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Thrive! – A healthier tomorrow starting today


thriveA plan for a healthier tomorrow, starting today, Thrive! is building on the good things already happening in our communities and engaging government, businesses, municipalities, communities and individuals in thinking broadly about ways we can all help to enable healthier environments where we live, work, learn and play.

The focus is primarily on physical activity and healthy eating. “It’s not always easy to make healthy choices in terms of eating or physical activity,” said Caroline Whitby, Implementation Coordinator for Thrive! a cross-government program. “Often there are barriers such as: cost, equipment, travel associated with being active, and unhealthy foods and snacks tend to be less expensive and more readily available than the healthier options. Our goal with Thrive! is to make the healthy choice an easy choice.”

As an example, consider the amount of time many Nova Scotia families spend in rinks while their children skate or play hockey. They’ve taken the positive step toward active living, but healthy snack options at the canteen are often unavailable. The Thrive! Strategy is about changing that by engaging communities and partners to help make sure they are available. It’s about creating environments that support a culture of physical activity and healthier eating. While no one change, program, or policy will meet every community’s needs, Thrive! has identified four areas for focus:

- A healthy start for children and families places a focus on breast feeding and the health benefits for mothers and children and encouraging a supportive environment in communities so that mothers can comfortably breastfeed where ever they go.
- Building healthier communities encourages people to think about the value of including such things as: sidewalks, bike lanes and the availability of parks and community gardens in or around their neigbourhoods when designing communities, all of which support physical activity.
- Skills and knowledge for lifelong health focuses on developing lifelong skills such as running, jumping, balancing, known as physical literacy, that if learned in childhood are more likely to be continued in adulthood resulting in more active and healthier adults, which will translate to more active, healthier families. Ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to learn basic food preparation skills is another example.
- Opportunities to eat well and be active includes developing healthy eating policies, school breakfast programs, looking at limiting marketing to children, working to provide limits on the amount of fat, sugar and salt in processed foods, as well as increasing physical activity in childcare centres during and/or after school.

childplayingAcross the province neighbourhoods have already come together to build stronger, healthier communities. The Emera Oval in Halifax, where all are welcome to skate for free, is an example of what is possible when people come together for the benefit of community. As a result of community support and fundraising, HRM established and operates the Emera Oval with support from corporate sponsors. From the beginning, accessibility was deemed important. The availability of skates and helmets for loan as well as free skating lessons helps to address the major barriers to people enjoying the Oval.

The community garden in North-end Halifax is a made-in the-community solution to increase access to healthy food. It has seen tremendous success. Here, people share the responsibility of planting and tending a vegetable garden and then all are able to enjoy fresh, organic vegetables at minimal cost. It’s an idea that could work in many communities across the province.

Establishing necessary supports to enable a healthier Nova Scotia won’t happen overnight and it will require a shift in thinking and planning for governments, businesses, municipalities, district health authorities, communities and individuals but the payoff - healthier happier children and families - will be worth the effort.

All of the above is built on a foundation of social policy, recognizing that education, environment and income level impact the choices people and communities are able to make.

“Thrive! is about starting a conversation where everyone has a voice and an opportunity to understand how physical activity and healthy eating impacts their health as individuals, as families and as communities, and then asking the question, what can we do to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” said Whitby.

For more information about Thrive! or ways you may be able to contribute to Thrive! visit https://thrive.novascotia.ca/

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