Aspire Educational Institute is launching a new campaign on Tuesday that aims to raise public awareness about the health effects of obesity and to provide a safe and accessible space to engage in outdoor activities.
The initiative, called Outdoors to Healthy Life, will focus on educating Canadians about the risks of obesity, obesity-related conditions and other environmental issues that have made outdoor recreation an increasingly common mode of transportation.
“It’s important that we learn how to manage our own bodies and their environment in a safe manner, whether that’s by walking or by riding our bikes, or whatever it may be,” said Aspire’s director of public affairs, Joanna Wieder.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done that in Canada.”
In 2015, as many as 25 per cent of Canadians had a body mass index above the 95th percentile.
It’s estimated that as many 1.3 million Canadians are overweight or obese, according to Statistics Canada.
Overweight and obesity have increased across the country, and a recent study found that in Ontario, more than 10 per cent more children are obese than their peers who are healthy.
“Obesity is a huge problem and there are a lot of challenges, but the greatest challenges are to get people to understand that obesity is not a health problem,” said Wieders.
“And to understand the role that our environment plays in making it that way.”
The campaign, which is the brainchild of Wiedher and two other Aspire board members, will target young adults between the ages of 13 and 25, as well as those living in urban areas.
It will also reach people of colour, women, people with disabilities and those living on low incomes.
“We want to talk about how we can be good stewards of our planet and our lives,” Wiederg said.
“That’s where we want to start because we don’t want people to become complacent.
We want to say, we need to be more mindful of the environment we live in, how we are using our environment and how we care for the environment.”
The initiative is also focused on young adults, with a focus on social media and online engagement.
Wiedermans goal is to reach young adults from different backgrounds and different demographics, so that people can connect with the community and the other stakeholders.
“What we want is to connect with people that are younger and less connected and connect with their communities, their families and the people who are on the front lines,” said Gerti Krom, vice-president of communications at Aspire.
“So we are not only connecting with people in the community, we are connecting with our community.”
The focus of the campaign is to increase awareness among youth, particularly about the physical health risks of being overweight and obese, and to empower people to speak up about health concerns.
Wieder said the initiative is not about shaming anyone, but rather educating people about what it means to be overweight and unhealthy, and what they can do to help their bodies to function more sustainably.
“As you get older, it’s more difficult to stay on top of the physical side of your health, and you’re going to need to get out of that mindset,” she said.
The campaign is part of Aspire Inc.’s mission to create an inclusive learning environment where people of all backgrounds and backgrounds can come together and learn together in a positive way.
“Our goal is not just to give people a safe place to talk and to share ideas and information, but to really change the way people learn,” said Krom.