Atii! Let’s Do It! - A Community-grown Innovation for Healthy Living
Can building health habits be fun? One Nunavut program is proving that good health doesn’t have to be a chore. Atii! Let’s Do It!, based in Iqaluit, has designed a creative gameshow that helps young people and families learn about making healthy eating choices and living active lifestyles.
Originally conceptualized by Becky Kilabuk of Iqaluit, the gameshow’s fun activities integrate the Inuktitut language and Inuit harvesting practices with health education, adding a culturally engaging dimension to building health literacy.
The Atii! Gameshow is a wheel of fortune-esque set of challenges, which range from trivia questions (in the Inuktitut language) to relay races and large group activities. The children are split into four teams with one participant representing each team for every round.
“Each round, the wheel is spun and the children compete in the activity that the indicator lands on,” says Gwen K. Healey, Executive and Scientific Director at the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre (AHRN-NU), which is leading the project, Healey noted that points are awarded to the winner of each challenge, “[but] the points don't matter. The kids get thousands; they get even more for trying than for winning. At the end of the game everyone wins.”
Victory comes in the shape of temporary tattoos, stickers, and water bottles—but most importantly, everyone leaves feeling “happy, excited, confident, and full of healthy, nutritious snacks, and country foods,” Healey says.
“Everyone is laughing and giggling—including the elders. [And] there is a healthy snack break where the children have healthy traditional and store-bought foods.”
Returning to the Roots of Healthy Food
“In Nunavut we are very fortunate to have an incredible nutrient-dense, traditional country food diet,” Healey says. But in recent decades, changes in lifestyles have led to a “movement away from a country food diet toward a market food diet.”
These dietary and lifestyle changes have contributed to poor health outcomes in Nunavut and a sharp increase in the number of children who are overweight. According to the 2007 Nunavut Inuit Child Health Survey, conducted in Nunavut and involving 388 children, 28 percent of Inuit children aged 3 to 5 years are obese.
“In Nunavut, high rates of food insecurity compound this problem,” Healey says. High quality, nutritious food is expensive and difficult to harvest, forcing many communities to rely on market foods. In many cases, this means people simply aren’t getting the nutrients they need.
And if communities aren’t harvesting country food or teaching their children how to do so, then these valuable traditional skills and knowledge are slowly being lost.
That’s where Atii! Let’s Do It! comes in. “Our goal with this project has been to incorporate community messages about water consumption vs. sugary drinks, choosing healthy market foods, eating country foods and being active into a fun school-based intervention for children and their families,” Healey says.
The intervention will soon be moving into the digital space with the Atii! Let's Do it! app, which will enable anyone to play the game in English and Inuktitut and practice healthy decision-making, even on the go.
A Community Approach
What do successful, sustainable health solutions like Atii! Let’s Do It! have in common? They are home-grown and driven by the local community. The very heart of Atii! Let’s Do It! beats with the creative spark of the young people living in Iqaluit.
“This project came about because of the innovative and creative brilliance of a team of young people led by Becky Kilabuk [working] to develop a fun and educational game for kids attending a summer camp program in Inuktitut in Iqaluit,” says Healey. “[Then] we worked to adapt the content and pilot the game in schools.”
“The solution builds on Inuit ways of knowing and being, which recognizes the importance of relationships in the community, how we engage with each other and how we share with and support one another.”
“Instead of importing a solution that has been successful elsewhere and adapting it to be culturally relevant, we have developed our own solution to the problem as we see it, from our worldview. We are using the tools available to us to prove that it works, that people respond to it, and that they value the way the information exchange has taken place.”
With its community-centered approach and the support of dedicated partners, Atii! Let’s Do It! is poised to make a lasting difference
The project has five overarching goals:
- Increase the ability of Inuit families to make healthy choices about food and physical activity;
- Improve health literacy in the Inuktitut language;
- Engage children, parents and guardians in a fun, culturally relevant health promotion activity in school settings;
- Increase opportunities for children and youth to learn vital traditional harvesting skills; and,
- Expand the capacity of youth leadership in developing and implementing the project.
Ready To Get Involved?
What ideas do YOU have to help Canadians make healthier choices? Get involved in The Play Exchange and share your ideas! You could be one of six finalists featured on CBC. Finalists will also receive mentoring and support from LIFT Philanthropy Partners, valued at $30,000, to develop a strategic business plan for their ideas. One top entrant will be eligible for up to $1 million from the Government of Canada to put a winning idea into action.
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Photo credit: Elders patting heads of 'tulugaunguaq' (children acting like ravens) via Tracey Galloway.