April 16, 2004

As many as 23,000 York Region families to participate in Turn Off the Screens Week

NEWMARKET - York Region Health Services and the York Region Physical Activity Network have planned the first-ever Turn Off the Screens Week from April 19 to 23, with the enthusiastic participation of 70 elementary schools and as many as 23,000 families.
The goal of the program is to increase the activity levels of children, youth and their families.
Participating students and families will be encouraged to turn off their televisions, video games and computers for five days except for use with homework … and to get active instead. The program also provides an opportunity to discuss the impact of inactivity caused by time in front of screens.
The research is compelling:
• The average Canadian average child watches 26 hours of television each week, not including time spent on the computer and playing video games. The amount of time spent playing video games by Canadian children is among the highest in the world. (Health Behaviour in School-aged Children, Research Unit in Health and Behavioural Change, 2000)
• Two-thirds of Canadian school-aged children are not active enough for optimal development and they become more inactive as they get older (The Progress of Canadian Children 2001, Canadian Council on Social Development)
•  “The easiest way to reduce inactivity is to turn off the TV set.  Almost anything else uses more energy than watching TV.”  (Dr. William Dietz, Centre for Disease Control)
Students who successfully complete the five days without watching television, playing video games or spending time on the computer except for homework are eligible to win prizes.
York Region Health Services has worked closely with schools who have registered for the program, providing resources for teachers and families, event ideas and encouragement.
Studies have shown that children who spend a lot of time watching television have higher rates of obesity:
• Childhood obesity in Canada and many countries worldwide has reached epidemic proportions. One out of every seven children between the ages of 7 and 13 is obese (16.6% of boys and 14.6% of girls).
• From 1981 to 1996, the prevalence of overweight children tripled increasing from 15% to 35.4% in boys and  to 29.2% in girls
• 40% of obese children and 70% of obese youth continue this trend into adulthood.
• Chronic diseases and health conditions related to being overweight and obese affect children and adults. Some common problems include:
-Poor self esteem
-Type 2 diabetes
-High blood pressure
-Heart disease
-High blood fat and cholesterol
-Some types of cancer 
Lifestyle changes have contributed to the increase in obesity in children and include:
• Less active children  - 25% of Canadian children spend more time each week watching TV and playing computer/video games than they spend in school
• Eating less nutritious foods - Children are eating fewer foods that provide fiber, vitamins, or other important nutrients (fruit and vegetables) but continue to consume foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar (soft drinks, snacks and candy bars).
Prevention is the key. It is easier to prevent overweight and obesity in children then to treat it.
Turn Off Your Screens Week has been organized by the York Region Physical Activity Network: York Region Health Services, Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ministry of Tourism and Recreation, Canadian Diabetes Association, York Region District School Board, Hike Ontario, Town of Newmarket, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Town of Aurora, heartyparty.com, City of Vaughan, Region of York Recreationists, and Town of Markham.
For more information on Turn Off the Screens Week or other health-related questions, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit www.region.york.on.ca.
Source of statistics:  The Child Obesity website www.calgaryhealthregion.ca/childobesity/index.htm
Contact:  Wendy Lewis, York Region Corporate Communications Services
   905-830-4444 Ext. 1238

The Regional Municipality of York is committed to providing cost-effective, quality services that respond to the needs of our rapidly growing communities.  York Region is comprised of the following nine area municipalities:  Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Whitchurch-Stouffville.  For more information, visit our Web site at:  www.region.york.on.ca

Contact: Patrick Casey, Senior Media Relations Specialist, York Region

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