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Pay the Piper

Pay the Piper

In the rat-infested German town of 13th century Hamlin, the fairy tale goes that a piper with magic pipe was promised pay in exchange for ridding the town of disease-bearing vermin.

When the town reneged and refused to pay the piper, he promised revenge, later returning to lead the children away forever. Like the piper, Physical Education and Kinesiology, disciplines taught in many post-secondary institutions across Canada, are each important components of a comprehensive health education program that can lead us away from heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer, the modern day “vermin” contributing to the crisis in population health. Yet, their contributions to the spectrum of health disciplines often go unrecognized, and unfunded.

Academic programs in traditional “Physical Education” programs, per se, are widely understood to be about the practice of movement science, historically thought of as training PE teachers and coaches. But nowadays, that’s only part of the story. Graduates from traditional PE programs also become fitness instructors, sports psychologists, outdoor educators, or go on to pursue further education in fields such as exercise physiology, physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, and medicine.

An undergraduate degree in “Kinesiology”, per se, also opens doors into the health and allied health professions, providing a strong foundation for entry into medical, dental, and chiropractic school, post-graduate programs in physiotherapy and occupational therapy, nursing, and biomedical research.

The range of sub-disciplines related to Kinesiology, as practiced in Canadian post-secondary institutions, spans a broad spectrum from molecular biology through biomechanics and from nutrition to community health. Kinesiology itself is on the verge of being recognized in Ontario as a licensed health profession. New regulations governing the practice of kinesiology in Ontario are being developed by the transitional Council of the College of Kinesiologists. Once in place in Ontario, other provinces are likely to follow suit. Representatives from the academic community are members of the transitional council and will help insure synergies between academic training in kinesiology and the clinical practice of kinesiology.

Both Physical Education and Kinesiology are about the science and practice of movement and exercise, and the enormous health benefits provided by these activities. Any discussion about the major health issues of our times – heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer – must necessarily include both diet and exercise. For this reason, members of the Physical Education and Kinesiology communities, not just nutritionists and dieticians, should be at the table when governments develop healthy weight and activity guidelines.

Since 1971, Canadian Council of Physical Education and Kinesiology Administrators (CCUPEKA/CCAUEPK) has advocated on behalf of, and accredits, Canadian post-secondary institutions’ programs in Physical Education and Kinesiology. The Council, through its accreditation process, ensures a high and standard of comprehensive education for graduates from accredited institutions. With 34 members and 28 CCUPEKA-accredited programs, the organization also provides advice to government and non-government organizations as they grapple with issues related to healthy living, active lifestyles, and proper diet.

The four horsemen of the current health apocalypse – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer – are all issues that are addressed, at least in part, by Physical Education and Kinesiology post-secondary programs across Canada. These programs are central in educating the health practitioners of the future, in health research, and in developing regulations that govern the clinical practice of kinesiology. It is, therefore imperative that government organizations and funding sources, including Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, recognize, and provide support for, these academic programs. We can either recognize and fund these programs now, or we can expect to pay for the fallout in rising morbidity, mortality, and health care costs. Either way, we’ll eventually have to pay the piper.

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