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Board meeting notes November 21, 2102

Dec 06, 2012
Equal opportunity for health for all, new health unit goal Province needs to keep food labeling regulation alive

Equal opportunity for health for all, new health unit goal

“Health equity” is a term people may begin hearing more often. Board of health members gave an enthusiastic reception to a presentation on the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s plans to address barriers to health caused by poverty, level of education, culture and other factors. Those factors, generally grouped together as socio-economic determinants, account for as much as 60 per cent of health outcomes, said Carolyn Shoreman, who heads up the new social determinants of health initiative. The presentation illustrated the issue with a fictional case study of a child with asthma whose condition was aggravated by substandard housing, in turn caused by the inability of a single parent to find work due to inadequate education.

Public health is better known for protecting the public from risks such as infectious disease or food-borne illness, and promoting behaviours such as tobacco cessation and physical activity that prevent chronic disease. Many existing programs also deal with the determinants of health. It is important to build on work that has been done to address the broader social determinants including influencing decisions at various levels of government. As many community partners are also moving forward on this work, the health unit plans to work with a wide range of partners on how decision makers in all areas of the community can influence health for the better. Two public health nurses will be spearheading the health unit’s determinants of health initiatives, Shoreman said, with the concept being included in all work done by the health unit.

Province needs to keep food labeling regulation alive

The health unit is encouraging Health Minister, Deb Matthews to revive an initiative to require high-volume restaurants to include nutrition information on their menus.

A private members’ bill requiring nutrition information on menus was scheduled to receive second reading at Queen’s Park in November. But the bill died on the order table after Premier Dalton McGuinty resigned and prorogued the Ontario Legislature.

This month the board opted to write to the minister indicating the need for nutrition menu labeling so restaurant customers could make better decisions when choosing meals. In a separate resolution, the board also called on the federal government to implement a comprehensive sodium reduction strategy that would regulate the amount of sodium (salt) in pre-packaged food, improve nutrition information on food labels, and require sodium limits in food procurement and purchasing practices of public institutions.

Renee Gaudet, a public health nutritionist, pointed out that a study in New York showed that in establishments that provide calorie information on menu boards, customers reduced their caloric intake an average of 6% per item, which could equate to 60 calories per day for an adult male. In Simcoe and Muskoka, heart disease is the leading cause of death. Sixty per cent of adults in the region are either overweight or obese. It is known that too much sodium contributes to heart disease, and excess calorie intake contributes to overweight and obesity.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the board of health takes place January 16, 2013 at 9:15 a.m. at the Barrie office, 15 Sperling Drive. There will be no December meeting.


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