An epidemic of overweight and obesity is threatening Ontario’s health. I am alarmed to report that, in 2003, almost one out of every two adults in Ontario was overweight or obese. Between, 1981 and 1996, the number of obese children in Canada between the ages of seven and 13 tripled. This is contributing to a dramatic rise in illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension and some cancers.
Why this epidemic? In part, it is caused by our genes or our lack of willpower. Yet, in the 21st century, our environments increasingly are responsible for tipping us into overweight and obesity.
We are now living in ‘obesogenic’ environments, communities, workplaces, schools and homes that actually promote or encourage obesity :
- many young people do not have the opportunity to be physically active every day and are surrounded by ads promoting soft drinks and snack foods
- more adults work in sedentary jobs and drive long distances to work
- ‘super-sized’ food portions are the norm
- more communities lack sidewalks, park space, bike lanes and recreation programs
- more people do not have enough income to make healthy food choices
As a society we have lost the balance between the energy we take in and the energy we expend, which is key to a healthy weight. Just when Ontarians are faced with more food choices, more processed foods, and larger food portions, we have engineered physical activity out of our lives, replacing it with remote controls, computers and video games.
We have made our generation the most sedentary in history.
In this report, I set out a plan to promote healthy weights in Ontario. The goal is to help all Ontarians understand the factors that affect their weight and find the right balance between the food they eat (energy in) and how physically active they are (energy out), and to create environments – day care centres, schools, worksites, recreation centres, communities – that promote physical activity and healthy eating.
The province’s health system is committed to reversing the trend to overweight and obesity, but it cannot solve the problem on its own. Because physical, social, cultural and environmental factors have such a strong influence on weight, Ontario needs a broad, multi-sectoral, community-wide response to this epidemic.
I call on all levels of government, the health sector, the food industries, work places, schools, families and individuals to become part of a comprehensive province-wide effort to change all the factors that contribute to unhealthy weight. We must act now to create communities that promote healthy eating and regular physical activity.
Healthy weights mean healthy lives.
(original signed by)
Dr. Sheela Basrur
Chief Medical Officer of Health and Assistant Deputy Minister