foto15Epode Umbria Region Obesity Intervention Study (EUROBIS) is a program, which is part of the Epode International Network (EIN), started on February 8, 2014 in the Umbria Region of Italy, to fight the increasing trend of childhood obesity and overweight among children through the adoption of healthy lifestyles. We are actively operating on the territory, expanding and implementing the contents of the EUROBIS program throughout the Umbria Region.

Children, their parents, and all the Community are involved in each EUROBIS activity with great interest. Part of these initiatives have been already successfully performed and others are still to be done. The action plan will cover different sectors (health, physical activity, schools, environment) interfacing each other in order to achieve the following common objectives: physical well-being, care for environment, and better family relationships.

One of the most successful initiatives is “Children and dogs, happy and healthy.” EUROBIS in cooperation with the Municipal Kennel, the Dept. of Veterinary Science at the University of Perugia by RANDAGIAMO methodology, and the Dept. for Health Prevention of Umbria Region, has started a new project to encourage children and families to take up an active and healthy lifestyle with a bit of help from man’s best friend. It is a program where children and their families walk together with dogs along the wonderful forest paths in the region of Umbria. The project focuses on fostering the relationship between children and dogs which will encourage a lifestyle change as well as raise awareness about the benefits of pets for a child’s development. The project also represents an opportunity for families to meet dogs and promote dog adoption.

Two editions have been already performed and the next one is close to being defined. Each walk has a different theme, some of which are: meeting, dialogue, love, respect, care, and adoption, as well as living with a dog, visual and perceptual differences between dogs and children, respect for nature and the environment, and promoting responsible dog ownership.

Each walk also includes breaks when the educators stimulate the thinking of the children and their families with tales focusing on the topic of the day. At the end of the walk healthy snacks are always offered to everybody. “Children and dogs, happy and healthy” is widely attended, and more and more  children and families are sharing fun together in a country landscape with healthy food… and, finally, a great result: Many dogs have been adopted!

This is an experienced “triple win” intervention aiming at encouraging children and adults to practice physical activity, while taking care of environment (forest paths and animals), and improving relationships. Dogs can stimulate the physical activity in the children, making them more active, and thus to preventing diseases such as obesity and diabetes, just to name a few.

The project is aimed at children but, to the whole family can benefit from an educational path to a healthy diet and physical activity. It also gives an opportunity to educate everyone to take care of the environment and animals by creating relationships of respect for them.

Get used to making daily movement, starting with the most physiological physical activity: the walk. Lead to a significant improvement of health, which will result in saving money for all citizens by saving in healthcare spending due to the improved conditions of health among population. The benefits regard many aspects of social life.

Walking with a pet encourages movement and an active lifestyle in children and their families. At the same time, children also have the opportunity to become familiar with dogs and gain confidence and self-esteem. In addition, contact with sheltered dogs has many advantages. The child becomes aware that is saving a puppy from a “prison” and feels invested emotionally. Therefore they are more motivated. Additionally, the child and the dog a experience a positive interaction that often lead to the adoption and therefore, brings the child to take on the daily walk, and then the movement as a habit.

Last but not least, dogs of the kennels have a greater chance of being adopted.