Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More Breathtaking Hypocrisy from Canada's Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq

Or are they outright lies?

The subject this time? Childhood obesity.

Yesterday Leona Aglukkaq, Canada's Minister of Health, launched a national "Summit on Healthy Weights" geared to discuss childhood obesity.

Her opening statement includes these remarks,
"We're here because this public health challenge requires our collective commitment and action."

"Today's Summit on Healthy Weights is another milestone that will move us forward in creating lasting change for children and their families. It represents a "first" in bringing together such a broad cross section of partners to address this issue."
So what's my problem? Those sure sound like important things, a call to action and a cross sectional representation of experts to help guide said action sound necessary.

Sure, except that we've said and done those things before, just 5 short years ago, and at taxpayers' expense.

Back in 2006 the House's Standing Committee on Health, over the course of eight months, heard hours and hours worth of testimony (including mine) which in turned helped to shape their March 2007 report Healthy Weights Healthy Kids.

How much expert testimony and consideration? By my count, over eight months the Committee heard 111 different experts representing 65 different public and private institutions which they then summarized in a formal 60 page report with 42 explicit recommendations.

Does anyone think that the science has change dramatically over the course of the past 5 years? Was 111 different experts too few? Why are we duplicating a 5 year old effort, and why are we paying for that effort's duplication?

At this point we desperately, desperately need action and sure maybe we need a Summit once we've gone ahead and implemented those first 42 recommendations (because there's no doubt, we're still going to be in a world of hurt even once/if we implement them all), but until then, do we really need to still be discussing where to start?

In terms of recommendations from Healthy Weights Healthy Kids, they were split over 13 subheadings and included:

- More research into childhood obesity
- More funding for advertising campaigns designed to educate about childhood obesity
- A call to implement the findings of the trans-fat task force
- Research on the special needs of first nations Canadians in the battle on obesity
- Improvement of nutrition labeling
- Better data collection for research
- The sharing of data with health professionals
- The identification of what will become the "lead agency" on childhood obesity in Canada
- The finding of means to reduce the costs of "nutritious" foods to the more remote parts of Canada
- The tracking of children's' involvements in sports
- Improvement of school health and fitness curricula
- New funding for improved infrastructure in schools for healthy fitness and food choices
- The evaluation of the efficacy of the ban against advertising to children in Quebec.

Of which to the best of my knowledge Health Canada has implemented a grand total of none.

So for those keeping score, it's breathtakingly hypocritical to talk of a need for a commitment to action when to date your office has been dedicated to explicit and deliberate inaction, and it's an outright lie to suggest that this summit is a first at bringing a broad spectrum of experts together to discuss childhood obesity.

Ultimately this is just more of the same from Aglukkaq and Health Canada - politicized inaction, hypocrisy and lies.

Anyone out there willing to wager that if recommendations actually come from the Summit, that they're not either rejected out of hand or simply brushed under the rug of time, cause I'm guessing that just like everything else that's come across her desk that might actually benefit the health of Canadians, Leona Aglukkaq's going to find some way to either avoid or ignore them.

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  1. What has changed in the past five years? The pharmaceutical industry is now pushing weight loss surgery for children. I suspect that's what behind the Strong4Life campaign in Georgia and no doubt they'd like to develop a customer base in Canada's health care systems as well.

    Speaking as a former fat kid in now in her forties, the idea of WLS for children is nothing short of an abomination, and if it's being pushed I hope that you'll speak out against it as you spoke out against that horrible Disney exhibit.

  2. Anonymous9:40 am

    So true... and so truely depressing. This government is making me very demoralized. Do you have any realistic suggestions for how we could get things to change?

    1. Anonymous6:05 pm

      Switching courses, one thing I have to say is: stop childhood sexual abuse and we've prevented a huge number of cases of obesity. Even adult women, when sexually harrassed or raped, sometimes gain weight in response, weight which cannot permanently be lost by dieting alone. It is protection in a really basic way.

      Many causes of obesity are far beyond "calories in-calories out".

  3. One interesting suggestion recently in the news (in Ontario's Drummond report, for instance) was to apply the GST to food.

    This would make food more expensive, including healthier foods. But the main effect might be to discourage Canadians from eating as much food. But eating too much, regardless of any food's nutritional content, is probably the biggest problem. The regressiveness of GST can be helped by increasing the GST tax credit in a progressive fashion.

  4. They should be concentrating on the parents, not the kids. Parents are the ones who need the education in nutrition since they are usually the ones in charge of buying and cooking the food the kids eat. Teach the parents and give them the tools they need and they can then teach their kids.

  5. This might sound strange, but do we really have an abundance of overweight children, or has this issue gotten blown out of proportion. I ride the bus, been a helper in schools, five years ago, for many years, go to the mall etc and I quite frankly do not see this child obesity problem. Of course there are kids that are overweight, but I do not think it is any more then we have seen in any other generation. Adults overweight, (including myself) is a different story. You can't swing a cat and not hit an Adult who is not overweight, but kids I do not see it.