The program provides a fun exercise and nutrition program to local children at no cost, and is aimed at children who are above healthy weights, inspiring them to change the behaviours that can contribute to obesity.
MEND is an internationally recognized obesity-prevention program with participants in the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Australia, the United States and New Zealand. In 2012, the U of S launched its first MEND program for children in Saskatoon, with the support of lead donor Saskatchewan Blue Cross. It has since expanded to other communities in the province, including Prince Albert, La Ronge, North Battleford, Regina and Moose Jaw, through additional support from the Community Initiatives Fund. To date, over 1,000 children and parents have participated in the Saskatchewan program.
“The Growing Healthy Families Coalition is very excited to work with the university to bring MEND to children and families in southwest Saskatchewan,” said Brandy Winquist, director of decision support in the Cypress Health Region and chair of the Growing Healthy Families Coalition. “Feedback from participants in other cities has been excellent. MEND is fun for kids, and educational for the parents who also attend each session. It is an eight-week program that can have important, long-term benefits for the health of families who participate.”
The Growing Healthy Families Coalition is a broad-based child and youth wellness strategy aimed at promoting healthy living and supportive environments in southwest Saskatchewan. Partner organizations include the Cypress Health Region, Holy Trinity and Chinook school divisions, City of Swift Current, South West District for Culture, Recreation, and Sport Inc., and the Family Resource Centre, among others.
Chad London, dean of the College of Kinesiology, said the support from Saskatchewan organizations, like the Growing Healthy Families Coalition and founding donor Saskatchewan Blue Cross, is essential to the program’s success in the province.
"The University of Saskatchewan first brought the MEND program to our province with the support of Saskatchewan Blue Cross, to support children and families to reduce childhood obesity. We are pleased to further develop our partnerships with a range of donors and sponsors to expand delivery of MEND throughout our province."
Arnie Arnott, president and CEO of Saskatchewan Blue Cross, said the organization was pleased to participate in founding MEND SK and see the program expand to cities and towns across the province.
“Saskatchewan Blue Cross is committed to improving the health and wellness of Saskatchewan residents. It was just natural for us to get involved with the University of Saskatchewan on the MEND program. Helping kids and their families learn about healthy lifestyle choices and the advantages of increased levels of physical activity are the keys to changing behaviours and determining the future health of our province.”
The MEND program gives parents and children education on nutrition, portion size, motivation and goal setting, and provides opportunities to participate in physical activity to inspire healthy lifestyle changes and avoid or reverse obesity. Currently, almost one-third of Canadian children aged five to 17 are overweight or obese, according to Statistics Canada.
The first offering of the MEND program in Swift Current will be hosted in the gymnasium of the All Saints School. Sessions will be held Tuesdays and Thursday between March 14th and May 11th (classes cancelled April 18th and 20th during Easter break) from 6:30-8:30 pm. Interested families with children aged 7-13 years are welcome to register using the information below, or they may contact their family physician to complete a referral. A fall 2017 session is also being planned for children aged 2-4 years. This program is designed to help prevent unhealthy lifestyles, and therefore will be open to young children of all weights.
Please note as of April 1, 2018, MEND Saskatchewan will no longer be offering programs in the province. We would like to thank everyone who has been involved with the program over the past six years.