In all the talk about health care sustainability we lose sight of the fact that the interventions that cost the least and are likely to have the biggest impact on population health take place outside the confines of the Ministry of Health.
Regulation has become a dirty word, made so by those who have a vested interest in making profits from activities that may not necessarily be in our best interests.
As a public we all subsidize this bad behavior in part through higher health care costs. Ottawa’s Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, for example, points out that a single serving Coca Cola bottle of our grandparents’ generation was less than a third of the size of what kids buy today at a typical vending machine or corner store. Three times the sugar, three times the calories. While I can hear the howls of freedom of choice from here, we have less freedom of choice when it comes to all of us paying the health costs related to rising rates of diabetes.
What if we were to regulate the soft drink industry to establish a standard size for a single-serving beverage? Would the wheels of industry come to a halt? Would thousands be thrown out of work? Of course not.
We don’t regulate for several reasons. For starters we keep on electing people to office who oppose the idea of government. Secondly, these same people have persuaded us that we can’t trust government. Third we have replaced our faith in government with a blind faith in business even though the root of many of our modern-day scandals is in the relationship between the two.
Earlier this year we posted a link to a video presentation by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff that was supposed to be delivered to the food industry. The Ontario Medical Association got asked to send a representative to speak on what the food industry could do to improve public health. That presentation never got delivered — they cancelled out on Freedhoff. The Ottawa family doctor decided that if the food industry didn’t want to listen, perhaps the rest of us would. Since then, more than a quarter of a million people have logged in to view that presentation on YouTube. Freedhoff has been tweeting this week about a new rant challenging the findings of a report that suggests kids today are marginally more healthy than their counterparts 10 years earlier. While we were on his Weighty Matters site, we noticed that there is a follow-up video to that original food industry presentation that suggests what public health should do, including stop appointing food industry representatives to sit on public health panels. Deb Matthews’ Ontario Healthy Kids Panel is one such example. Freedhoff also shows that the Heart and Stroke Foundation Health Check program is less than reliable, including an endorsement of grape juice that the OMA suggests should have a warning label much like we attach to cigarettes. As for children’s hospitals and schools — maybe these public institutions should stop promoting pizza sales especially at a time when childhood obesity is a growing concern. Absolutely incendiary, check out Freedhoff’s 15-minute rant from last February on the role of public health:
Last year Dr. Yoni Friedhoff was invited by the Ontario Medical Association to speak at a small food industry association breakfast. Just days before the event, the organizers uninvited Dr. Friedhoff without any explanation.
Having prepared his Powerpoint and talk, he decided to post it on-line for all of us to hear and see. In fact, more than 228,000 people have already viewed it on YouTube.
Friedhoff says the food services industry has a fiduciary duty to make profits and zero responsibility to protect public health. That responsibility should be up to us, including levelling the playing field so that ethical food producers can compete with those who make false claims about the health of their products.
To watch Dr. Friedhoff’s amazingly frank and entertaining presentation, click on the window below. When you’re done, Dr. Friedhoff encourages us to pass it on.