Health Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada
About Health Canada

Speech for the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health for the Summit on Healthy Weights

February 27, 2012
Ottawa, Ontario

Check Against Delivery

Good morning everyone, and welcome to the Summit on Healthy Weights.

I want to start this morning by saying how pleased I am that there are so many people from different sectors and walks of life here today.

When you look at the list of participants, there are people and organizations who, when they see who else is here, might often feel like you have competing interests and agendas.

But my hope is that for today, we can agree that we all have one agenda.

We're here today because Canada is facing an epidemic of childhood obesity.

And we're here because this public health challenge requires our collective commitment and action.

The number of overweight children has been rising steadily over the past few decades.

Today, more than one-in-four young Canadians is overweight or obese, with rates even higher among Aboriginal people.

Children are being diagnosed with health problems that we used to only see in adults, such as Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

We owe it to our children--and to future generations--to reverse the obesity trend, so that they can live long, healthy lives.

On the government side, Canada's health ministers are working to make this happen.

In September 2010, Health Ministers signed onto a Declaration on Prevention and Promotion. The Declaration symbolizes our commitment to make prevention a priority. We also endorsed a framework for action to address childhood obesity and promote healthy weights.

We began with a national dialogue on healthy weights, known as Our Health Our Future. Last year, dialogues took place across the country with diverse groups of Canadians to identify ideas and actions. We also invited Canadians to share their ideas through a web-based consultation. Today, we will hear what they had to say.

Last November, Health Ministers met again to take stock of our progress on healthy weights. We endorsed actions for priority work, which are highlighted in the Actions Taken and Future Directions 2011 report.

But as you know, governments alone cannot reverse this trend. Shared leadership and action by all the sectors here, today, is required. I know from discussions I've had with many of you, you're already working in your area or your sector to try to get results.

I hope that by bringing us together today, we can ultimately work together more effectively.

Today's Summit on Healthy Weights is another milestone that will move us forward in creating lasting change for children and their families. It represents a "first" in bringing together such a broad cross section of partners to address this issue.

We are here today to continue to inspire new ideas and forge new relationships.

And there are many important initiatives and resources to build on.

For example, the Children's Fitness Tax Credit provides an incentive for children to be more active.

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide and Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide - First Nations, Inuit and MÚtis are foundations for a wide variety of nutrition programs, meal planning initiatives, and education programs across the country.

Through the Nutrition North Canada Program, the federal government supports isolated Northern communities in eating healthier.

And our nation-wide, multi-year Healthy Eating Awareness and Education Initiative is providing Canadians with nutritional information to help them make better food choices. A healthy diet will help decrease their risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and other nutrition-related chronic diseases.

The ongoing Nutrition Facts Education Campaign, launched in October 2010, is the first phase of this initiative. It focuses on improving consumers' understanding of how to use the Nutrition Facts table and the % Daily Value to help them make healthier food choices.

We're working with Food & Consumer Products of Canada and 34 of its member food companies on promotional activities, such as displaying nutritional information on food packages. Today, over 300 million packaged food products display this information.

These partnerships extend the reach of our awareness and education activities.

That's why I'm pleased to announce that we are investing 4 million dollars to add new elements to the Healthy Eating Awareness and Education Initiative, in collaboration with others.

Thanks to this new investment, we will be promoting healthy eating by reducing consumer's intake of food and drinks high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium. We will promote healthy eating habits, such as eating more fruits and vegetables. And, we will provide advice to Canadians on how to follow Canada's Food Guide by choosing the right amount and types of food at home, at the grocery store, and when eating out.

This work will build on our successful collaboration this year with the Dietitians of Canada, EatRight Ontario, the British Columbia Ministry of Health, and provincial and territorial partners to develop and disseminate sodium-reduction messages.

Stakeholders across the country will use the healthy-eating messages developed under the Initiative to ensure that Canadians receive credible and consistent information, no matter where they live.

It will also fund the development of plans to promote healthy weights.

We all know that obesity is a complex problem.

So let's encourage Canadians to make changes to the way they live and to what they eat.

Let's work together to create environments that help make the healthier choice, the easier choice.

And let's give our children the healthiest possible start in life. Because, they deserve it!

Thank you.