Foundation for the Childhood Healthy Weights Strategy, which began with the Shapedown BC program.

PHSA provided an additional $2 million in 2012-13 and $2.4 million in 2013-14 to support expansion of the initiative and launch MEND. This additional $2 million provided by the Ministry of Health supports the continuation and expansion of the MEND program. MEND supports B.C.’s Physical Activity Strategy through Healthy Families BC, the government’s comprehensive health-promotion program aimed at improving the health and well-being of B.C. families and their communities.