Medavie Blue Cross’ health foundation is providing a funding boost to an online program that aims to help Canadians reduce their risk of developing chronic disease.

Medavie’s foundation is donating $750,000 over four years to Acceleration 2.0, a followup to the original program the insurer donated $75,000 to between 2013 and 2016. Speaking at the launch event for the second phase of the program in Toronto on Tuesday, Bernard Lord, Medavie’s chief executive officer, said the foundation believes investing early in prevention can improve health outcomes and have long-term impacts on Canadians.

Read: Medavie invests in chronic disease intervention study

The program is open to people in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada who are at risk of developing chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The program targets several issues: activity, smoking cessation, healthy eating, alcohol intervention and motivation. The original program, which was 12 weeks long, involved face-to-face health assessments and regular online check-ins with participants to monitor their progress. It saw promising results, with participants increasing their life expectancy by 1.25 years on average and 80 per cent lowering their risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years. They also increased their physical activity levels, ate more fruits and vegetables and made progress in quitting smoking.

“Indeed, we’re concerned with chronic diseases and those proximate health behaviours because this contributes to the main reason that people die today in Ontario, in Canada and around the world. So we can think of no more important policy or platform than this prevention dealing with health behaviours. We know, if we do this right, that we can have tremendous impacts,” said Paul Oh, Acceleration’s leader and the medical director of the cardiovascular prevention and rehabilitation program at the University Health Network’s Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

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“We can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, heart disease, stroke, by as much as 80 per cent. We can change the development of diabetes and improve diabetes management for those who are living with the condition by as much as 80 per cent. And perhaps affect at least half the cancers that are affecting Canadians today,” he added.

Also speaking at the event, Cindy Yelle, president and chief executive officer of the Toronto Rehab Foundation, said she looks to prevention as a key tool in treating hospital patients.

“Some people think, ‘What is a hospital doing for prevention? You’re there to care for patients that have these conditions.’ Well, we actually believe that prevention is almost like a magic elixir. Keeping people healthy, keeping them in their homes, keeping them working, keeping them with their families is actually one of the primary thrusts of the work that we do today,” she said.

According to Oh, the Acceleration program is different from other health programs because “we can evaluate carefully what we do, bring evidence into the design and see those results on the back end to say that we can actually change behaviour in a meaningful way, in a sustainable way,” he said.

Read: Focus on preventative measures in fight against chronic disease

Copyright © 2021 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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