This morning, Dr. Monika Dutt, Cape Breton’s Medical Officer of Health, spoke to CBC Radio about options and opportunities to reduce the health impacts of obesity. Dr. Dutt was responding to a recent call from the Ontario Medical Association to put graphic pictures on junk food packaging to deter people from eating these kinds of foods.
Obesity can have significant health impacts over a lifetime. Children who are obese are more likely to experience poor health throughout their lives: high blood pressure and cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, stress, asthma, and other chronic conditions.
Children in families that do not have adequate resources are more likely to be obese and face a greater burden of ill health than children who grow up in families that are better off. These families often live in poverty, do not have safe and affordable housing or access to good food, are socially marginalized, and fare poorly in a range of other determinants of health. In a recent Wellesley Institute paper, we showed that not all children are equally affected by obesity and set out obesity reduction strategies that address the underlying causes.
Dr. Dutt spoke about the social determinants that contribute to obesity and argued that improving food access and affordability, early childhood development, and improving active transportation options can improve public health outcomes.
A key aspect of the interview was a discussion about the complexity of addressing the factors that contribute to obesity. Obesity is a classic ‘wicked’ policy challenge: it is complex, shaped by many inter-dependent and constantly changing factors, and deeply rooted in the fundamental economic and social structures of our society.
But while the challenges are significant, by making simple changes we can start to make a difference. For example, making sure that all neighbourhoods have sidewalks can help to improve opportunities for people to use active transportation. Likewise, public health campaigns that provide support for breastfeeding moms can contribute to ensuring that all children have a good start in life.
You can listen to Dr. Dutt’s interview here.