There is an obesity crisis in this country. Canadians are paying for it with their wallets — and with their lives.
But there is hope.
An extensive study conducted by the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology charts a course to a leaner, healthier future.
Over the course of nearly two dozen meetings, the committee heard expert testimony from a range of Canadian and international stakeholders including individuals representing health and exercise professions, diet and health research sectors, food and beverage industries, Aboriginal groups, health charities, as well as the federal government.
The committee’s findings show the vast scope of this epidemic:
This report describes an innovative, whole-of-society approach to address this important issue — and urges bold but practical steps that can and must be taken to help Canadians achieve and maintain healthy weights.
Tipping the Scales Towards a Healthy Future
Every Canadian is affected in some way by the obesity crisis.
The proliferation of fast and processed foods, coupled with the overwhelming use of electronic devices, have led to an environment where it is all too easy to eat poorly and remain inactive.
This is not the product of a collective loss of willpower — low-income Canadians, for example, often rely on unhealthy foods because these items are cheaper and sometimes all that is available.
Confusing nutritional labelling doesn’t help: there are 56 different names for sugar alone and manufacturers do not have to group them together.
Canada’s dated food guide is no longer effective in providing nutritional guidance to Canadians. Fruit juice, for instance, is presented as a healthy item when it is little more than a soft drink without the bubbles.
Canadians must renew their efforts to eat healthy and to get active — and government and industry must give citizens the means and motivation to make informed lifestyle choices.
From policy makers to parents, industry insiders to family doctors, all Canadians have a role to play to beat back this crisis.
Recommendations: A Call for A National Campaign to Combat Obesity
This report urges the federal government to take aggressive measures to return Canadians to healthy weights. The report’s 21 recommendations provide the tools to do so.
The government should:
Other key recommendations would make it easier for Canadians to make informed decisions about their diet. The committee urges the government to:
Many of the ways to fight obesity are beyond the federal government’s direct control. In this report, the committee urges Health Canada to work with the provinces and territories on coordinated policy changes across the country. It recommends that Health Canada:
The committee recommends that the federal government, in partnership with the provinces and territories and in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, create and implement a National Campaign to Combat Obesity which includes goals, timelines and annual progress reports.
The committee recommends that the federal government:
The committee recommends that the federal government:
The committee further recommends that the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada immediately:
The committee further recommends that the federal government conduct assessments of the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit, the Working Income Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit with a view to determining how fiscal measures could be used to help Canadians of lower socio-economic status, including our Aboriginal population, choose healthy lifestyle options.
The committee recommends that the Minister of Health immediately undertake a complete revision of Canada’s food guide in order that it better reflect the current state of scientific evidence. The revised food guide must:
The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health revise the food guide on the guidance of an advisory body which:
The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oils, to minimize trans fat content in food, unless specifically permitted by regulation.
The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health:
The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health assess whether sugar and starch should be combined under the heading of total carbohydrate within the Nutrition Facts table and report back to this committee by December 2016.
The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health implement strict limits on the use of permitted health claims and nutrient content claims based on a measure of a food’s energy density relative to its total nutrient content.
The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health:
The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health encourage nutrition labelling on menus and menu boards in food service establishments.
The committee therefore recommends that the federal government increase funding to ParticipACTION to a level sufficient for the organization to:
The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities together use the recently established National Health and Fitness Day to promote the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.
The committee further recommends that the Public Health Agency of Canada provide sustained or bridged funding for pilot projects that have been assessed as effective.
The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health in discussion with provincial and territorial counterparts as well as non-governmental organizations already engaged in these initiatives:
The committee further recommends that the federal government provide funding under the New Building Canada Fund to communities for infrastructure that enables, facilitates and encourages an active lifestyle, both indoors and outdoors.
The committee therefore recommends that the Public Health Agency of Canada implement a strategy to increase the visibility, uptake and use of the Best Practices Portal by stakeholders across the country.
The committee therefore recommends that Health Canada design and implement a public awareness campaign on healthy eating based on tested, simple messaging. These messages should relate to, but not be limited to:
The committee further recommends that Health Canada and other relevant departments and agencies, together with existing expertise and trusted organizations, implement a comprehensive public awareness campaign on healthy active lifestyles.
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