Last March the Healthy Kids Panel made a series of recommendations around tackling child obesity including investing $80 million per year in new funding.
That’s only $5.87 per person to tackle a problem that is said to cost Ontarians $4.5 billion in downstream health care costs. We’ll see if it shows up in the spring budget.
There hardly seems to be fire lit underneath the Ministry of Health to implement what was essentially a very modest set of initiatives. Some might say too modest.
The report by the Healthy Kids Panel has few tangible recommendations around active living, for example, nor does it make any recommendations around regulation of processed food despite well-documented links to diabetes and heart disease.
The panel does recommend banning marketing of high-calorie, low nutrient foods to children. While that would be a no-cost item to government, more than a year after the report was issued Ontario has not yet acted.
There have been a few smaller initiatives started – the government maintains that it is working on breastfeeding supports, a student nutrition program, and an expansion of the Northern Fruit and Vegetable program which provides healthy snacks to 18,000 students. Up to 30 Ontario communities will get training and funding to run local initiatives under a program called the Healthy Kids Community Challenge.