Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak in support of Motion No. 319, put forward by my hon. colleague, the member for Ottawa—Orléans.
This is an issue which I feel passionately about due to my work as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and as an advocate for children and youth. “Reaching for the Top”, published in 2008, really focused on these issues.
Good public policy is not about ignoring issues when they exist. Good public policy is about taking a look at what is really going on and then taking action to address the root causes of these issues.
The motion is about taking action. I commend my colleague for bringing it forward. The motion calls on the government to continue promoting and maintaining healthy weights for children and youth through a number of means, including continuing dialogue with all sectors of society, encouraging discussions about the factors that lead to obesity, encouraging Canadians and organizations to promote healthy weight for children, and building on the federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weight.
Rates of obesity among Canadian children and youth have tripled in the last 25 years. More than one in four children are now overweight or obese, and rates are even higher among aboriginal populations.
The costs of these trends are high. Obesity is strongly linked to high rates of type 2 diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Even more concerning, children and youth are being increasingly diagnosed in places like my clinic with what have been traditionally known as solely adult diseases.
These trends translate into direct costs for our health care system and put an ever increasing burden on the provincial health care systems.
In 2006 obesity-related chronic illnesses accounted for over $7 billion in direct and indirect costs. This figure is likely an underestimate of the true impact.
Being obese and overweight also has a huge impact on Canadians, particularly children and youth. That is why addressing these risk factors early is a large part of the solution.
The strength of Motion No. 319 is its acknowledgement of the important foundational work we have already done to tackle this issue. The government has taken action.
Two key milestones will guide future work on childhood obesity. These milestones were endorsed by federal, provincial and territorial health ministers in 2010, followed by ministers responsible for sports, physical activity and recreation in 2011.
The first milestone is the declaration on prevention and promotion. This declaration is a statement of the ministers' vision to work together across all sectors to promote healthy living. At the same time, the declaration makes disease, disability and injury prevention priorities for action.
The second milestone is on curbing childhood obesity, a federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights. Through this framework Canada's ministers of health agreed to make childhood obesity a collective priority and to focus efforts on three pillars. The first is to make the environment where children live, learn and play more supportive of physical activity and healthy eating. The second is to identify the risks of obesity in children and address them early. The third is to increase the availability and accessibility of nutritious foods.
This framework is strongly rooted in results. Ministers have committed to measuring and reporting the collective progress, thus ensuring value for dollars spent and public accountability.
Reversing childhood obesity trends is an important focus that requires action from all sectors of society, including governments, industry, communities, families and individuals. The task of organizations such as the Sandbox Project and others across the country is to focus on bringing these sectors together to provide leadership in this area.
Consistent with the motion, the Government of Canada has been a leader and a catalyst in moving the dialogue forward among these groups. This is critical because this dialogue identifies the actions that are required to promote healthy weights.
Moving forward, we will continue building on these successes while fostering collaboration and continued dialogue across all sectors. One thing we have already learned from these cross-sectoral discussions is the profound impact that social and physical environments have on healthy weights.
By promoting healthy eating and physical activity early on and in places where children live, learn and play, we can reduce the risk of childhood obesity in the future.
In keeping with this motion, the government is involved in a number of cross-sectoral initiatives that target these environments and support children in learning important lifelong healthy habits.
Currently federal, provincial and territorial governments are collaborating through the Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health to support comprehensive school health programs. These programs provide a supportive school environment for healthier eating, increased physical activity and healthier weights among children and youth. We have contributed to these projects aimed at getting more families walking and wheeling to and from school by bringing together community stakeholders to identify barriers to active transport.
Families and communities play an essential role in supporting the attainment of healthy weights for children and youth. To this end, the Government of Canada has made major investments in communities and families to support healthier lifestyles and increased physical activity.
One of these examples is the children's fitness tax credit, an initiative that I was proud to chair the expert panel for, which encourages parents to get their children out and active and to participate in sports and programs. This tax initiative offsets those costs. This model initiative has since been emulated by several provinces and territories that have introduced similar tax credits to get children off of the PlayStation and onto the playground.
The government supports the development of community spaces and activities. Through its recreational infrastructure Canada program, we have given funding to municipalities across Canada to improve and develop sports and recreational facilities. In turn, these facilities provide Canadian families with the benefits of community-based physical activity.
Through ParticipACTION, a national leader in physical activity and sports participation in Canada, we promoted healthier lifestyles for Canadians through physical activity and sport. Participaction works with partners in the not-for-profit, public and private sectors on a range of campaigns, tool kits and knowledge exchange initiatives to inspire Canadians to become more physically active. I am sure everyone in the House remembers doing the flexed-arm hang and other running activities in order to get out and active.
Consistent with the motion, the government has also developed a number of tools that provide Canadians with the information they need to make healthier choices around physical activity and healthy eating. For example, the Get Active tip sheets help Canadians incorporate regular physical activity into their lifestyles, while the Eat Well and Be Active tool kit supports the health and educational sectors to teach children and adults about healthy lifestyles.
Healthy weights is a theme for a number of the government's community-based initiatives, the Canadian diabetes strategy being among them. As well, we have the aboriginal diabetes initiative, the nutrition north Canada program, the Canada prenatal nutrition program, aboriginal head start, the healthy living fund and the innovation strategy for healthier weights.
As well, the community action programs for children are serving vulnerable Canadian children across the country and their families by supporting and promoting healthier lifestyles, including risk awareness for factors of unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.
These are all steps in the right direction, but more needs to be done. When tackling obesity, it is essential to identify challenges early so that children and families have the support they need.
A key component is the federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights, which is supported by Motion No. 319. It will ensure this information is in place and accessible to decision-makers. To this end, we are investing in understanding trends and filling knowledge gaps.
Through Statistics Canada's Canadian community health survey and the Canadian health measures survey, we have access to information about the healthy behaviours and health outcomes of Canadian children. Canada also funds the national portion of an international survey on the health behaviours of school-aged children. This survey compares the health and health-related behaviours, including physical activity, of young people in 43 jurisdictions, which helps improve our understanding of physical activity levels by providing comparable international figures. Data from these surveys, along with other measures, help us determine the effectiveness of our actions.
In addition, our government has invested in obesity-related research. Through CIHR and its Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes, we have invested over $34 million in 2010-11 alone. This research will help build our knowledge and understanding of obesity and support communities in addressing the challenges in improving health across the country.
I know that in my community of Simcoe—Grey, the YMCA in Collingwood and the physical activity teachers in Collingwood Collegiate Institute, Jean Vanier High School and the Banting Memorial High School all benefit from this research.
Under the federal, territorial and provincial framework, we have continued working with partners to gather information on obesity trends and to track the progress of actions taken by health educators, by the recreation sector and by all levels of government. These include reporting to Canadians on key indicators that track trends and factors contributing to childhood obesity. Canada's ministers of health will report every two years on the progress of this work.
I want to commend this member and the government for the action they are taking in this area. It recognizes the importance of encouraging physical activity as a key to reducing the risks of obesity and chronic illness in Canada's children and youth. Though much groundwork has been laid, more needs to be done to curb childhood obesity and to help children and youth attain a healthy weight. This requires a collaborative effort over time.
The motion before us recognizes the essential elements to this path, the importance of collaboration and dialogue across all sectors, the role we all have in creating healthy environments and supporting healthy weight, and the need to continue building on the foundational components put in place by the federal–provincial–territorial framework. By this motion, we can advance continued discussions and actions in the promotion of—