Tuesday, February 01, 2011

2011 Weighty Matters Annual Report on the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Coincident with the publication of this blog post the media's likely awash with news stories about the Heart and Stroke Foundation's 2011 Annual report on Canadians' health.

Guess what? It's not so good, and as with each and every Heart and Stroke Foundation annual report there are a myriad calls to action.

Noticeably absent of course?

Calls to action for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

To that end I publish my Weighty Matters Annual Report on the Heart and Stroke Foundation. You'll notice it's pretty darn similar to last year's because, well, they haven't made any formative changes to their own shortcomings.

Makes me wonder - why does the Heart and Stroke Foundation expect folks and governments to clean up their houses when they're so clearly unwilling to clean up their own?

To the Heart and Stroke Foundation:

1. Rebuild the Health Check Program.

- Actually have the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program adopt the Heart and Stroke Foundation's own recommendation for a daily maximal intake of 1,500mg of sodium and adjust the program's criteria to bring them in line with the Canadian Stroke Network and Blood Pressure Canada's recommendation that maximal per serving sodium be 200mg.

- Create more than just a yes or no seal of approval so that foods with check marks can actually be compared to one another as there are often far healthier choices to be made even within comparable Health Check'ed products themselves.

- Evaluate all of the foods in the marketplace so that foods healthier but not a party to health check can be identified by consumers.

- Eliminate Health Check products made with refined grains (whether they're "enriched" or not).

- Eliminate beverages from the program. People should not be encouraged to drink their calories.

- Eliminate Health Check products where sugar is added as fruit juice concentrate or puree and in so doing recognize that sugar is sugar.

- Eliminate Health Check products containing processed meats and in so doing fall in line with organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society and current evidence based nutrition.

- Expand Health Check's nutrient criteria to include the literally dozens of nutritional determinants of health its current iteration ignores (right now the majority of Health Check categories only evaluate 3-4 nutritional criteria in awarding the seal).

- Eliminate restaurants from Health Check. The Heart and Stroke Foundation should be encouraging Canadians to eat out less and cook with whole foods more rather than enabling Canadians to eat out and feel a false security about their choices. "Less bad" is in fact still "bad".

2. Acknowledge the existence and importance of calories.

- Immediately add a robust energy expenditure online calculator and caloric education and guidance section to the Heart and Stroke Healthy Weight Action Plan which currently has only the most rudimentary caloric guidance.

- Add calories as a criteria to be considered for every product category in Health Check.

- Never again release any type of tool or report having to do with obesity without explicitly including and discussing calories.

3. Call for a revision to Canada's Food Guide

- The Heart and Stroke Foundation should call upon the federal government to immediately revise Canada's Food Guide reinforcing the Canadian Medical Association's call to have the Guide revised every 3-5 years to incorporate advances in our understanding of the impact of dietary choices on health.

4. Buy a mirror

Before criticizing federal and provincial governments, before chastising the public about their need to be more concerned about their determinants of health, the Heart and Stroke Foundation should take a good long look at themselves in the mirror. What might they see?

- Health Check'ed Slush Puppies.

- Health Check'ed vegetable juice with nearly a 3rd of their own daily recommended sodium maximum.

- A front-of-package labeling program that thinks 3-4 nutritional determinants of food are all that matter.

- Partnerships with Boston Pizza that lead to the sale of heart shaped pizzas on Valentines day (a practice akin to a lung association having a day where they promote cigarette sales in 7-11s where part of the proceeds of smoke sales would go to them) and the distribution of fast food coupons to children who fund raise for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

- Dietitians that rather than promote home cooking would rather give up the fight altogether and instead encourage weekly school pizza days with "healthier" fast food pizzas - akin to a respirologist encouraging light cigarettes because people are already smoking.

- Reports on childhood obesity that don't mention the word calorie even once.

For such a proud and supposedly stalwart organization these glaring shortcomings besmirch their good name.

[For those wondering, Village on a Diet recap will be tomorrow]