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Move to Improve Perth Children's Hospital Foundation

Move to Improve

Prescribing ‘exercise as a medicine’ in sick children.

A new ground-breaking research project is paving the way for Australia’s first clinical exercise service at Perth Children’s Hospital for children living with chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cerebral palsy or burns related injuries.

One in five Australian children lives with a chronic disease that often leads to mental and physical illnesses in adulthood.

This unique service will harness the concept of ‘exercise as medicine’, prescribing personalised physical exercise and health promotion advice as part of routine clinical care.

The multidisciplinary research project Move to Improve has been made possible through funding from Stan Perron Charitable Foundation and Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation, with support from Principal Partner Mineral Resources Limited via Channel 7 Telethon Trust, Amazon, Globe BD and the WA community. The Child and Adolescent Health Service has also committed in-kind support for the project.

We are proud to fund another world-class project providing life changing benefits for children and their families.

“This is another first for the Foundation and Australia. Thanks to our generous donors and supporters WA children living with chronic disease will have access to a service that will significantly improve physical and mental wellbeing and quality of life.” – Carrick Robinson, CEO, Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Regular physical activity is vital to a child’s physical and functional development. However, many children with chronic disease face significant barriers to the healing powers of physical activity, such as low confidence and self-esteem, lack of access to appropriate physical activity providers and fear of how to manage their health condition in front of peers.

A less active lifestyle can have serious long-term health consequences, putting children at increased risk of developing other chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, stroke or depression. Children living with chronic disease have a 2 – 3 times greater risk of developing a mental health disorder than their physically healthy peers.

“We’ve become really good at prescribing medicines and surgical treatments but one thing we just haven’t done is incorporate exercise as a medicine. Exercise has enormous benefits not only for mental and physical health but helps re-engage confidence and connection.” – Professor Liz Davis, PCH Head of Endocrinology and Co-Lead of Move to Improve.

An initial pilot study exploring the effectiveness of surfing as a form of therapy in a multi-pronged approach to care has now led to a larger surfing intervention program as part of the Move to Improve project. Available for children with a range of conditions at Perth Children’s Hospital, the pilot study found the ocean improved wellbeing, aided recovery and eased stress on families.

For nine-year-old participant, Mary Rogers, it was life-changing.

“When I’m out in the water and I’m surfing, I feel like I’m more free. My body feels stronger, more in control of things,” said Mary, who has cystic fibrosis. “When I have freedom, I feel like I can be myself and when I can be myself, I can be most happy.”

Read the full Move to Improve media release on our website here.

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