Move to Improve

WA Kids ‘Move to Improve’.

WA Kids ‘Move to Improve’.

Kids with long-term health conditions – ranging from cystic fibrosis through to cerebral palsy – have been hitting the surf at Brighton Beach this year, all in the name of research.

Part of ‘Move to Improve’, an Australian-first project led by researchers and health professionals at PCH, the surf sessions are offering an innovative approach to improving mental health through fun and fitness.

Move to Improve – funded by Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Stan Perron Charitable Foundation, with support from Principal Partner Mineral Resources (MinRes) via Channel 7 Telethon Trust, Amazon, Globe BD, and the WA community – is evaluating the physical and mental health impacts of increased participation in physical activity on children with chronic conditions and their families.

This year, more than 120 surf sessions have been rolled out to WA kids impacted by chronic health conditions including type 1 diabetes, juvenile arthritis, cancer, burns, cerebral palsy, and cystic fibrosis.

In addition to surfing, from next year, kids with chronic conditions will also be able to take part in personalised Move to Improve programs as part of their routine clinical care.

Professor Liz Davis, PCH Head of Endocrinology and Co-Lead of Move to Improve said: “One in five Aussie kids live with a chronic condition that can prevent them from safely and confidently engaging in physical activity. In addition, they are also two to three times more likely to develop a mental health disorder than their physically healthy peers.

“Move to Improve aims to address the barriers to engaging in physical activity faced by children with chronic conditions and their families and is building the evidence needed to establish the first tertiary paediatric physical activity service in Australia.

“By providing access to personalised physical activity programs through Move to Improve, our aim is to help kids reach their physical activity goals whatever that might look like, whether it’s walking for five minutes without stopping or getting back to playing footy once a week.”

In 2018, an initial surfing pilot study for patients with cystic fibrosis funded PCHF showed that the ocean improved wellbeing and eased stress on families.

PCHF CEO Carrick Robinson said: “It’s thanks to the wonderful generosity of our donors that PCHF can continue to provide these positive experiences to patients, with the aim of helping kids with chronic, long-term conditions to both live well and stay well.”

MinRes Chief Executive, Lithium Joshua Thurlow said: “MinRes is proud to have committed almost $5 million to PCHF since 2013. We are passionate about wellbeing and innovation – two things embodied by Move to Improve, a project which is having such a positive impact on the lives of young Western Australians.”

The surfing intervention is led by PCH Senior Clinical Psychologist Joanna White in collaboration with clinical colleagues at PCH and research colleagues at The University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute.

The Move to Improve research team aims to enrol approximately 100 children and adolescents aged between 5 and 18 living with type 1 diabetes, cancer, post-burn injuries, and cerebral palsy that currently attend PCH. For more information about how to get involved, contact: MoveToImprove@health.wa.gov.au

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