Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Barrie Office
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Board meeting Notes June 15, 2016

Jul 14, 2016
Alcohol moderation a challenge in face of government policies; Food pricing & income: a growing gap

Alcohol moderation a challenge in face of government policies

Public health faces a daunting challenge trying to introduce a culture of alcohol use moderation while the provincial government relaxes liquor laws.

That was the message from Simcoe Muskoka Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner as he introduced a report on the health unit’s efforts to reduce excessive alcohol consumption in the region. The report states that close to one-third of residents in Simcoe Muskoka consume more than the national Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines, a rate about five per cent above the provincial average. A survey of students showed local youth are trying alcohol as early as Grade 7.

Between 2000 and 2007, in Simcoe and Muskoka, twice as many people 15 to 69 years old died from alcohol-related illness as died from infectious diseases.

The health unit has responded by working with municipalities to introduce policy to reduce excess consumption. By promoting the Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines’ limits for daily and weekly alcohol consumption, the health unit hopes to drive home the message that although alcohol is recognized as socially acceptable, too much will contribute to chronic illness and physical harm.  

Food pricing & income: a growing gap

The health unit has responded to a call from the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health to press for income solutions that would make healthy food more affordable for all.

About 11 per cent of residents in Simcoe Muskoka can’t afford healthy food choices on a regular basis, Public Health Nutritionist Jane Shrestha told the board of health. Food charities such as food banks do their best to meet urgent food needs, she said, but their work does not address the root cause: lack of income. Social assistance or employment at minimum wage simply isn’t sufficient, regardless of the rise or fall in food prices. Less nutritious food means that children in those low-income households risk poorer physical and mental health, and lack of proper nutrition can contribute to youth depression and social anxiety. A basic income guarantee, or guaranteed annual income, would provide people with the means to “meet their basic needs including food and living in dignity.”

In its 2016 budget the Ontario Government pledged to pilot a basic income guarantee.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the board of health takes place September 21 at 9:15 a.m.
in the Barrie office, 15 Sperling Drive.


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