Failing the Grade

 Last week, the Community Foundation of Oakville released a report that explored a number of issues deemed important to ensuring a healthy, happy, strong and well-balanced community. Entitled “Vital Signs” the report measures the vitality of our community, identifies significant trends, and assigns grades in 11 areas critical to quality of life. This particular report is part of a series of similar studies coordinated nationally by Community Foundations of Canada. The purpose of these studies is to encourage dialogue, increase awareness and, hopefully, develop a desire to deal with these important issues. You can read the whole report here, but let me point out a few things I found particularly disturbing about how we are failing our kids. First, let’s acknowledge that this study is NOT really scientific or statistically accurate since it reflects the opinions of individuals who voluntarily offered feedback to an informal request, rather than through a controlled study. And, many of the stats focus on adults rather than younger children. However, the results are illuminating none-the-less. It’s also important to note that this isn’t a general study without relevance – these results are specific to Oakville – our community. And that means we should all take careful notice.

Here at Playbourhood, we talk a lot about the importance of play and outdoor activity to well-being of our kids. Our focus is on the need to build better communities and provide opportunities for out children to develop socially. But there is also the added benefit that letting our kids get out and about in the neighbourhood is a healthy thing in the physical sense, too. The reason we promote these ideas is because there is a sense that we, as a society, as a community, aren’t doing enough to provide these vital opportunities to our kids. I won’t get into all the arguments here, just look around this site for more information. What I will say here is that the CFO’s Vital Signs report makes it abundantly clear that what we’re saying is right on.

In Oakville, we’re failing miserably in a number of important respects. The grades of C+ for physical activity and D+ in obesity rates are quite telling. Although only 54% of the population indicated a moderate level of exercise, that number is actually higher than the provincial or national rates! More scary, however is the increasing rate of obesity which has risen from 13% to 16% in the past four years. Obviously these two indicators are intimately linked and tell us that there is a lot of work to do to make our community a healthier place to live.

It all starts with our kids. With a genuine interest and the habit of enjoying life outside playing, kids are more likely to grow up into adults who also spend time outdoors and active. And that’s what Playbourhood, and now the Community Foundation of Oakville is trying to tell us. I hope you’re listening!

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