Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Canada's new childhood obesity strategy wastes valuable time

Continuing in their proud tradition of ignoring their own recommendations, on Monday the Canadian Government unveiled the establishment of a "national dialogue" on childhood obesity.

The "dialogue" aims to ask Canadians what we should do about childhood obesity.

Now I'm not knocking Canadians, but can you think of any other public health crisis where the Government's sole "action" involved a, what-do-you-think-we-should-do national campaign, where we're asking questions like,

"Are you between 13-18 years of age? Share an idea in the Youth Forum"
Does Canada really need a, "Youth Forum"? While engaging Canadians isn't in of itself a bad idea, are we truly that completely clueless on what actual steps might be helpful in reducing the burden of childhood obesity?

Of course not. In fact in 2006 the Canadian Government's Standing Committee on Health heard months of expert testimony (including mine) on the problem of childhood obesity. Those consultations resulted in the publication of their March 2007 report, Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids, which in turn provided 8 pages of concrete recommendations, and the establishment of a, "national dialogue" on childhood obesity wasn't one of them.

So what did they recommend?

To summarize:

  • 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 children's' 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.

    And have they followed through with even one of those recommendations?

    Not that I'm aware of.

    The time for dialogue is long gone. The time for action is here. Yet instead of action, instead of actually following through with the recommendations that our tax money has already paid for, Leona Aglukkaq and the Harper Government have chosen to do absolutely nothing, and instead replace actual action with ridiculous, feel good lip service that will ultimately do more to waste time than to do good.