Happy kids stretching on an athletics track
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FitGaaf: Getting to a healthier lifestyle through play

Northern innovations worthy of successful marketing. The NOM Prevention Challenge is there to help entrepreneurs achieve that. On April 11 is the finals of the competition, with which 10,000 euros in marketing and guidance from the NOM can be won. In the finals, three nominees will compete for the title: DrHealthy, FitGaaf and FiveSteps.

Healthy eating, drinking, sleeping and exercising. That's what everyone should do, but especially children. So that they can lead healthier lives. Drenthe-based FitGaaf helps youth make better choices through smart rewards, both offline and online.

Tom Steffens has been concerned with it for a long time, with children's health. His posters with stickers now hang in many classrooms, and on refrigerators in people's homes. ''We have now reached about 40,000 children this way,'' says the founder of FitGaaf. His goal continues. ,,I want to make an impact and guide at least ten percent of Dutch children to a healthier lifestyle. Then you're talking about roughly a hundred thousand kids.''

He reaches most of these children through school projects. ,,Often I come into the classroom to talk about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, drinking water, sleeping well and getting enough exercise. Then all the kids get their own sticker poster and they can keep track at home to see if they are doing all those important elements enough. Approachable and fun. That's where I think the secret is.''

That gamification works to get youth moving is well known. FitGaaf applies that in both the online and offline worlds. Steffens: ,,Quite honestly: I thought children would increasingly look for online challenges. But time and again it turns out that those stickers are doing very well.''

FitGaaf's poster lists various categories related to health, with blank boxes next to them. Think eating good food, drinking water, getting enough sleep and exercising. Anyone who achieves the goal in such a category puts a sticker next to it. Interesting: at home, children and parents also compete against each other to see who can fill the empty boxes the fastest. Result: more health. ,,When I return to such a class after a few weeks, I see that small changes are taking place in the right direction in different areas.''

In recent years, FitGaaf has also been working on an app, which in many ways ties in with the poster and stickers it all started with. Steffens: ,,This is about insight about how things stand in terms of healthy living and what is needed to make a behavioral change. Those posters, and also the counterpart in the app, perfectly exposes in which area there are gains to be made.''

Method recognized by RIVM

You could eventually even use the app to see that in a region, for example, not enough vegetables are being eaten. That could be a signal for a municipality to take action, Perhaps a nice cooperation will be established between local stores and sports clubs. That's what we want to encourage.'' Apart from that, the app "simply" contains mini-games that help increase understanding about a healthy lifestyle. Incentives to maintain that lifestyle are also plenty in it.

All to boost the health of children - the adults of later. The FitGaaf method has been an RIVM-recognized prevention method for several years. That's good news for its rapid spread, the entrepreneur knows. ,,This system is spreading like an oil slick across several municipalities in the Netherlands. Mainly through schools, but as far as I am concerned, there is also a lot of potential in a direct route to households.''

Steffens sees using the method as a useful tool for parents to help their children live healthier lives. ,,Every parent knows the discussion about eating vegetables, or drinking water instead of lemonade. With our insightful method, you can playfully help improve your children's behavior. Without a fight.''

That move to the private market is what Steffens is particularly concerned about now. ,,The tricky thing is that people often do not want to pay for their own health, That is a challenge for which I would like to use the prize of the Prevention Challenge. The money, but also the support in terms of marketing, is something I can put to good use.''