Board game aims to educate youngsters about healthy weight

Food, Mood and Health board game
1st Strathpeffer and West Guides playing the Food Mood and Health board game.

Issued by NHS Highland.

Two Highland public health dietitians have created a board game aimed at improving peoples understanding of healthy weight.

The Food, Mood and Health board game is a thoughtful and fun learning resource for children, young people and adults that provides an informal context for learning about important food and health topics.

NHS Highland health improvement dietitian Fiona Clarke worked in partnership with Highland Council dietitian David Rex to create a stimulating and social tool to open up discussions around such topics as a healthy relationship with food; an inclusive approach to ‘healthy weight’ and how food can have an effect on your mood.

The game has been piloted and refined with the help of primary school and high school pupils, and community groups including the 1st Strathpeffer and West Guides.

Unit Leader Val MacDonald said: “We tried the game out with 16 of our Guides and they loved it. The girls were really engaged. The questions prompted lively debate and discussion on issues such as the origin of different foods and food miles, how our mood can influence what we eat, body image in the media and discriminating and bullying relating to weight.

“The game is a great way to open up the discussion on these important issues and supports young people to explore their values and beliefs around food, health and healthy weight.

“Children and young people are the main target audience for the game; however education and understanding of a healthy diet and weight should be a life-long learning process.”

Given such a target audience, it is quite surprising that any temptation to create a digital version of the game was resisted in favour of a more traditional approach. The theory that children and young people only engage with on-screen games and discussions has, according to Fiona Clarke, been challenged.

“What we found in our research, and since a prototype of the game has been developed, has been that the kids have really engaged with the board game,” she said.

“When we came up with the idea for the game, we wanted to ensure there was room for discussion, interaction and debate. We’ve found that, with a more traditional board game, the social interaction between the players has been very encouraging.

“While some of the questions are quick and straightforward, many of the questions provide an opportunity for further discussion and debate; enabling players to gain valuable insights into how food affects their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Our main aim was to design a game to support people in our healthy weight groups by looking at what you eat, where you eat and how this makes you feel. We feel that this board game will certainly achieve those outcomes, and it has been great working with Focus to create this resource.”

Dave Rex, who works with schools promoting healthy weight for the Highland Council, said: “We know that weight is a sensitive issue because of the societal stigma around size and obesity.

“This game has been designed to help teachers and pupils explore and critique messages about nutrition, and how this affects our mood and health.”

Councillor Linda Munro, Highland Children’s Champion, said: “Dave Rex, specialist dietitian for health promoting schools has been supporting this project which will help schools promote healthy weight to children and young people.

“We know that weight is a sensitive issue because of the societal stigma around size and obesity. This game has been specially designed to help teachers and pupils explore questions about nutrition, and how this affects our mood and health.

“Everyone will be a winner if the game takes off and it will hopefully encourage healthy living in the long term.”

15 Jun 2015
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