Wellesley to receive funding to combat obesity

Wellesley Township will receive $47,300 by next year as part of the Waterloo Region Healthy Kids Community Challenge to help combat childhood obesity.

At a Wellesley committee meeting on Tuesday, public health planner Katie McDonald explained there will be three healthy living themes, one per year. The first is Run, Jump, Play Every day, to encourage incorporating physical activity in children’s daily lives, like walking to school.

“The City of Waterloo last year, we supported them with painting the sidewalks, doing hopscotch and things like that. So we’re looking at expanding that. There is a committee that has representation from the school boards on it and public health works with the schools to figure out what’s the best approach for encouraging children to walk or bike to school,” McDonald said.

The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care allocated $1,125,000 to Waterloo Region over the next three years. In the first year, from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016, $375,000 will be spent across the region for this initiative.

It’s hoped the challenge will help reduce the number of children aged 0-12 in the region who are overweight or obese.

Some 45 communities in Ontario are taking part.

Coun. Herb Neher says it comes down to parents teaching their children how to properly walk to school, and encouraging them to get outside instead of sitting in front of the TV.

According to the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card in 2012 nearly 30 per cent of children and youth in Ontario were overweight or obese.

So far a local program manager and steering committee have been appointed. All municipalities and both school boards are represented. Director of recreation, Brad Voisin and Wendy Smith are Wellesley’s representatives.

Voisin said he and chief administrative officer Rik Louwagie will be looking at the township’s master plan to determine where the money will go. At first thought, they’re considering upgrading the trails system to make it easier for children to walk to school in Wellesley.

“I talked with a community member just the other day with regards to the children getting a ride to school, not walking to school. She said to me the biggest problem and the biggest reason for the children actually getting a ride to school was the lack of sidewalks in the community on a number of streets,” said Nowak.

Voisin said they can look into that.

Now, they’re working on compiling a community needs assessment to collect data. An action plan will be submitted to the ministry in December. Once approved, the funds will be dispersed and the challenge will be officially launched in January.

“It’s a great news article and I think we’re all jumping for joy to see this,” said Mayor Joe Nowak.