HealtheSteps TM: A signature program of the Canadian Diabetes Strategy

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Canada has a Type 2 Diabetes epidemic with over 9 million people living with or at risk for this serious chronic disease. Canadians who live in rural and remote regions have almost four times the rate and eight times the risk for type 2 diabetes. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) initiated the Canadian Diabetes Strategy to tackle this problem.

"We know that physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits are risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes and many other chronic diseases. But we do not know how best to achieve and maintain healthy lifestyles," explains Rob Petrella.

Dr. Rob Petrella's team together with the Dietitians of Canada received $1.2 million from PHAC to:

  • Customize the HealtheStepsTM Program of evidence-based lifestyle prescription for adults and families living in rural and remote communities in Ontario, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Quebec.
  • Create and evaluate two SmartPhone apps (eaTrackerTM and HealtheStepsTM. These will give anytime, anywhere access to Canadian healthy living content, tracking and feedback.

Industry partners including Sykes Assistance Services and the Dairy Farmers of Canada will contribute an additional $400,000 to support the app development.

On Friday, November 29th, the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Public Works and Government Services made the funding announcement at the Western Centre for Public Health and Family Medicine.

"Providing supportive environments that let Canadians take control of their health is a collaborative effort between families, governments, not-for-profit organizations and the private sector," said Minister Finley. "Working together, our shared goal is to put information about chronic disease prevention into the hands of Canadians, especially in rural and remote communities."

The HealtheStepsTM knowledge broker team collaborates with community implementation sites such as family health teams, community health centres and YMCAs. Each participant completes a simple, validated STEP TestTM (developed by Dr. Petrella) to measure his/her fitness level and receive a personalized exercise prescription. In addition, participants fill-out an eating questionnaire and receive a personal healthy eating prescription. A trained HealtheSteps Coach collaborates with each participant to create goals. Participants then take part in their self-directed program that might include walking, skating, dancing or a fitness class; and eating more vegetables and fruit. Every three months the participants return for a follow-up appointment and their health measures (fitness score, body mass index, resting heart rate and blood pressure) are tracked.

"We are helping people develop long-term healthy living habits. Many of our participants have never taken part in an exercise program before so we help them develop the skills to exercise safely and get the benefits of exercise. They find the STEP Test TM very motivating since it gives them feedback about the impact their physical activity program is having on their health," explains Dr. Petrella. "People also like the fact that they can pick activities that they like to do and are available in their communities. Also knowing that they will report back to their coach every three months helps keep them on track."

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