Town working on physical activities strategy
© Connor Doucette – Amherst Daily News
Kids taking part in Dance Camp, a week long camp designed to let kids exercise while having fun, following their leaders instructions during a dance session. Public health and municipal officials are working to get children, and adults, more active to help fight the battle of the bulge.
AMHERST – Cumberland County residents need to hop over some high hurdles if they hope to lower their second-place ranking for obesity in Canada.
“Obesity is a very complex issue and the causes are deeply rooted,” said Sarah MacPherson, health promotion coordinator for the Cumberland Health Authority. “They include socioeconomic factors, like how much money we make, where we live, the type of job we have and our education level, to modern conveniences and our busy lifestyles.”
Macpherson made the comments in response to a list released by Maclean’s magazine which rates the Colchester East Hants/Cumberland, N.S., health region as the second highest obese and overweigh region in Canada, at 71.3 per cent.
MacPherson says obesity is part of a global trend.
“The Atlantic Provinces have historically had some of the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the country,” she added. “But this is also a symptom of deeper social issues, and it is important not to blame the individual, as our environments shape the choices we have.”
Factors placing Cumberland County at a greater risk for obesity include, “An aging population, a largely rural geography and a lot of families struggling financially,” said MacPherson. “The cost of food is rising steadily and it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to afford to eat and prepare healthy foods.”
Work and leisure lifestyles also contribute to obesity.
MacPherson said many people have sedentary jobs, and then spend leisure time on the computer or watching TV, and added that people are driving more and walking less.
The Government of Nova Scotia recently released a new strategy to address obesity called ‘Thrive! Plan for a healthier Nova Scotia.’
“This strategy will provide further support to the work already happening in Nova Scotia to address the issue,” said MacPherson.
Several obesity prevention programs have already been implemented, including: the Nova Scotia School Food Policy, the Nova Scotia Food Policy for Licensed Daycares, the School Breakfast Program, the Expansion of the Municipal Physical Activity Leadership program, active transportation and trails development, breastfeeding friendly initiatives, and the local food movement.
“We continue to work on preventing obesity, and making our communities healthier places to live, work, and play,” said MacPherson.
As a municipality, Amherst has recognized the importance of physical fitness and is in the process of implementing a municipal physical activity strategy.
The town hired Corey Crocker as its MPAL leader to put the strategy together. The strategy, introduced to town council in June, will help increase the percentage of people who are physically active and improve the quality of life for all residents.
Crocker hopes the strategy will remove barriers to physical activity; entice more young people, adults and seniors to get active; build a physically active environment in the town and increase awareness through communication.