Keys to Wellbeing for Kids

The Cause

We will develop a peer education and support system for caregivers. Children’s mental and physical health largely depends on sleep, diet, and exercise. This may seem intuitive, but caregivers underestimate how small changes impact their children’s health. Peer groups already exist in the Medicine Hat area to provide caregivers with emotional and social support; our system builds on these models in a learning-based system distinguished by its collaborative and scaffolded learning approaches. Our approach recognizes that expertise can stem from academic training and practical, lived experience. To do so, we will connect caregivers and healthcare providers. This will help caregivers develop the skills and strategies to boost mental and physical health in affordable, practical, and evidence-based ways. The experts will also gain a deeper understanding of their client’s needs. A scaffolded learning approach will allow those participating in the program to “pay-it-forward.” Peer educators can provide others in the community with these practical and evidence-based strategies to support children’s mental and physical well-being.

Workshop with caregivers and experts’ phase
One question will guide the workshop: “If you could share any information with caregivers about optimizing sleep, diet and exercise for their children, what would you tell them?” Healthcare professionals like physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and dietitian will share evidence-based practice. They will collaborate with caregivers to understand what is implementable and effective based on their lived experience and needs. The information will feed into the materials development phase.

Materials development phase
The information from the workshop will be transformed into two documents: a peer educator guide and a participant handbook. The information will be divided into weekly sessions, including presentations, practice, and peer consultation. Each session will also include feedback and evaluation. The two documents will be living documents, with a crowd-sourced online forum where participants can add comments and request edits to the written resources.

Pilot phase – train-the-trainer
The participants from the initial workshop will run through the six-week program and participate in a focus group to obtain feedback for revision/refinement.

Roll-out and implementation phase
After completing the program, participants will be certified as peer educators and leaders.

Who Will it Benefit?

Our peer education and support system for caregivers addresses directly Field Law’s priority areas of healthcare and education and is designed to benefit a broad range of individuals and groups in our community. Mental and physical health play a crucial role in children's academic achievement and well-being. Our system is premised on the recognition that, when it comes to children’s health, both caregivers and healthcare professionals possess different, but complementary, expertise. Healthcare professionals offer the academic expertise of evidence-based theories and practices; caregivers possess the lived experience to advise on the practical implementation of these theories and practices and to recommend areas for additional consideration and development. The benefits to these two groups are thus reciprocal. While the significance of diet, sleep, and exercise may seem intuitive, healthcare professionals like physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and dietitians can provide precise guidelines and strategies to help caregivers meaningfully improve their children’s sleep, diet, and exercise. Keys to Hope Foundation has staff with the expertise to translate the experts’ inputs into systematic interventions that will not overwhelm parents. The Keys to Hope Foundation also has experts who specialize in designing group interventions and workshops.

This program also offers long-term benefits to the taxpayers and the local economy. Taxpayers will benefit as the program will reduce healthcare costs by addressing systemic issues of health and wellbeing in the community. It also benefits local small businessowners by identifying resources and services in the community with whom peer educators can collaborate to provide skills-based opportunities for children. Recent studies have proven that children are more likely to consume healthy meals if they helped to prepare them; peer educators in our program could collaborate with a local studio that offers cooking classes so that children can learn to cook. The instructor, healthcare professionals, and caregivers would converse to understand what is both required for a healthy diet and feasible for a range of children’s preferences and abilities. This would stimulate the local economy and benefit caregivers and their children.