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June 5, 2003
For immediate release
PEI Strategy for Healthy Living Officially Launched Today
Health and Social Services
"Helping Islanders to make healthier lifestyle choices is our greatest opportunity to reduce the high rate of chronic disease in our province," said Health and Social Services Minister Jamie Ballem. "Working together through this new strategy, we hope to make it easier for people to make healthy choices in our homes, schools, workplaces and communities."
Through the new Prince Edward Island Strategy for Healthy Living, government and community alliances are working together to address the three common risk factors for chronic disease by helping Islanders to eat healthy, be physically active and reduce tobacco use.
In Prince Edward Island, chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes are the major causes of death, a lower life expectancy rate, increased hospitalization and a reduction in quality of life.
The five goals of the strategy are to slow the growth of preventable chronic disease; reduce tobacco use; increase the number of Islanders who participate in regular physical activity; improve eating habits; and increase capacity for health promotion and chronic disease prevention in the province.
Many community organizations are involved in the strategy through their participation in the provincial Healthy Eating Alliance, Tobacco Reduction Alliance and Active Living Alliance.
Strategy steering committee co-chair Vicki Francis said the new strategy enables partners to identify and respond to needs at the provincial and community levels. "For example, if women want to quit smoking but they are afraid of gaining weight, there will be a strategy to look at this issue at the community level and find solutions," she said.
Active Living Alliance president Angela Davies said the strategy can help the partners achieve a greater impact than they could by working alone. "We know that physical activity and healthy eating must go hand-in-hand. We appreciate the new opportunities the strategy provides us to collaborate with the Healthy Eating Alliance to achieve our common goals," said Ms. Davies.
Members of the Healthy Eating Alliance will work with Health and Social Services and Education staff to promote healthy eating guidelines in Island schools. "The best way to encourage healthy eating is to help children develop healthy eating habits when they are young," said Dr. Jennifer Taylor, co-chair of the alliance. "We welcome these new opportunities to engage parents and school communities in our work to prevent and reduce childhood obesity which is increasing at alarming rates."
Education Minister Chester Gillan advised that the education sector will contribute to the healthy living strategy by implementing a new Active Healthy School Communities program, beginning this year at East Wiltshire Intermediate and its feeder schools. "This new initiative will build on the many great programs now in place in our schools to improve eating habits, increase physical activity, and reduce tobacco use," said Minister Gillan. "The objective now is to build active healthy school communities where students, teachers, parents and communities work together to encourage youth to adopt healthy lifestyles that last a lifetime."
Community and Cultural Affairs Minister Elmer MacFadyen advised that his department, which has responsibility for sport and recreation, is working with the community to develop a physical activity strategy for the province. "This strategy will assist Islanders to reduce physical inactivity by ten percentage points within seven years. Working with our community partners, our goal is to make Prince Edward Island one of Canada's most active healthy provinces," said Minister MacFadyen.
The launch of the strategy took place at UPEI at an event moderated by university president Wade MacLauchlan. "The university is very interested in the potential impact of the strategy because, in 20 years time, many of our students will be at much higher risk for chronic disease. This strategy is about doing whatever we can now to prevent problems later in life," said Mr. MacLauchlan. "We are also very proud of the contributions being made to the strategy through the groundswell of new health research at UPEI."
Several initiatives are in place to begin implementation of the strategy this year. Each of the three provincial alliances has detailed objectives and workplans. The provincial government will work with partners to develop and implement four major initiatives including a physical activity strategy, healthy eating guidelines in schools, active healthy school communities, and implementation of the Smoke-Free Places Act. Regional networks will be established and coordinators hired to lead and coordinate the strategy at the regional level.
In addition to the major financial and in-kind contributions of many partners, the provincial government will invest an additional $435,000 this year to support the strategy.
Copies of the Prince Edward Island Strategy for Healthy Living can be obtained at www.gov.pe.ca/go/healthylivingstrategy.