Tackling Childhood Obesity in Canada

12 childhoodobesity 1Canada, like many countries around the world, is facing a growing epidemic of chronic diseases. Many of these diseases are propagated by an increase in overweight and obese populations, seen particularly in children. In Canada, one in three children are overweight or obese – a number that has nearly tripled in the last thirty years[i]. Access and availability of nutritious foods, built environment, school food environment, and levels of physical activity are just a few of the factors with the potential to impact child overweight and obesity levels[ii].

In the last decade, there has been a more pressing call to action to address the current childhood overweight and obesity crisis. In Canada, varying levels of government, health professionals, academics, and non-governmental organizations (NGO) have developed and implemented a number of joint and complimentary initiatives to address this issue.

In 2010, provincial, territorial and federal Ministers of Health endorsed the Curbing Childhood Obesity Framework, a multi-sectoral strategy that seeks to address childhood obesity through three pillars: supportive environments, nutritious foods, and early action through risk assessmentsii.

As for the non-governmental sector, the Childhood Obesity Foundation, Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition, and SickKids Team Obesity Management Program (STOMP) are just some of the Canadian organizations that advocate for and implement programs that promote childhood healthy weights.

Most recently, in 2016, Health Canada launched the Healthy Eating Strategy, a set of regulatory and policy initiatives that have one common goal: improving the food environment for Canadians. These initiatives include: restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, introducing mandatory front-of-package labelling, revising Canada’s Food Guide, eliminating industrial trans fats, and reducing sodium in processed foods.

This epidemic has seen an unprecedented growth in developing and developed countries alike. While the World Health Organization has set the bold target of no increase in global childhood overweight rates by 2025[iii], some countries such as England[iv] have taken it one step further and set targets for a reduction in childhood overweight and obesity rates. Canada is poised to be a leader in tackling this public health issue with strong regulatory initiatives and multi-sectoral action.

Samantha Nesrallah RD MPH
Health Writer
Ottawa, CANADA

[i] Public Health Agency of Canada. (2016, September 12). Childhood obesity. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/childhood-obesity/childhood-obesity.html
[ii] Public Health Agency of Canada. (2010). Curbing Childhood Obesity: A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights. Retrieved from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/framework-cadre/pdf/ccofw-eng.pdf
[iii] World Health Organization. (2018, February 05). Global Targets 2025. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/nutrition/global-target-2025/en/
[iv] Mandal, A. (2018, June 25). New measures to tackle childhood obesity in Britain. Retrieved from https://www.news-medical.net/news/20180625/New-measures-to-tackle-childhood-obesity-in-Britain.aspx