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Canadian Public Health Association

Obesity IS a public health concern



April 28, 2014 (OTTAWA) – Dietitians of Canada and the Canadian Public Health Association are disturbed by the conclusions and recommendations outlined in the Fraser Institute report released April 28, 2014. The report’s interpretation of health and economic data could lead to confusion among both policy-makers and the public.

“It’s potentially misleading to suggest that the current situation in Canada lacks a disconcerting trend or is exaggerated. Rates of obesity in Canada increased dramatically in the two decades before the time period examined in this report. Comparison of measured data in 1978/79 versus 2004 showed that rates of obesity in Canada had tripled among adolescents and nearly doubled among adults. So a slowing down in this rate of increase is hopeful, but not a sign that there is no longer a problem,” says Kate Comeau, Registered Dietitian and Spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada. “It is critical to continue work to prevent the development of expensive, high-risk health complications resulting from obesity. Chronic diseases associated with obesity can lead to lower productivity and negatively impact quality of life.”

“There have been many public health efforts over the past decade to prevent childhood obesity, and we have seen positive impacts, but this does not mean it is time to pull back,” explains Kim Raine, Registered Dietitian, and Professor at the School of Public Health at University of Alberta. “Prevention is a long-term investment, requiring support from government and the private sector – increases in calorie intakes happened over a time period of some 25 years. Collectively, we need time to evaluate the impact of programs and policies over the long term, to stop further increases in obesity rates and to address this concerning problem in Canada.”

Where there is agreement with the Institute’s report is that current government policies fail to address the many complex causes of obesity or overweight. “Governments’ failure to take a health-in-all-policies approach addressing the psychological and socioeconomic factors such as culture, family life and structure, and income is an important limitation of current initiatives,” said Ian Culbert, Executive Director of the Canadian Public Health Association. “Public health activities represent a very small proportion of health budgets in Canada – less than 5% of total health care costs. The effectiveness of government interventions needs to be studied with respect to all strategies, including government spending to alleviate poverty and the many social factors that add to the burden of disease.”

Bottom line from DC and CPHA to government: Rates of obesity and risk to health continues to be high in Canada; prevention efforts with government support should be continued and properly evaluated to make sensible policy decisions and maximize potential return on investment.

For more information contact:
Danielle Tremblay, Communications Manager
Canadian Public Health Association
Telephone: 613.725.3769, ext. 160

About the Canadian Public Health Association
Founded in 1910, the Canadian Public Health Association is the independent voice for public health in Canada with links to the international community. As the only Canadian non-governmental organization focused exclusively on public health, we are uniquely positioned to advise decision-makers about public health system reform and to guide initiatives to help safeguard the personal and community health of Canadians and people around the world. We are a national, independent, not-for-profit, voluntary association. Our members believe in universal and equitable access to the basic conditions which are necessary to achieve health for all.

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