Health care workers plan to pull out their prescription pads to help get kids moving.
Nanaimo health and education organizations are teaming up for the Recreation Prescription Project, an new initiative to help improve the health of Grade 5 students by prescribing them recreation.
The project involves Island Health, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools, City of Nanaimo and primary care givers and it’s just won a nearly $50,000 grant from the health authority.
The idea is to use recreation as intervention and help vulnerable youth who might have health issues or who don’t get a lot of recreation go from a trajectory of ill health to well health, according to project lead, Joanne Schroeder, a faculty member of Vancouver Island University’s department of recreation and tourism.
“The prescription is recreation and we’re looking at addressing kids by digital detox, so trying to address their sedentary lifestyles, trying to connect them to nature and active transportation,” she said.
Ten-year-old students from Bayview, Fairview, Georgia Avenue and Brechin Elementary will be invited to take part in the project, where primary care givers will fill a prescription for recreation. It’ll be a ticket to a 16-week program to connect kids to nature, local trails and activities like geocaching.
VIU students will join the youngsters as role models and the university will track the health of the Grade 5s to measure if the recreation experience has improved their mental, physical and social health.
“The age 10 is very specifically identified as a critical age, not only from a research base, but just from a youth development,” said Schroeder, who hopes kids get hooked on recreation and see it’s a benefit to them and their mental health.
The idea is to also help children build capacity to make healthy recreational choices, while also addressing the ways organizations work together for the health of youths and the community, according to Schroeder.
Liz Williams, City of Nanaimo recreation manager, hopes to see research that shows there’s a clear link between recreation, physical activity and health and called it a natural fit for the city.
The city is also hoping to get the message out that people can be active with very low barriers. Recreation is all-encompassing and doesn’t mean someone has to be brilliant at playing soccer, or basketball or mountain biking, Williams said, adding there’s many things people can do in this community that keeps them active and don’t necessarily cost money.
“I’m excited about this because we have the right people at the table,” she said. “With the university and Island Health and the school district involved and the city I think we can hopefully make an impact and keep our communities active.”