Healthy Together—Children’s Health Program

The Bridge Youth & Family Services in Kelowna have recently released the 3rd Edition of the Healthy Together Children’s Health Program Guide.  The Bridge, having been involved in the development and piloting of the program in Phase I, was successful in receiving funding to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of Healthy Together for Phase II in selected communities covering 5 geographic regions across Canada. Healthy Together is an initiative of individuals, families, communities and governments working together towards a common goal – to promote the achievement and maintenance of healthy weights for disadvantaged and underserved children and their families through an innovative education model.  The development of Healthy Together is funded through PHAC’s Innovation Strategy—“Achieving Healthier Weights in Canada’s Communities”.

The programming context is based on Bringing Families Together:

  • Preventative: the focus is on supporting families to learn and practice healthy living in order to prevent childhood overweight and obesity and chronic diseases that often accompany them.
  • Family Education Model: Healthy Together is designed as a family education model, where families register and attend the sessions together, providing opportunities to learn and build skills together.
  • Group Learning: Healthy Together offers a group-learning program that provides opportunities to build networks among participants.  The format and activities encourage shared learning and offer support to participants on their journey to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Multi-faceted: The program includes the following topics:  Eating a Healthy Diet; Engaging in Family Meals; Increasing Physical Activity; and Decreasing Sedentary Activity.
  • Holistic: The program considers the mental, emotional, spiritual and social needs of children and families, and emphasizes health in a broad sense.
  • Culturally Sensitive: The program encourages families to reflect on the diverse cultures and backgrounds of the children they care for, and invites all adults who are actively caring for a child as well as key members of the community (e.g. Aboriginal elders) to participate.  The Facilitator manual includes a separate chapter on Aboriginal Adaptations to assist facilitators in providing program content within the context of an Aboriginal worldview and in a culturally safe and supported manner.
  • Content has been developed using documented research, professional expertise, and participant input.

The program is divided into 3 modules by age groups:  0-6 years; 7-12 years; and 13-18 years.  Each module is a stand-alone.  Participants need not have any previous knowledge or skills and need not be overweight or obese to take any of the modules.

Each session includes:

  • 15 – 30 minutes of play-based fun physical activity
  • 30 – 60 minutes of group discussion
  • 45 – 60 minutes of cooking and eating together

The program supports fostering cultural safety and fostering resilience, and is designed to support inclusion of diverse family compositions.  It was originally designed for children and youth in care (0 to 18 years) and their caregivers, foster parents, biological parents, mentors, elders, and other key members of the community who may be actively involved in caring for the children.  Through the implementation of the program in 10 communities across Canada, it has extended its experience to include other under-served populations, including mainstream urban, rural/remote, and Aboriginal/multi-cultural/minority groups. The program is now integrating adaptations to create a more relevant model for future expansion and sustainability.