English community takes on 5/30 Health Challenge [with video]

Photo: Scott French

Animators get the crowd moving at the 5/30 launch at SLC.

Hundreds of people in Quebec City's English community are about to get a whole lot healthier with the launch of the province-wide 5/30 Health Challenge one week ago.
Thanks to new federal funding provided through the Community Health and Social Services Network, the 5/30 program focused on healthy eating and staying active is available for the first time to three English-speaking regions in the province.

In addition to Quebec City, the program that began March 1 will also operate in English in Montreal's East End and the Lower North Shore over the next six weeks.

The 5/30 Health Challenge asks participants to eat five portions of fruits and vegetables each day and exercise for 30 minutes daily at least five days a week. Brochures, a website and weekly e-mails offer tips and encouragement to participants.

"The population is getting less healthy and active, more obese, and there is a higher incidence of diabetes," said Jennifer Johnson, executive director of the CHSSN. "We thought the program was something we could make accessible to the English-speaking community."
Organizers are still tallying how many Quebec City area residents signed up by the March 1 deadline for the new English-language 5/30 challenge through online websites and supporting community organizations, including Jeffery Hale, the Voice of English-Speaking Quebec and the Central Quebec School Board.

But the Quebec City launch was given a celebrity boost with a visit by former World Boxing Organization middleweight champion Otis Grant from Montreal.

St. Vincent student Constance Martineau-DeschĂȘnes gets a sparring lesson from former middleweight boxing champion Otis Grant as part of the 5/30 Health Challenge launch

Grant spoke at five CQSB schools, telling his own story of recovery from a near fatal accident in 1999, giving a few shadow boxing lessons, and urging students to "bug your parents, bug your sister, bug your brother, bug your grandparents to sign up for this program."

"To hear his story is certainly motivating for them," said Leigh-Anne Fischer-Fiset, a grade 5 teacher at St. Vincent School. "I think they have an interest and a desire to be someone like Otis."

Grant said there is a need to focus on the health of children in schools.

"It is important to be in the school system," said Grant. "Kids are overweight more so now than ever in history. With the early onset of diabetes, this might be the first generation to die before their parents."

Grant, a former teacher before becoming a boxer, returned to the school system as community learning centre coordinator at Riverdale High School in Montreal following his retirement from the professional sport.
During a training session, he met Ed Sweeney, Quebec High School's own community learning centre coordinator, and the two became fast friends.

Sweeney, acting as animator for the first English-language 5/30 Health Challenge in Quebec City, nominated Grant as the spokesperson for the campaign.
"Prevention is the best cure," said Sweeney at Wednesday's launch at Champlain St. Lawrence. "We want people to grow healthier, grow stronger, and grow older into long, prosperous lives."