Curbing Childhood Obesity: An Overview of the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights

The main causes of death and ill health in Canada are chronic diseases and injuries; however, a large proportion of these can be prevented or delayed.

That's why, through collaborative efforts such as the Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy and the Declaration on Prevention and Promotion, Canada's Federal, Provincial and Territorial (FPT) Ministers of Health and of Health Promotion/Healthy Living have made the promotion of health and the prevention of disease, disability and injury a priority.

In September 2010, Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Health agreed to focus efforts on curbing childhood obesity and promoting healthy weights as a critical first step in helping Canadians live longer, healthier lives.

The concern:

In recent decades, rates of unhealthy weights among children have risen steadily.
Today, more than one-in-four children in Canada are overweight or obese.

Childhood obesity can contribute to a number of health issues in childhood and can also lead to long-term health problems later in life. Health problems that were previously seen only in adults are now also affecting children, including problems such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

If we do not reverse the trend of childhood obesity, today's children may have less healthy and possibly shorter lives than their parents.

Reversing the trend:

Many Canadians have heard the message that eating well and being active are key to healthy living. Several factors influence Canadians' abilities to make healthy choices such as social, technological, environmental and economic forces in our communities, our country and around the globe.

Addressing the causes of obesity requires a society-wide shift to change the social and physical environments that influence children's and families' eating habits and activity levels. Everyone has a role to play in supporting healthy weights — government, private and non-profit sectors, parents, school boards and communities.

The way forward:

To guide a collaborative and coordinated approach to promoting healthy weights, Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Health endorsed Curbing Childhood Obesity: A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights.

Through the Framework, Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers have agreed to make childhood obesity a collective priority, to champion this issue, and to coordinate work with many areas of Canadian society.

Federal, Provincial and Territorial Health Ministers will work together to curb obesity in children under the age of 18 by focusing on three key policy priorities:

  • making the environments where children live, learn and play more supportive of physical activity and healthy eating;
  • identifying the risk of obesity in children and addressing it early; and
  • increasing the availability and accessibility of nutritious foods and decreasing the marketing to children of foods and beverages that are high in fat, sugar or sodium.

Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers will measure and report on collective progress and adjust their approach, if necessary.

Next steps:

Under this Framework, Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers will work together and with stakeholders to identify joint and/or complementary actions. As a first step, Ministers of Health agreed to engage Canada's youth and all sectors of society — public, private, non-governmental organizations and community leaders, policy and decision-makers — to gather their perspectives and identify priority actions.

Our Health Our Future: A National Dialogue on Healthy Weights was launched by federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Health on March 7, 2011.

In partnership with provinces and territories, we'll be talking to Canadians across the country, as well as industry, communities and other stakeholders to other stakeholders to identify gaps, barriers and opportunities, and to encourage commitment for actions to support healthy weights in children and youth.

Please visit Our Health Our Future to participate.

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