Athletes Inspiring Action for the Environment
Created November 11, 2011 by Tricia Zakaria
Did you know: That 1 in 5 Canadians suffer from respiratory disease like asthma and one in three have one or more allergies? And, how about the fact that that Canada received an overall grade of F on the 2011 Report Card on Physical Activity in Children and Youth (Active Healthy Kids Canada)?
Our program, Air Aware, addresses all of these health issues and draws the link between poor air quality and the importance for all Canadians, but particularly youth, to embrace active, more sustainable lifestyles.
Air Aware Goals: (1) Educate –> Air quality and lung disease, primarily asthma and allergies.
(2) Protect -> Health by avoiding negative impacts and by using tools such as the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) and Air Aware resources. (3) Inspire -> Lifestyle changes that adopt healthier, more active, less fossil fuel dependent lifestyles.
Air Aware is a free, bilingual, national educational program of Clean Air Champions (CAC), a national registered charity formed in 2001 and based in Ottawa, Ontario. The mission of Clean Air Champions (CAC) is to improve air quality by working with respected athletes to motivate and educate Canadians to adopt practices and lifestyles that enhance both environmental and personal health. All our activities involve our wonderful Champions; over 200 National Team, Olympic and Paralympic athletes, each passionate about the health of our planet as well as the health of Canadians. Our Champions are proven ambassadors and dynamic catalysts of change for our audiences.
These incredible athlete role models educate our Air Aware audiences about air quality, asthma and allergies and inspire Canadians to take action to reduce air pollution and improve their health. Air Aware is curriculum-connected and targets school age youth (grades 6 – 12 and post secondary), as well as youth, coaches, teachers and sport administrators in the sport and recreation sectors. Air Aware is currently funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada (Health Canada) and is supported by a network of partners. Some of these outstanding partners include: Asthma Society of Canada, AllerGen NCE, Canadian Lung Association, GreenLearning Canada, Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA), Coaching Association of Canada, Sport Matters, Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, Canadian Network for Respiratory Care and Sport Canada.
Close to 30% of Canadians today are considered obese. Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism for Canadian youth. Juvenile Diabetes is hitting epidemic proportions, and allergies are expected only to continue to increase. All these issues are interconnected. Air Aware teaches audiences how to live healthier lifestyles that reduce air pollution, reduce triggers for asthma, allergies and increases their physical activity levels. A perfect example is the reliance we have on our cars which has led to a significant rise in sedentary lifestyles leading to weight gain which in turn exacerbates health issues like diabetes and lung diseases. We teach youth how one simple action like walking to school instead of being driven has multiple benefits.
Canadians, particularly youth, stand to reap significant health and lifestyle benefits by becoming more informed of the direct and indirect impacts of air pollution on the environment and their health. This is easy to do, and all it takes is the step of becoming "air aware" - which we teach in our Air Aware program.
Our goal for 2011-12 is to reach 25,000 youth via school and sport/recreation presentations, and 40,000 coaches via an online e-learning module through a partnership with the Coaching Association of Canada (the preeminent national body in Canada responsible for coach certification). The market in the sport/recreation as an example is very significant: Today there are over 2.5 million certified coaches and over 14 million Canadians involved in sport/recreation in one capacity or another.
High performance athletes have the highest rate of lung disease of any population at up to 23% (twice the Canadian rate) and up to 50% suffer from exercise-induced asthma. Lisa Bentley, Clean Air Champion and 11-time Ironman winner who suffers from asthma, allergies and cystic fibrosis is a perfect example:
“I know first-hand how critically important the quality of the air I breathe is to my health and
performance. The cleaner the air, the easier it is for me to breathe and be competitive."
Our message is equally about increasing rates of active lifestyles as it is about improving air quality and health. CAC is the only Canadian charity today that develops and delivers curriculum-linked programming on the critical issues of air quality, health and physical activity.
Air Aware needs your support! Together we can all help turn the tide on poor air quality, obesity, juvenile diabetes, and lung disease.
Help us get more Canadians Air Aware by getting Active for the Environment!