By Christine Morrison, HC Link
A new school year offers a new beginning; a chance to make changes.
While tackling the growing challenge of childhood obesity is complex, many communities are working together to promote active transportation options for school children.
According to the 2012 Public Health Agency of Canada report, Curbing Childhood Obesity; A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights, between 1978 and 2004 the combined prevalence of overweight and obese children aged 2 to 17 years nearly doubled, from 15% to 26%.
This trend is not surprising when you consider that physical activity levels in children start to decline as early as age 3. In fact, by the time they start school, less than 20% of children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
Not only are children not getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity, sedentary behaviours are increasing. A University of Toronto study, based on the Transportation for Tomorrow Survey, found that between 1986 and 2011, the number of 11- to 17-year-olds who walked or rode a bike to school decreased by 12.9%. Over the same period of time, the percentage of children who rode to school in a car more than doubled, from 14% to 33%.
The reliance on inactive and sedentary modes of transportation has earned Canada a D grade on active transportation, according to the latest participACTION report card.
Communities across the country and around the world have been working together to turn the trip to school into an opportunity to boost physical activity among children. As communities, we can work together to create more walkable neighbourhoods that are designed to encourage kids to move and be physically active.
Trottibus Walking School Bus
In April 2016, the Commission scolaire de Montréal adopted a charter to promote active transportation. Small wonder then, that they also introduced the Trottibus in May of 2016. The Trottibus Walking School Bus, developed by the Canadian Cancer Society, is a pedestrian bus that allows elementary school kids to walk to school safely. Trained volunteers accompany children along a planned route with scheduled stops. Various schools across Quebec are participating in the program and parents can register their children online.
Since 2005 Travelwise has been working with schools in New Zealand to create individualized Safe School Travel Plans. Plans are multifaceted and typically include road safety education, traffic calming, promotional activities that encourage walking and cycling, walking school buses and parking restrictions. Today, more than 250,000 students are involved in the program and 12,736 car trips are taken off the road during peak morning traffic.
Active & Safe Routes to School
The Walk/Wheel on Wednesdays program offers families the opportunity to slowly break the driving habit by providing a designated day (either once a week or once a month) to explore active alternatives for getting to school.
With the new school year just days away, there is still time to make a change and develop active, healthy habits to last a lifetime.