Jan. 26, 2021

Calgary Flames initiatives help improve overall health in our city

UCalgary research finds professional sports teams have an important health role to play off the ice
At one Calgary mall location in 2018, 63 per cent of people had elevated diabetes risk scores. Courtesy Elaine Ori, Mount Royal University

Over the past four years, the Calgary Flames have delivered an evolving roster of health promotion events to Calgarians. A new peer-reviewed scholarly article published in Frontiers in Public Health looks at the effectiveness of those events, and how they address the health needs of Calgarians.

Many people link sports with health, which can create opportunities for health promotion, says Dr. Gavin McCormack, PhD, one of the article’s authors.

Gavin McCormac

Gavin McCormack, one of the article’s authors

“When you link these professional sports teams with health promotion events, it prompts people to take notice,” he says. 

Professional sporting teams have the ability to leverage their brand and increase awareness around a number of causes including health promotion and healthy lifestyles, adds McCormack.

Professional sports teams can motivate, educate and inspire people from all walks of life to live a healthier life,” he says. “We think and hope teams can play a role in activating the healthiest version of our community as possible.”

In January 2015, the first annual Calgary Flames Health Training Camp (FHTC) was hosted at the Saddledome, while in 2016 and 2017 the events were co-hosted by WinSport at Canada Olympic Park.

The O’Brien Institute for Public Health is a founding and continuing partner of the events, which include opportunities to learn about health, exercise and nutrition, and to interact with players and staff from the Calgary Stampeders, the Calgary Flames and Olympic teams.

Dr. Elaine Ori, PhD, a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and Mount Royal University instructor, has been involved in the program since its inception.

Elaine Ori

Elaine Ori, a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and Mount Royal University instructor

“We tried a few different approaches to see what would gain the most traction with the Calgary public,” she says.

A health screening component was added to events. At one Calgary mall location, 63 per cent of people screened had elevated diabetes risk scores indicating that they would benefit from a diabetes screening test. At a mall north of Calgary city limits, 68 per cent had elevated risk scores.

“Being at a mall is a casual atmosphere, and a less intimidating environment to get health messages across and to screen for hidden health issues like diabetes,” Ori says.

“We learned a lot along the way about what was working in terms of engagement with the public and also serving the public health interests by identifying those at risk and offering education and opportunity to them directly.”

The Flames Health Training Camp events represent a significant contribution to the Calgary community by the Calgary Flames Foundation, says Dr. William Ghali, University of Calgary vice-president (research) who is also an author on the new article. 

"The Flames organization is weathering a difficult situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. We are excited to hear about the foundation's plans for the training camp going forward, as the O'Brien Institute and University of Calgary will be keen to continue partnering on these important health promotion events,” he says.

Read the community case study article in Frontiers

Elaine Ori is an instructor with Mount Royal University in the Health and Physical Education Degree and Personal Fitness Trainer Diploma, and member of the O'Brien Institute for Public Health.

Gavin McCormack is an associate professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences and a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute and O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the Cumming School of Medicine.

William A. Ghali is UCalgary’s vice-president (research), past scientific director of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the University of Calgary and physician in the Cumming School of Medicine (General Internal Medicine, Community Health Sciences).

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