Heart and Stroke Foundation urges government to act on childhood obesity report

    OTTAWA, March 27 /CNW Telbec/ - The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
(HSFC) applauds the recommendations in the House of Commons Standing Committee
on Health's new report on childhood obesity, Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids
and urges the federal government to act on the report now.
    "An alarming 26 per cent of Canadian children are overweight or obese -
putting them on a fast track to developing hypertension, heart disease, and
stroke at much younger ages than we see today," says Sally Brown, HSFC CEO.
"Due to an obesity-related reduced life expectancy, today's youth could be the
first generation that will not live as long as their parents."
    This reality will be further compounded by the expected strain put on the
health system by our aging population - resulting in a double crunch from both
ends of the age spectrum.
    "For several years the Heart and Stroke Foundation has warned Canadians
that 'Fat is the New Tobacco.' We will move backwards in our fight heart
disease and diabetes unless obesity is addressed now. By acting on the
report's achievable targets for healthier children by the year 2010 and 2020,
we can set a stellar example as a country dedicated to improving health in our
Olympic year and ensure that more of the next generation of Canadian children
live at a healthy weight," added Stephen Samis, HSFC director of health
    The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that the government also
develop targets for overweight as well as obesity.
    The Foundation is particularly pleased to see the following
recommendations in the report:

    Trans fats
    - The Foundation applauds the Committee for recognizing the importance of
      removing trans fats from our food supply and for recommending that the
      government implement the recommendations of the Trans Fat Task Force.
    - The Heart and Stroke Foundation urges the Minister of Health to move
      forward immediately on this important health issue.

    Food labelling
    - The Heart and Stroke Foundation fully supports the recommendation to
      implement a mandatory, simple front of packaging labelling requirement
      on pre-packaged food for easy identification of nutritional food.
    - We believe Health Check(TM), the Foundation's food information program
      which is based on Canada's Food Guide, can and should be the iconic
      program for Canada. The Foundation offers to work with the government
      to grow and adapt the program as necessary to meet this goal.

    Healthy community infrastructure
    - The Foundation applauds the Committee for recommending the
      establishment of a new and dedicated percentage of infrastructure
      funding be allocated to infrastructure that supports active, healthy
      living such as sidewalks, bike paths, street lighting, parks,
      recreation centres. How and where we live influences our ability to be
      physically active and maintain a healthy weight. How we design
      neighbourhoods is critical. The type of transportation we use impacts
      our children's fitness and health.
    - HSFC has recommended that at least 7% of infrastructure funding be so
      dedicated. The United States federal government allocates 10%.

    Advertising to children
    - The Foundation agrees wholeheartedly with the need for government and
      industry to take action on regulating advertising to children.

    Data and surveillance
    - The Foundation welcomes the focus on improving our data infrastructure
      and building research capacity.
    - Our country needs a pan-Canadian life-long cohort study that includes a
      birth cohort to track the health of Canadians, and the determinants of
      health, over their lives. Canada is one of the few developed countries
      without such a cohort. Quebec has a birth cohort. The rest of Canada
      does not. It's time for the federal government to improve our national
      research data infrastructure, which is key to attracting and retaining
      the best health researchers in the world.

    "We need to move fast to stem the tide of obesity. The Heart and Stroke
Foundation urges the government to act now to meet the report's targets," says
Brown. "By putting the health of our children first, our government can make
real progress towards reducing obesity and its negative health effects."

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation (www.heartandstroke.ca), a
volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke
and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its
application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.

    For more information on the Foundation's Health Check(TM) food
information program, with over 1,000 products, see www.healthcheck.org

For further information:

For further information: Jane-Diane Fraser, Heart and Stroke Foundation,
(613) 569-4361 ext 273, jfraser@hsf.ca

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