Thursday, September 11, 2014

Health Canada So Sure of Self, It Sets Policy Before Scientific Review?

In case you're wondering what we're up against here in Canada when it comes to public health and Health Canada, this story sums it up pretty well (and is applicable to many government health agencies the world over).

Carly Weeks, one of Canada's foremost health reporters, published a story a ways back on how the Canadian Medical Association, the Childhood Obesity Foundation, the Canadian Institute for Health Research and the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, have all added their voices in demanding that Health Canada change it's lame, industry appeasing, sugar policy. For whatever reason, I only just read this Valentine's Day piece yesterday.

In it, Weeks quoted Norm Campbell, the CIHR Canadian Chair in Hypertension Prevention and Control as stating,
"We’re talking about the leading risk for death and disability and [the federal government is] doing nothing.”
Next up she quoted former Canadian Medical Association President Louis Hugo Francescutti,
"At the end of the day, I think we know what we need to do. We don’t need any more studies, but we need to develop a fairly robust national strategy."
And she also snagged this quote from Tom Warshawski, pediatrician and chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation,
"I think Health Canada is not really doing their job. They look for industry to self-regulate.
And while those quotes are damning in and of themselves, they weren't what really caught my eye. It was this.

Weeks lead the piece off noting that the increased concern from public health groups stemmed in part from a recent study published in JAMA that concluded folks whose diets included 25% or more calories from added sugars were found to be 3x more likely to develop heart disease.

Well Weeks got Health Canada on the phone and here's what she reported they said (highlighting mine),
"On Friday, a spokesman for Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the department will review the JAMA study, but ruled out setting limits on sugar added to food or adopting consumption guidelines."
And with that one line that Health Canada spokesperson, unless it was a slip of the tongue, made clear that Health Canada makes decisions in advance of, and potentially despite, the science.

Such a shame for the health of Canadians.