National Chief says poverty and lack of access to affordable, healthy foods the main reason for First Nations childhood obesity epidemic



    OTTAWA, March 29 /CNW Telbec/ - Tuesday's release of the House of Commons
Standing Committee on Health's report on childhood obesity, "Healthy Weights
for Healthy Kids", has recognized the underlying and confounding causes of
poverty that have a direct outcome in terms of prevalence for obesity for
First Nations children.
    "The Committee's careful consideration of the evidence showing the
alarming trend that more than half of First Nations children are either
overweight or obese is a validation of our position that the federal
government needs to honour its responsibilities to First Nations children,
their families and communities," said National Chief Phil Fontaine.
    "Childhood obesity among First Nations children is directly linked to
overcrowding, poor access to healthy foods and lack of opportunities to be
physically active in First Nations communities," said National Chief Fontaine.
"Poverty among 1 in 4 First Nations children compared to 1 in 6 Canadian
children is the greatest social justice issue facing this country, and is at
the heart of this health crisis."
    "Last week's federal budget did nothing to prevent the further impacts of
health and socioeconomic disparities faced by First Nations children,"
commented National Chief Fontaine. "First Nations governments face the most
impoverished health, social and education budgets in years. Their ability to
halt escalating crises or innovate the system to create efficiencies will be
more than ever stifled by this significant fiscal imbalance."
    "Without a comprehensive, sustainable and long-term intervention on the
part of all governments, including First Nations governments, this alarming
trend will lead our children into a future of adult obesity and chronic
diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. It should be
noted that AFN had recommended childhood obesity as a specific measure for the
success of the 2005 Kelowna Accord.
    "First Nations require improved access to a safe and inexpensive food
supply, including traditional foods," added the National Chief. "They also
require more opportunities for access to low cost physical activity, and
supportive school environments."
    Only half of First Nations schools have gym facilities. First Nations
communities were excluded from the pan-Canadian Healthy Living Initiative.
There is no program dealing with food security or recreation in First Nations
communities.
    Expansion of the Aboriginal Head Start program to all First Nations
communities and investment in its nutrition and physical activity component
would be a starting point proposed in the AFN Submission to the Standing
Committee on Health report. To access the submission in its entirety, please
visit the Health webpage at www.afn.ca. Data on First Nations childhood
obesity and related conditions can be found at www.rhs-ers.ca.

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.




For further information:

For further information: Bryan Hendry, A/Director of Communications,
(613) 241-6789 ext. 229, Cell: (613) 293-6106, bhendry@afn.ca


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