Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Why Ontario's Healthy Active Kids Panel's Report is so Important and Heartening

If you're an Ontarian by now I'm sure you've heard a fair bit about Ontario's release yesterday of the recommendations made by our Healthy Kids Panel.

I'm not going to go into a point by point discussion and dissection. Overall the report's solid. It makes 23 recommendations and as I was warned in an off the record chat with one of the panel members this past weekend, they might not be my top 23 items, but as I told the panel member, that's not what matters. What matters is that they're not all fluff, and more importantly what matters is that many of them have their sights set very squarely on the environment.

This is not your average Eat Less, Move More report. Instead this is a report that recognizes that the world in which we're raising our kids pushes them into the open arms of food marketers, of piles of sugar, and of boatloads of calories. Kids aren't trying to gain weight, their parents aren't encouraging them to eat poorly - that's just our new default - our new normal.

While it's no doubt going to take more than 23 sandbags to build a levee, and while no doubt some of these 23 sandbags are merely beanbags, while others may have a few holes in them, what's so incredibly encouraging is that this is in fact a levee building report, and not the usual tripe about how we're going to manage a flood by teaching kids how to swim.

More from me on one of the 23 recommendations tomorrow and where I think it missed a crucial mark, but for today, kudos to the panel, and kudos to our Health Minister Deb Matthews for making childhood obesity prevention a priority, and with this panel's help, for rightly identifying that it's the world around our kids that's the problem, and that the kids indeed are alright.

Fingers crossed too that this report, unlike many of our federally funded reports, does in fact translate into action, and isn't simply tucked into a drawer somewhere.

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  1. I looked through the report and I wish this kind of broad, rational thinking could be applied to the obesity issue in general! If only we could wipe out the pervasive "Biggest Loser" mentality and acknowledge that a real solution will require accepting how our society has changed in the last few decades, that the current food environment has got to change, and---what's most personal for me---accepting that there are those of us who are naturally predisposed to be larger. Today's obesogenic culture has made it very difficult for people like us to manage this natural predisposition.

    In my book, I make the case that people have not changed---the environment has! We won't solve the obesity problem until we focus on the real systemic causes and stop blaming and shaming people.

  2. What’s a grave modern sin is that food has become our enemy. We have the experts telling us that fats are bad, animal foods are bad whilst sugar is not bad but a necessary part of a healthy diet. We are told that occasional fast foods can be part of a healthy diet but what exactly is occasional? We have lost the traditions of home cooking, from non-prepackaged foods. Looking at the carts lined up at grocery checkouts the majority of the food being purchased are packaged processed foods.

    In an era where science is supposed to reign supreme and which is called upon to prove to us that surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are the only answers to a raging cancer epidemic, why do we not have decisive studies to answer important questions about the basic nature of foods we eat? What exactly are the natures of triglycerides, HDL and LDL cholesterol? My doctor has proved herself to be confused about these fatty acids.

    Here are some basic questions that would be paramount in the understanding of nutrition, yet nutritionists, medical doctors and medical naturopaths are not in agreement between their professions or even amongst members of the individual professions.

    1. Are cow hormones in pasteurised milk detrimental to children’s health? Those hormones are meant for calves, not for another species?
    2. Are the hormones in soybeans and therefore soya products safe for human consumption?
    2. Are breads made from grains that have been soaked in water to remove lectins, the plants’ poisons meant to protect the plants from predators?
    3. Do vegetables that are grown with chemical fertilisers today have less vitamin and mineral concentrations and fewer vitamins and minerals in themselves than they did in the fifties, the thirties, the turn of the Twentieth Century?
    4. Why do doctors recommend vaccination for children that contain mercury, one of the most dangerous elements to life?
    5. Why are dentists allowed to use mercury in root canals and dental fillings?
    6. Are the softer teeth in children today due to the lack of boron and magnesium in our whole foods?
    7. Is it true that IQs of school children have been dropping since the Nineteen-Fifties and if so, what is or are the causes?
    8. Is there substantiated scientific proof that fluoride added to public water supplies is safe?
    9. Is iodine a safer and cheaper additive to public water systems and swimming pools over the dangerous and costly addition of chlorine?
    10. What are the results on human health of sugar consumption going from less than ten pounds per capita at the beginning of the Eighteenth Century, to sixty pounds at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, to over one hundred twenty pounds at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century?

    These questions do not look particularly tricky for study, at least not for a world of nations that cares about the health of their populations of today and their continuation into the future. Many hundreds of billions of dollars have been found to study cancer since the advent of modern radiation and surgery from the turn of the Twentieth Century and chemotherapy by the middle of the that Century, how come we do not know the answers to the questions proposed above. The study of nutrition seems a fairly rudimentary study compared to the study of cancer which as a disease has been progressing from one in twenty in Nineteen Hundred to more than one in three today.

    - No Time To Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy -
    - Business As Usual -

    Quickly reviewing this Ontario report, were I the CEO of any large food company, I would not be losing any sleep over it.