MONTREAL, Oct. 18, 2016 /CNW Telbec/ - Close to 100 organizations representing decision-makers from all sectors are calling on the Québec government to immediately implement an ambitious coordination plan for preventive healthcare and integration of healthy habits into people's daily lives, funded by a tax increase on cigarettes and introduction of a tax on sugary drinks.
The Alliance for a Healthy Québec (AHQ) is demanding that significant investments be made to integrate changes across all sectors—school and municipal infrastructures, the food supply, and the workplace—that will encourage the adoption of healthy lifestyles, with a focus on prevention.
These investments could be made without jeopardizing the government's budgetary balance by applying the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates that 70% of the cost of cigarettes and 20% of the cost of sugary drinks should consist of taxes. "By applying these recommendations, the government would have $2.6 billion over five years. This would give it all the leeway it needs to implement an effective strategy that is supported by Quebeckers," said Sylvie Bernier, Olympic champion, healthy lifestyles ambassador and member of the AHQ executive.
"The Québec government will have the last word on raising the tax on tobacco products and introducing a tax on sugary drinks," she continued. "We are asking, however, that the price of these unhealthy products be as close as possible to the WHO recommendations to reduce consumption as quickly as possible, as well as allowing for the significant investments needed so that Quebeckers can adopt healthy daily habits."
Seizing the opportunity
According to the AHQ, the social and political context has never presented greater opportunities to support the implementation of environments that foster healthy habits:
- The federal government's infrastructure program that will inject billions of dollars in municipal projects for 2016-2017;
- The expected announcement of the Québec government's preventive healthcare policy;
- The 2016-2019 school infrastructure investment program announced by Québec's Education Minister.
It is often difficult to include the amounts needed in infrastructure budgets to install drinking fountains in parks, widen sidewalks or add active leisure equipment, for example. Since major investments will be made in the years ahead, it is vital that municipalities and school boards have access to complementary funds to take advantage of this unique opportunity to maintain and create environments that encourage healthier habits and better quality of life.
Strong public desire
Quebeckers have clearly expressed their desire to adopt healthier habits and are calling for effective support measures, as several recent surveys have shown:
- Seven out of 10 Quebeckers (71%) feel that various aspects of a healthy lifestyle are essential ingredients for a good quality of life. To achieve this, they are prepared to do more, but also want to be supported in their efforts.
- 87% of Quebeckers say they aspire to live a healthy lifestyle, eat better and be more physically active. But at the same time, they admit they often find it hard to make healthy habits part of their daily routine.
- 82% of Quebeckers consider that parents alone are not responsible for the ensuring that young people eat well, and feel that institutions also have a responsibility (government, municipalities, schools, and childcare centres).
- 66% of Quebeckers believe schools could be doing more to facilitate access to healthy food; this percentage rises to 76% for municipalities and 83% for governments.
An "Active Revolution"
The Alliance for a Healthy Québec believes the time has come to join forces for a project that will position Québec in the vanguard for disease prevention among Western societies, by prioritizing the integration of healthy daily habits. If the 20th century brought us the Quiet Revolution, the 21st century will usher in the "Active Revolution."
"The WHO has identified sugary drinks as a major contributor to the current obesity epidemic. Consuming one of these drinks a day raises the risk of obesity by 60% in children and by 27% in adults," explained cardiologist Martin Juneau, director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute and member of the AHQ executive. "A tax on sugary drinks has increasingly been documented by science as an effective measure for reducing consumption."
Making healthy habits part of daily routines
For the AHQ, the key to changing behaviours is to make changes to the school and municipal infrastructures, the food supply and the workplace—in every sector of activity—that will make it easier to adopt habits focusing on health and prevention. "In schools, this involves such things as changing the menus offered to students, reducing the amount of sugar in food and drinks, and providing equipment that encourages physical activity so young people embrace healthier habits as early as possible," said Claudine Labelle, member of the AHQ executive and founding president of Fillactive.
Denis Marion, mayor of Massueville, vice-president of the Réseau québécois de Villes et Villages en santé and member of the AHQ executive, believes the municipal sector is ready to do its part in encouraging the adoption of healthier habits: "We're ready to make changes in our communities to improve access to equipment, facilities and infrastructures that foster healthy lifestyles. But if we are really going to effect change, we can't do it alone: we need financial support to succeed in making a difference."
Lastly, in the area of prevention, the fight against smoking is important for the AHQ. "At 19%, Quebec has one of the highest rates of smokers in Canada," explained Mélanie Champagne, director of public issues with Canadian Cancer Society's Quebec division and member of the AHQ executive. "We're still a long ways from our target of 12% by 2021. We need to hike tobacco taxes significantly."
A call for general mobilization
The AHQ, which already has many partners, is inviting organizations in all sectors to join forces to increase and improve environments that will encourage healthier habits. "People have become more aware of healthier lifestyles and are ready to do more, but the big challenge is making it part of their daily lives," added Ms. Bernier. "We need to focus on collective initiatives and create favourable environments if we want to provide concrete support for individual efforts."
For a Québec that is genuinely healthy, the AHQ is convinced that priority must be placed on all environments that can foster healthier habits. This will be the way to reverse the worrying trends in obesity and chronic diseases. The fight against smoking and sugar consumption could also be intensified. In the next few years, both levels of government will be making major investments to upgrade municipal and school infrastructures. This will be an opportunity to adapt our environments so they encourage healthier lifestyles.
The public can voice support for the AHQ or find more information at pourunquebecensante.org.
About the Alliance for a Healthy Québec
The Alliance for a Healthy Québec rallies decision-makers from all sectors that have an impact on Quebeckers' lifestyle habits. The only group of its kind in the province, it aims to create environments that encourage healthy habits, in response to the expectations of Quebeckers. The AHQ, which already has close to 100 member-organizations, is launching an appeal to the government so it can continue and step up collective efforts to improve Quebeckers' quality of life.
SOURCE Alliance for a Healthy Québec