Children are great imitators, so let’s give them something great to imitate (Anonymous)
Making sure all children get a good start in life leads to a better quality of life for all Saskatchewan people. It reduces the risk of poverty and improves school readiness, health and wellness. It also reduces employment and education gaps and improves graduation rates and lifelong success. (Saskatchewan Early years plan, 2016)
Each stage of a child’s early years, from the prenatal stage to age eight, has the potential to define his or her future. When social, physical, emotional and academic development is nurtured, children have the opportunity to reach their potential.
Unfortunately, Canada, like many nations, is in the midst of an epidemic of overweight and obesity. Saskatchewan is not immune to this phenomenon. Without intervention, overweight infants and young children will likely continue to be overweight during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
There is a shared responsibility with partners from the public, private, health professional and non-governmental sectors to address this problem.
Through a common interest in promoting healthy active children in Saskatchewan, a partnership of organizations and individuals was created in 2006. They received funding from the Saskatchewan Community Initiatives Fund, Physical Activity Grant to conduct pilot projects in both French and English childcare centres. These pilots gave insight into the barriers and facilitators to physical activity and healthy eating.
Healthy Start/Départ Santé
The partnership, led by the Réseau Santé en français de la Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Network for Health Services in French), with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada, developed a new evidence-based approach that engages directors, educators, cooks and parents while providing resources, training and ongoing support. This initiative is known as Healthy Start/Départ Santé (HSDS)and has also expanded into New Brunswick.
HSDS is a bilingual health promotion initiative aimed at increasing healthy eating and physical activity opportunities in early learning environments. Its mission is to encourage and enable educators and families to integrate physical activity and healthy eating in the daily lives of young children (0 to 5 years). Physical activity and healthy eating contribute to the foundation for healthy growth and development.
Every child deserves a healthy start!!
“The Ministry of Health and Health Region Public Health Nutritionists/Dietitians have worked with Healthy Start to ensure that the information and resources align with provincial childcare regulations and guidelines related to nutrition and menu planning. This has helped to foster consistency in nutrition information for children and their parents in various settings and strengthen practices that promote health and wellness for young children.” Naomi Shanks, Public Health Nutrition Consultant, Ministry of Health, Government of Saskatchewan.
The availability of the program and resources in both of Canada’s official languages supports the goal of being inclusive and culturally responsive while ensuring that a greater number of children will benefit from the initiative.
“This project is not only an important early years initiative for Saskatchewan citizens, but it is an important step in promoting health and wellness on a large scale. We hope to have an impact that will touch the lives of young children well into their adult lives” Roger Gauthier, director Réseau Santé en français de la SK.
Over 200 Early learning and childcare centres (licensed daycares) and 41 prekindergarten programs across Saskatchewan are participating! In the last four years, over 7900 3 to 5 year old children have been positively impacted by this initiative and 1600 early learning and childcare practitioners, directors and cooks have taken part.
Please consult the HSDS website for a list of resources and communications tools.
The following is a list of the partners that have been actively contributing to this initiative:
- Réseau Santé en français de la Saskatchewan (SK Network for Health Services in French)
- University of Saskatchewan - Community Health & Epidemiology, College of Medicine; College of Kinesiology; College of Pharmacy & Nutrition
- Centre de formation médicale du Nouveau-Brunswick, (Université de Sherbrooke et de Moncton)
- Saskatchewan Early Childhood Association (SECA)
- Saskatchewan Prevention Institute
- SK MEND (Mind Exercise Nutrition Do it!)
- Active Kids / Jeunes actifs, New Brunswick
- Association des parents fransaskois (APF)
- ECE Colleges – Saskatchewan Polytech, College Mathieu and New Brunswick Colleges
- Ministry of Education, Government of Saskatchewan – Early Years Branch
- Ministry of Health, Government of Saskatchewan – Health Promotion
- Ministry of Education and Social Development, Government of New Brunswick – Early Years, Wellness Dept.