Ontario students get a whole lot healthier this year

More than 100 Ontario schools recognized as Certified Healthy Schools resulting in healthier, more active students

TORONTO, June 15, 2016 /CNW/ - Today Ophea celebrates the results of the inaugural year of Healthy Schools Certification – an initiative that recognizes school communities for coming together to plan and take action to address health topics such as physical activity, mental health, and healthy eating, while promoting well-being amongst staff, students, and the community. More than 100 schools across the province were certified as being healthy: 54 received gold certification, 37 received silver certification, and 16 received bronze certification.


"Ophea is a leader in supporting, recognizing, and advocating for Healthy Schools in Ontario. We engage schools and communities holistically and work with them to identify areas where they can improve to be healthier," said Lori Lukinuk, President of Ophea's Board of Directors. "We are very pleased with the first-year success of this initiative, and believe Ophea has developed a sustainable, evidence-based approach to community development that encourages students to excel academically, physically and socially while experiencing a better sense of connection to their school and community."

Ophea's Healthy Schools Certification is based on the 6-Step Healthy Schools Process, in alignment with the Ministry of Education's Foundations for a Healthy School resource. The process guides a school through the steps needed to plan and implement a range of activities that promote well-being in the school community focusing on a selected priority health topic that is important to the school. Priority health topics could include physical activity, mental health, healthy eating, personal safety and injury prevention, growth and development, and substance use, addiction, and related behaviours.

A few key examples that showcase the effect of the Healthy Schools Certification has had on schools include:

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School: Gold Healthy Schools Certification

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School set out to enhance the physical activity of their students and overall well-being of school families. They held two Fatima Family Fit Nights inviting families to participate (many for the first time) in fitness activities, yoga, and Tae Kwon Do, and learn about healthy eating, and local community healthy living programs. For many families this was the start to regular family activity and embracing a healthier lifestyle. The school also implemented the PALS Play Ground Activity Leaders program, which trains older students to lead fun and active games during recess times. Students can now be seen jumping rope, playing ball and most of all playing positively and safely together and are rewarded with stickers by the school's active living champions Fun Boy and Fit Girl.

Little Falls Public School: Gold Healthy Schools Certification

Little Falls Public School decided to make mental health their priority health topic and the impact it has had on students and staff has been profound. Students gained life-long positive habits including belief in oneself, empathy and understanding for others, resiliency, and perseverance. Students have begun to implement mindfulness strategies on their own, breathing techniques are now the norm, and students have participated in two 'Couchto5K' events, further connecting mental health and wellness. Through Healthy Schools the team is changing mind sets and creating a school community that understands that they can all make a difference in the lives of others. In September, they are excited to unveil their wellness space, "The Nest", a place where anyone can go to be mindful, to just breathe.

"We were thrilled to see the impact that Healthy Schools Certification has made this year within school communities across the province. With a strong emphasis on student engagement and community partnerships, schools took the steps needed to plan and implement innovative and exciting activities and strategies," said Chris Markham, Executive Director, Ophea. "We congratulate all certified Healthy Schools for fostering sustainable healthy living practices and prioritizing the well-being of students and the school-community."

Each Healthy Schools team was representative of their surrounding community. Team members included students, staff, administration, parents, public health and a variety of other community partners such as recreation and sport groups, municipalities, local businesses, police and fire services. Through a point-based system schools planned their Healthy Schools process over the course of the school year. They outlined the steps needed to achieve certification and applied to be certified as gold, silver, or bronze.

Online registration to participate in Ophea's Healthy Schools Certification for the 2016/17 school year opens on September 6, 2016. Schools can register at www.ophea.net/HSCertification.

About Ophea
Ophea is a charitable organization that champions healthy, active living in schools and communities through quality programs and services, partnerships and advocacy, and is led by the vision that all children and youth value and enjoy the lifelong benefits of healthy, active living.

For further information about Ophea and Healthy Schools Certification please see the website www.ophea.net.


Image with caption: "At an event this morning at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Toronto, more than 100 Ontario schools were recognized as Certified Healthy Schools resulting in healthier, more active students. (CNW Group/Ophea)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160615_C4050_PHOTO_EN_714610.jpg

For further information: Media contacts: Ginger Shewell, Phone: 416-342-1802, Mobile: 647-378-6611, Email: ginger.shewell@mediaprofile.com; Sarah Fournier, Phone: 416-342-1825, Mobile: 416-912-9725, Email: sarah.fournier@mediaprofile.com


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