Monday, October 28, 2013

Public Health, Halloween, and Hershey's

I've regularly stated that parenting, while incredibly challenging, can be boiled down to one straightforward instruction, "Live the life you want your children to live".

And while all of us parents do our bests therein, sometimes I feel that the same can't be said for our proverbial parents in health - public health departments and their kin.

This past weekend saw the City of Ottawa host a Halloween Trick or Treat with the Mayor. Sponsored by Hershey's, here's the description of the week before actual Halloween bash,
"Receive a warm welcome from the Mayor and get sweet treats from some of your favorite costumed characters in Jean Pigott Place, enjoy medieval fun at the Lisgar Street entrance and classic Halloween movies in Andrew S. Haydon Hall. The fun continues outside on Marion Dewar Plaza where you can decorate your very own miniature pumpkin in the outdoor pumpkin patch and enjoy horse-drawn hay rides, where even more treats from our sponsors await you!"
For my non-Ottawan readers, our Mayor, Jim Watson, was formerly Ontario's Minister of Health Promotion and knows well the challenges our current environment poses. No doubt, these days, our children are not lacking in opportunities to be given candy, especially not in October, and from a public health perspective, our children need fewer opportunities for treats, and cities, public health departments, schools, hospitals and the like, need to provide more examples of working with children without leaning on the crutch of candy to make them happy.

I tweeted Mayor Watson my concerns and he let me know that alongside the candy the City was also handing out apples, tooth brushes and glow sticks.

Maybe next year they can ditch the candy (and the tooth brushes, and Hershey's sponsorship), keep the glow sticks, and also pick up some temporary tattoos, stickers and the free passes for swims and skates at City recreation facilities as I'm pretty sure Ottawa's kids won't be lacking in opportunities to be given candy this week.

All of this to say, we can, and should, do better.

For more thoughts herein, if you haven't watched it already, here's the talk I gave last year to the Ontario Public Health Association (which led to their being strong-armed briefly with the threat of a lawsuit from the food industry) where I point out many more contradictions in public health.



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