Health: The Health Of Our Kids

By on November 10, 2016

Pitt Meadows Today spoke with Doug Brimacombe, a University of Alberta professor of Senior Leadership & Professional Development in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation.

By David Murray.
Issue: Are kids today getting too fat, and, for the first time in generations, are they expected to live a shorter life than their parents?

David Murray: Thanks Doug for taking the time to answer some questions about the fitness levels of our youth and what the future looks like if we do not change the direction of our parenting.

Doug Brimacombe

Doug Brimacombe: I am happy to do this interview for the “Today” David.

DM: Doug, where were you born and what communities did you live in as a youth?

DB: I was born in Vermillion Alberta. We moved to Brandon for Grade 1-7 and we moved to St. Catherines Ontario for grade 8-9. We moved back to Alberta to Edmonton for grade 10-12.

DM: I heard you were quite a baseball player back in the day.

DB: Yes actually I really enjoyed playing ball, I got a scholarship to California State University at Northridge which is near Los Angeles.

DM: I heard you tell a story about when you were playing baseball in St. Catherines when you were in little league.

Stan Mikita

DB: Yes, I was eleven years old and I remember getting an injury, The other coaches from the visiting team helped me off the field. St. Catherines used to be a farm team for the Chicago Black Hawks and the two coaches that carried me off the field were NHL Hall of Famer Stan Mikita and popular Black Hawk’s defenceman Elmer “Moose” Vasko who had sons playing on the other team .

DM: What happened with your baseball career in California?

DB: Being in Southern California was a big culture shock for me being a “Prairie Boy” I wound up only staying down for two years, homesick and missing my friends.

DM: You finished your degree where?

DB: I finished my degree at the U of Alberta in 1969, and went on to take my Masters at the University of Oregon.

DM: You have held a lot of position’s in recreation Doug and are now considered an authority on youth fitness and child obesity?

DB: Yes , I have had the opportunity to work in recreation most of my life, my first position coming in Port Alberni where I managed the arena and curling rink. I went on to become the Chief Administrative Officer in Port Alberni. I left the public sector in 1987 to work for the YM-WCA in Greater Victoria. I moved over to Langley Township in 1990 and worked at the same position I had in Port Alberni. During that time my wife Edie Dopker was the General Manager for Coquitlam Parks & Leisure. Since 2008 I have been at the University of Alberta where I am on the faculty and teach 3 classes in ;eadership, leisure education, and program planning.

DM: Wow, very impressive credentials indeed!

DM: What do you see as some of the major problems with today’s youth?

DB: First of all I think kids today are becoming too inactive. In the 1960’s child obesity rates were less than one percent. Today the rate is 25%. “For the first time in generations kids today are expected to live a shorter life than their parents”. This is going to cause systemic problems on our health system.

DM: What can we do to turn this around as parents Doug?

DB: As parents , it behooves us to reflect on this matter. Kids today have very little uninstructed play-time. When we were kids growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s the neighborhood kids got together, “NO PARENTS”, picked teams, worked things out. There is no anecdotal evidence in fact to the contrary, that kids are better off with parents hovering over them during their play time. Kids need to be able to expand their minds and learn. This is how kids have been able to build their coping mechanisms to deal with life.

DM: There has been a decline in organized sports in Canada.

DB: Yes, very much so, in fact 70% of kids drop out of structured activity by the age of 13. In fact 90% of Canadian children are now spending most of their time indoors.

Children are experiencing stress levels , never seen before and at earlier ages.

DM: A lot of people give the excuse its not safe to let their kids play on their own? What do you have to say about that?

DB: That is such “Hogwash” I know the Conservative government would love you to believe that. Actually crime has went down every year since 1997. And believe actually there were more pedophiles around in the 1950’s and 60’s. We just didn’t have the media reporting it the way they do now.

DM: Wow, that is an interesting comment. How is diet affecting our children?

DB: In the 1950’s and 60’s there were very few fast food restaurants. A lot more home cooked meals were eaten , thats for sure. Since the fast food generation coupled with more inactivity the problems of child obesity has spiraled.

DM: Do you think parents today are relying too much on using video games and the internet as a baby sitting tool?

DB: Far too much inactivity, that’s for sure. Kids today do not experience the outdoors. They need to get fresh air, get close to nature. How can we expect our kids to respect nature in the future if they don’t understand it?

DM: Lots of concern’s , what are some possible solutions?

Doug Brimacombe with one of his students

DB: One of the things we need to do is start using our “Public Facilities” in the right way. We have to stop using them for just for kids that have money. We are creating a “Have and Have not” society when it comes to our kids participating in activities. Instead of just renting out hockey rinks to the highest bidder, usually minor hockey groups, we need to build more facilities and make them open for kids for “free play” Have the rink open, throw a bunch of sticks on the ice and let kids pick teams. This is where are government dollars should be going. I know that there is a lot of ‘wasteful spending” in government. We need to refocus our thinking as Canadians before it is too late. We need to invest in “preventive health care” for every dollar we spend today it will come back 20 fold in health care costs in the future.

We need to look at other “low cost “ alternatives. If we want to promote environmental stewardship in our youth we have to invest in trails and open space for their use and participation. There has been such a disconnect from nature with our children in Canada today.

DM: Wow Doug, lots of things to think about. Do you have any comments you would like to put forth to our readers of the “Today” ?

DB: Yes, just a quote from James Thurber “It is better to know some of the questions, than all of the answers”

David Murray – Editor of the Pitt Meadows Today

Please contact me at
Phone: 604-537-9786
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