Could Parental & School Engagement reduce Health Morbidities in Children?

Sarah Musavi, CARA member

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“To Fall is not to Fail. When school safety (over)rules children’s health and success”. This is the title of a series of workshops that need to be researched, written and taught at the community level primarily to engage parents and teachers for developing healthy and active children.

As a healthcare researcher, a health coach and Education Facilitator within the public school system, I find myself constantly wondering about the lack of resources for teachers and parents who present children with “what if..” situations and publicly admonish the ‘risk-takers’, all in the name of “safety”. Canadian (parent-teacher-regulations) ‘mania’ to keep children safe is actually creating teens ill-prepared to handle life.

If we are interested in enhancing the well-being of individuals and communities, this research will shed light on the compelling case for adult education to positively affect children’s health.

I would like to study the role that fear-based teaching/parenting (due to lack of training and confusing regulations) may be playing in contributing to Canada’s chronic disease crisis. With 1 in 5 Canadians living with obesity, and at least 1.6 times higher among indigenous people, causes of obesity are multidimensional. WHO’s clear directive on the “need for a multifaceted approach including a focus on the life-course dimension” and the declaration of 2020-2030 as the “Decade for Healthy Ageing” in an effort to bring together governments, civil society, international agencies, media, professionals, academia and private sector for a concerted effort testifies to the need for solutions outside of the traditional healthcare system. Could a lack of parent/teacher education as a health provider (beyond CPR and first aid) be one of the most ignored dimension in combating obesity and anxiety disorders? In brief, there is a begging question that needs to be researched that concerns the missing dimension of parents and teachers as integral parts of the healthcare system in the current healthcare crisis of obesity among Canadians. What if we could intimately connect the healthcare system with adult education, community engagement, leadership training and policy changes?

I found the work of various professors at The Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE) could be closely linked to such a study. These are professors in the school of Adult Engagement and Community Studies:

Dr. Carol Campbell with whole system reform and large-scale change strategies. The fact that she is teaching a course on school and society encompasses a multidimensional approach to the health crisis.

Dr. Reva Joshee as her work embraces education for peace within the student and at the global level. It is particularly of interest how the research enterprises into creating multidimensional connections with communities in India. I agree that in this age of hyper-connectivity, ‘what happens in Vegas (or third world countries), does not remain in Vegas’!

Dr. Lance McCready’s program with the social determinants of health targeted to promoting academic achievement among marginalized youth and potentially have desired consequences for their health.

Dr. Jamie Magnusson in the area of food sovereignty, health care access and education for marginalized communities.

I understand that this project could take a multitude of directions, given that there is a definite need for ‘Education for All’ outside of formal structures and into the communities. The broad themes and issues I to address are the following:

  1. Is there a possibility to expand the continuum of care beyond the pillars of clinicians to community initiatives?
  2. How can we mobilize teacher and parent education at all levels of contact with children to combat the incidence of childhood obesity and anxiety disorders that lead to many chronic diseases later in life?
  3. Explore the possibility of reduction in costs to the health system by involving parents and teachers as healthcare providers as a dimension in social determinants of health.
  4. What role can community gardening play in enhancing parent-teacher-child interactions and adoption of healthy behaviours?
  5. How can we connect this research to policy and practice for educational and health improvements?
  6. The importance of international community groups to enhance student success as global citizens.

I am seeing a pattern of a gap in adult education and community engagement that may be a strong driver in the epidemic of chronic diseases, particularly obesity.

As a health coach for women, I am seeing a pattern of fear that originated as a child, preventing them from engaging in physical activity, from eating healthy foods, or creating meaningful relationships within the community. Most adults entrusted as parents or teachers, find themselves ill-equipped to be advocates and leaders for children’s health. There is immense data to show that preventable diseases are related to food habits, communal isolation, insufficient physical activity and emotional stress. The cost of diet-related diseases in Canada in 2015 was estimated at $26 billion/annum. 1 out of 3 children are obese according to Heart and Stroke Foundation. 3 out of 5 Canadian adults suffer from preventable diseases, with 700,000 Canadians suffering from generalized anxiety disorders which mostly begin in the teenage years. There is immense potential in developing a multifaceted solution to obesity and save $2 billion by simply using lifestyle-related interventions,.

There is a huge potential in a cross-disciplinary discussions to create a very action-oriented thesis to shed a resplendent light and create resources for valuable partners in Canadian healthcare- parents, teachers and communities!

Too safe for their own good: how risk and responsibility help teens thrive. Michael Ungar. 2007.

Public Health Agency of Canada. Key Health Inequalities in Canada: A National Portrait. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada; 2018. https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/phac-aspc/documents/services/publications/science-research-data/8.Obesity-EN_final.pdf. Accessed on Oct 24, 2019.

Interim Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. World Health Organization. 2015. Geneva, Switzerland. https://www.who.int/end-childhood-obesity/commission-ending-childhood-obesity-interim-report.pdf?ua=1

accessed on Nov 4, 2019.

Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada. Submission to SOCI regarding Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. June 13, 2017. https://sencanada.ca/content/sen/committee/421/SOCI/Briefs/ChronicDiseasePreventionAlliance_e.pdf

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2013). Preventing Chronic Disease Strategic Plan 2013-2016. Retrieved from http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2014/aspc-phac/HP35-39-2013-eng.pdf . Accessed Oct. 24, 2019

Pelletier et al (2017). The burden of generalized anxiety disorder in Canada. Health Promot Chronic Dis Prev Can. 2017 Feb; 37(2): 54–https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5607526/

Kreuger, H. Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada. 2017. 37 (2): Editorial. http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2017/aspc-phac/HP33-2-37-2-eng.pdf

Bilandzic, A and Rosella, L. (2017). The cost of diabetes in Canada over 10 years: applying attributable health care costs to a diabetes incidence prediction model. Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada. Research Policy and Practice. Vol. 37 (2). Pp. 49-53.