The Government of Canada has taken steps to try and reverse the trend of obesity rates among children which has tripled over the last 30 years.  

"Health Canada has a healthy eating strategy," explained Public Health Nutritionist, Barb Wright with the Saskatchewan Health Authority in Estevan, "that can help support Canadians to make healthier choices by improving the food environment through several different initiatives."

"One of those initiatives is looking at the restriction of marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children. We have found that over the past decade, there has been a growing concern about the negative impact that marketing of food and beverages is having on children's nutritional health."

"The aim of this work is to actually reduce the exposure that children have to unhealthy food and beverage advertising."

She shares that food marketing can be very subtle.

"It used to be that it was only on Saturday mornings when we were watching cartoons, but now it is everywhere. Even when an organization is trying to reinforce positive behaviour for children, they give them coupons for McDonald's. That makes it hard to choose the healthier foods."

She adds that cost and time spent preparing healthy food can also be an obstacle when you are trying to make healthy choices. 

While obesity rates continue to be much higher than before, in the last few years, those rates have started to decrease. 

"But regardless of that, weight is not generally a good measure of health. The factors associated with weight are quite complex. And although they include health behaviours like healthy eating and physical activity, they also have broader social and environmental determinance that impact health. So regardless of the size of the child, childhood nutrition and health must remain the primary focus."

"One of the things that impact nutritional health of children are policies which guide the decisions about what kinds of food would be available to children in childcare facilities, in schools, in recreation facilities or even in afterschool programs. They will have a large impact on the nutritional health of children regardless of weight of body size."

"Also, it is important that children have safe places that they can be active and use active transportation such as walking or biking. it's really important for their growth and development."

"These factors actually go far beyond a parent's responsibility of what they feed their own children. And both children and adults need healthy environments regardless of weight."

So what can you do?

"First of all, know that the health of children is the responsibility for all of us, not just the parents of these children. If you are offering food in an organization, or a facility, ensure that it's healthy food that's available. Limit or avoid food or coupons as rewards. encourage organizations and facilities that you attend to offer healthy foods at competitive prices."

"And then look at the local community, and question if it's walkable. If it's easy to get from one place to another using active transportation. Things like sidewalks, crosswalks, lights all make it easier to be physically active." 

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