Tuesday, June 25, 2013

(Not the Onion) Canadian Government Teaming Up with Donut Giant Tim Horton's To Fight Diabetes

Who better to team up with than a national doughnut chain to tackle the increasingly pressing issue of diabetes prevention among Canada's First Nations' youth?

The announcement, made by Health Minister Leonna Aglukkaq, details the launch of what they're calling, "Play for Prevention" which in turn no doubt will put the focus on exercise as the preventative medicine, and not of course on the fast food culture that permeates society as a whole. That's not to say that exercise can't help, but I'm fairly certain that in the history of public health interventions there has never been one that has been proven to have led to a long term significant and sustained increase in activity among teenagers (or anyone else for that matter).

It's a brilliant move for Tim Horton's of course. For the ridiculously low price of just over $72,000 Tim Horton's partnership with the Canadian government makes it far less likely that we will see such initiatives as the establishment of zoning laws that would prevent Tim Horton's franchises from setting up shop within a certain distance of schools, or hard hitting public health messaging focused on getting Canadians out of restaurants and fast food establishments as a whole. It will also undoubtedly be utilized in the fight against mandatory menu board calorie labeling as proof positive of Tim Horton's and the restaurant industry being "part of the solution".

And fellow Canadians get ready for many more such partnerships as the Harper government has decided that these partnerships are the cornerstone and future of quality public health interventions and has formally put out a request for many more of them.

[Hat tip to Twitter's Robert Ablenas for kicking my way.]

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  1. Ah yes. Yet another example of the sort of institutional arrangements that corporations use to protect their supply chains. If what the public needs is an accurate understanding of nutritional truths, then institutional arrangements of this sort are pernicious because they promote beliefs that benefit corporations with little or no regard for the public health.

    "Quests for truth are commonly influenced, for better or for worse , by institutional arrangements that massively affect what doxastic agents hear (or fail to hear) from others. To maximize prospects for successful pursuits of truth, this variable cannot sensibly be neglected."

  2. Tim Horton's is always going to exist though. There is no way to "take down" or get rid of fast food chains. I'm starting to wonder if there is a way for us to use fast food chains to our advantage. Treat them as the friend rather than the enemy. They have the money, audience, and marketing expertise that we could use to actually enact change. The question is how to achieve it. I feel like I'm rambling, but I'm just starting to wonder how we can use corporations to our advantage instead of the other way around.

    1. Anonymous12:08 pm

      I think that's a great idea/attitude. If you can't beat them, then join them.. but keeping in mind our main goal. In this case this is a positive goal, right?!

    2. Exactly. It is a step in the right direction, and it is definitely better than nothing.

      If we focus on the positive outcomes that come of children exercising, this move is actually progress. Exercising promotes self esteem, cardiovascular fitness, improves mood, keeps kids out of trouble, etc etc. I know personally, a lot of my health-concerned attitudes and my decision to pursue a career in naturopathic medicine had foundations in my incredibly active youth.

  3. Quite surprising to see Right to Play involved -- though I'm a bit fuzzy on the connection. I know some people there, and it's always struck me as a fine organization.

  4. Anonymous12:04 pm

    I agree with Emily's point - you cannot get rid of Tim Horton's or fast food. Anywhere. In isolated places where there are no chain restaurants (I've been in Inuvik for example), there are local fast food places.

    The biggest issue is education. If you read the Heath Brothers Switch, you realize that all that we "know" about changing behaviour is not supported by research.

    So, as Emily said, partnering with a chain that has reach, and importantly messaging expertise, you have a chance of making an impact.

  5. Anonymous1:12 pm

    There is an article in the Atlantic this month on similar topic about fast food industry and obesity prevention. Long but worth a read. We have to meet the masses where they are at, and they are already "hooked" on this stuff. Better to make changes to improve this junk food than try to convince the reticent masses to eat healthy-- to embrace kale and brussel sprouts. As soon as you tell average folks something is healthy for them, they typically assume it will not taste good and reject it from the get-go. Early education is key, but for sure, we will always have this junk because it is easy to like, satisfying, relatively cheap, and easy to obtain. Yes gov. regulation might help, but so far that sort of thing has backfired--like in NY with the soda law. Food has become the new religion folks--very tightly held beliefs often based on shaky evidence or pure myth.

  6. Anonymous1:34 pm


  7. Thanks for posting the link to that Atlantic article. I read half of it the day it came out, but its honestly soooooo long that I think I need to print it out and read via hard copy : )

    I'm honestly tired of the negative news. I get it. We all get it. Certain things are horrendous for our health - fast food, trans fat, sugar, too high of a carb count. Big Pharma and Big Agra can't be trusted. Etc, etc.

    So what are we going to do about it??? Bitch some more? Ram more information down lay people's throats about "this is bad" "don't eat that, that will give you disease X Y and Z."

    We're getting to the point where we need to accept that certain "evils" exist (good and bad are relative after all - take away all the fast food and something else becomes the enemy). You can be healthy in the context of our current environment. You just need to add in as much good as you can so as to crowd out the bad. Education is obviously key. One on one time with patients, especially parents to young children. Cafeteria food in schools. Gym classes in schools.

    Once again, rambling, but just anxious to start reading positive news.

  8. Anonymous6:14 am

    Fortunately I have no need to step inside of a Tim's or any fast processed food joint. Just a personal health choice. My health choices are my responsibility.
    Having said that I disdain the Conservatives/corporate alliances.

  9. Welcome to reality. Tim Hortons is Canada's biggest seller of - wait for it! - SOUP. Like most fast food restaurants, Tims also offers a growing list of healthy options (plus nutrition calculators so you know just what you're getting). Their snack wraps are less than 200 calories (and are delicious) and their hearty veggie, split pea and turkey with wild rice soups among others have high fibre and less than 3 gr of fat (and are delicious!)

    Fast food outlets are not going away, but what can go away is the mistaken assumption that this is somehow the same Tims of the 1960s when coffee and donuts were all you could actually find on the menu.

    As Emily wisely points out here, this is a step in the right direction, and why wouldn't we embrace the money, audience and marketing expertise that Tims brings to the table?

  10. Anonymous2:53 pm

    In these difficult financial times all not-for-profit organizations have to be creative and work with corporations and donors to secure mission critical funding, but that shouldn't require selling out their values either.

    If the very mission and values of the organization are diametrically opposed to the source of funding that is contributing to the problem to begin with, is that a justifiable means to an end?

    Whether it be a health charity or a government-led diabetes health initiative, to have a fast food doughnut company fund a diabetes program seems to be a glaring contradition that could backfire for both.

    But then cigarette companies pay for smoking cessation programs, so perhaps this isn't new at all.

    Readers of this article may find this one interesting too: http://theconversation.com/big-soda-do-you-think-were-all-stupid-15324