Thursday, September 06, 2007

Canada Fails its Children Yet Again

This past Friday our government quietly snuck out their official response to the Healthy Weights, Healthy Kids report that summarized the already politicized "findings" of the Standing Committee on Health.

If you recall, I was kindly asked to testify before that Committee regarding the shortcomings of Canada's new Food Guide.

Previously I had criticized the report itself for being toothless, however if the report was toothless than the official government response lacks even gums.

The original report had recommended:

  • 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 childrens' 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.

  • The official response?

    A 31 page document that tried to highlight all of the great work the government's already doing (so great that obesity rates rise year by year and no real dollars are being spent to do anything about it) but plainly avoided making any true commitments to any firm changes.

    Bill Jeffery, national coordinator for Canada's arm of the Center for Science in the Public Interest summarized it well in his press release,
    "after studying the report for five months, Minister of Health Tony Clement meekly committed mainly just to further research and consultations, leaving the impression that the government hasn’t done its homework or is stalling to curry favour with key food industry players."
    I guess our industry-based, rather than evidence-based Food Guide is here to stay, as are trans-fats in our food supply, fast food commercials targeting children too young to discern the difference between truth and advertising, misleading food labels, poor school nutrition and a lack of calorie information on food menus.

    Wonder how much money the government just wasted on the months of testimony, the creation of the report and the official response of self-validated, misguided, inaction?