Peace Arch Hospital Foundation invests in community’s physical literacy future

It’s been over two years since the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation (PAHF) first launched their Move 4 Life project, which aims to address physical inactivity within the populations of South Surrey and White Rock, B.C.

At the outset, the foundation set itself a pretty lofty goal: for its two communities to become the healthiest in the country. And those behind the goal knew they wouldn’t be able to get there without mobilizing in multiple directions at once, engaging as many stakeholders and institutions as possible.

“We’ve been working with Sport for Life to connect with numerous community groups including hospitals, schools, rec centres and sports programs to promote physical literacy to as diverse a population as possible,” said Executive Director Stephanie Beck.

“When this started we were looking at the indicators of health and realizing that individuals in our community weren’t really paying attention to nutrition or exercise, and we thought there might be a way to mitigate that.”

Back in 2012, PAHF launched an initiative called Healthy Communities, starting the work of addressing health and wellness. The stakeholders involved identified and engaged 30 different community partners, including non-profits, businesses and the municipalities of White Rock and Surrey. They began having conversations about their goals, and put together a strategic plan. But once that was finished, they realized nobody had the capacity to put it into action.

“At that time the chair of Healthy Communities was one of our board members, and he approached the board to say this is a great five-year plan but we don’t have any organizations large enough or funded enough to make it a reality. He said ‘either we take it on as part of our mission or mandate, or it dies a quiet death on the shelf’.”

The answer he received was unanimous: “Let’s do it.”

Once that decision was made, a committee of approximately 20 stakeholders began theorizing how to put the plan into action. One step was to team up with Sport for Life, bringing on Director of Physical Literacy Drew Mitchell as a consultant. It was at that point they gave the project a name, Move 4 Life, which captured the spirit of their goals: to advocate for and promote healthy lifestyle choices, successfully reaching everyone from young children to hospitalized seniors. They officially got underway in May, 2017 as part of the Physical Literacy for Communities (PL4C) project.

“Our goal is to ultimately influence 33,000 members of our population, giving the options and tools to be active for life. We want to see kids getting the exercise they need, want to make sure our seniors and hospital patients are getting up and moving, and we want to move the needle with some of these established institutions,” said Beck.

One of the most interesting outcomes so far has been the development of a volunteer program where people come in to walk post-operative patients around the corridors. Additionally they have funded and coordinated a chronic disease management exercise group. Beck said the results of that have been “staggeringly good”. They’re trying to create a preventative upstream health care culture, rather than treating maladies that resulted from of a physically inactive lifestyle once they’ve already happened. In her opinion, “acute care should really be the last resort.”

The project has engaged the Surrey School District and is now supporting elementary teachers in developing their competencies and confidence to create more movement for students over the whole school day.  Currently there are nine schools in the program with a goal to onboard all 25 schools in the South Surrey/White Rock area. Additionally, the MFL project has helped a valuable relationship bloom between two local sport clubs. Coastal Football Club and Semiahmoo Minor Hockey have recently come together to create a cooperative  schedule so that kids can do both sports.  They are also both helping to promote a skills-oriented multisport experience by providing specialized training for coaches.

“Working alongside all these different groups and sectors has been really exciting. At the end of the day it’s really about investing in upstream health care and keeping community members out of the hospital. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

The Move 4 Life initiative is one of nearly 30 projects currently happening under the auspices of Sport for Life’s PL4C-BC project. Drew Mitchell has been working closely with each one, and has been fascinated by the different trajectories various projects have taken. He has been blown away by the commitment and expertise of the MFL project team comprised of local staff and volunteers and their ability to open doors, influence behaviour change and better connect community organizations.. He also praised Beck and her PAHF team for being one of the only hospital foundations in the country to focus on and invest in prevention

“This project has the potential to fundamentally reshape the lives of a significant number of people, giving them the opportunity to take charge of their own health and engage in a culture where movement is prioritized and inclusive for everyone. The Move 4 Life project is a  success story, as more and more people make physical literacy a priority in their lives. At Sport for Life we feel so fortunate to be able to support them in this exciting endeavour.”

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