A Multi-Faceted Approach!
We all know that getting active is critical to heart health… but getting kids to commit to a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable can be a challenge. The Maritime Heart Center wants to affect a culture change around kids’ attitudes towards health, and we have designed our H2K program to do more than just get kids moving.We want to EMPOWER kids with the tools to lead heart healthier lives now and into adulthood.
With this is mind, we have designed H2K to include the following components:
The physical activity challenge is the main part of the H2K program. The challenge involves H2K Participants being divided into teams. Team members log their daily physical activities (by using pedometer steps or self-report) into the secure H2K website. Steps and activities are then converted into?kilometers? and teams virtually travel? across a map of Canada. The furthest travelling teams are?recognized!?This approach gets kids involved and gives them accountability; they can track their own progress, and set their own goals.Plus kids love our fun, interactive website!
A ‘peer mentor’ is simply a kid taking a leadership role and supporting other kids of a similar age. Peer mentoring is another important part of H2K. From each team, peer mentors are selected to act as healthy, active, leaders for their teams.Peer mentors are trained at a full-day in-school workshop that improves leadership abilities and explains their responsibilities. Peer mentors than mentor their teams predominately at The H2k Club (see below).?Peer mentoring is integral to the success of H2K; it reduces the need for resource-heavy adult volunteer-led activities and allows kids to relate to each other in a positive way.
The H2K Club:
Sometimes referred to as ‘H2K Lunches’, these are peer-led lunchtime activity sessions designed to motivate kids to get active during their lunch break. Kids eat lunch together as a team, whilst a peer mentor takes attendance and leads discussion about new activities participants may have tried, team rank, or team goal. ?Then the fun stuff – an adult-supervised (but peer-led!) series of games and activities that are super-fun – and super-active!All the ‘steps’ accumulated can be put towards the physical activity challenge.?Because the games are fun and led by other kids, participants don’t feel like they are doing a Phys Ed class… because they’re not!
Once a month, Maritime Heart Center staff or specially-trained volunteers visit each school and gather all H2K participants together for a H2K Assembly. ?These are fun, motivating sessions where we revisit goals and look at each team’s progress in the Physical Activity Challenge. Sometimes there’s a guest speaker, sometimes there are group activity challenges… but there’s always fun, recognition and lots of energy. ?This component of the program helps kids maintain interest and allows them to?realize?their progress.
Twice throughout the school year, the participants receive heart health education sessions. These sessions are interactive, grade appropriate, and conform to Department of Education Curriculum Outcomes – so teachers are happy! Sessions include information on heart anatomy and physiology, nutrition, smoking prevention and risk factor modification. Education sessions are delivered with help from Dalhousie Medical students and their Everest Project. ?These sessions are designed to compliment the activity portion of the program, and relate day-to-day activity and habits to long-term health outcomes.
Other Research Components:
H2K is grounded in science. ?As part of the research component of H2K (which ran until the end of the 2010/2011 school year), participants have also undergone cardiovascular fitness testing, anthropomorphic data collection and nutritional assessment. ?Cardiovascular fitness testing (using the PACER shuttle run test) has allowed the research team to better understand the impact the program has had on the heart and lung function of participants. Anthropomorphic data has included height, weight, and waist circumference measurements, which allows the research team to understand H2Ks impact on growth and development. Finally, nutritional assessment has been performed using a food frequency questionnaire, and has allowed the research team to understand H2Ks impact on diet and nutrition.