Unique program to get kids fit

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One in three students in Peel Region is overweight or obese, which often leads to complications in their physical, social and emotional well-being. Peel Region is also home to some of the youngest residents in the Greater Toronto Area – 6.1 per cent of children aged zero to four years as well as, at 19.7 per cent, the highest proportion of people aged 14 years and under – more than 254,000, as shown in the latest census report. According to the Childhood Obesity Foundation, without help and support, most adolescents struggling to manage their weight do not overcome this problem. Many will continue to gain excess weight, leading to obesity and potential serious health complications in adulthood.

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To help address this growing concern in their community, Trillium Health Partners is launching an innovative program to help ensure some of their youngest patients get, and stay, healthy and fit. KidFit is a prevention and treatment program teaching children and youth from the ages of two to 17 to live healthier lifestyles through nutrition and behavioural counselling, supported by exercise classes and parenting skills classes for parents and caregivers. Working in partnership with Trillium Health Partners’ Paediatric Diabetes Outpatient Clinic, the KidFit program includes diabetes screening, prevention and education, with a goal to improve weight management and break the cycle of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety. Using a holistic, interprofessional team approach, KidFit customizes treatment plans to best suit young patients and families. KidFit will be the only program in the region that pairs individual counselling sessions with a variety of group classes offered outside of the hospital environment, in the community where children and families live – an approach not traditionally offered as part of a hospital weight management program. Moreover, to help busy families make the most of the program, treatment sessions will also be available after-hours.

Paediatric endocrinologist Dr. Ian Zenlea has joined Trillium Health Partners from Harvard to lead the KidFit program. “A growing number of children in our communities struggle with obesity. Some also struggle, often silently, with issues such as anxiety, depression, and bullying at school. These can have a very real effect on their lifestyle, and that in turn affects overall physical health, with weight being just one component. So our approach looks at the many dimensions contributing to a child’s weight problem, and meeting them exactly where they are at in their individual journey,” says Dr. Zenlea.

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Supported by the Medavie Health Foundation and Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, KidFit’s unique multi-disciplinary approach includes a dedicated team made up of a paediatrician, dietitian, social worker, exercise specialist, child psychologist, nurse and program manager. KidFit also leverages Trillium Health Partners’ broad range of community partnerships to ensure multiple health care providers work together with children and families to guide their care, empowering them to live healthier lifestyles.

“Patient experience has been a top priority in building the KidFit program, and by listening to our young patients and their families, we have the unique opportunity to incorporate the patient voice into our program design right from the start,” says Alex Wills, Project Manager, Trillium Health Partners’ KidFit program. “This will really help us develop an authentic patient-centred care approach that resonates with patients, and works for them.”

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Mississauga is one of the most diverse communities in Ontario, and the KidFit program is designed to take social, cultural and religious diversity into account to best support the residents it serves. “We’re looking at incorporating hands-on activities like cooking classes that can help children and families be more successful at using healthy recipes as a more regular part of their lifestyle and diet plan,” says social worker Erin Lipsitt. “We really want children and families to be in a comfortable environment where they feel relaxed, and more receptive to some of the teaching and therapy.”

Trillium Health Partners is committed to creating a new kind of health care for a healthier community, and supporting children and youth in our community to be as healthy as they can be is a big part of that.

KidFit expects to start accepting its first patients in late summer 2015.

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