A Plan to Reverse Childhood Obesity

In January 2012, the Ontario Government got serious about childhood obesity and created the multisectoral Healthy Kids Panel …asking them to sketch out a framework designed to help us reduce childhood obesity by 20 per cent within five years.

Here is what they came back with:

1. Start All Kids on the Path to Health

1.1 Educate women of child-bearing age about the impact of their health and weight on their own well-being and on the health and well-being of their children.
1.2 Enhance primary and obstetrical care to include a standard pre-pregnancy health check and wellness visit for women planning a pregnancy and their partners.
1.3 Adopt a standardized prenatal education curriculum and ensure courses are accessible and affordable for all women.
1.4 Support and encourage breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life.
1.5 Leverage well-baby and childhood immunization visits to promote healthy weights and enhance surveillance and early intervention.


2. Change the Food Environment

2.1 Ban the marketing of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, beverages and snacks to children under age 12.
2.2 Ban point-of-sale promotions and displays of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages in retail settings, beginning with sugar-sweetened beverages.
2.3 Require all restaurants, including fast food outlets and retail grocery stores, to list the calories in each item on their menus and to make this information visible on menu boards.
2.4 Encourage food retailers to adopt transparent, easy-to-understand, standard, objective nutrition rating systems for the products in their stores.
2.5 Support the use of Canada’s Food Guide and the nutrition facts panel.
2.6 Provide incentives for Ontario food growers and producers, food distributors, corporate food retailers, and non-governmental organizations to support community-based food distribution programs.
2.7 Provide incentives for food retailers to develop stores in food deserts.
2.8 Establish a universal school nutrition program for all Ontario publicly funded elementary and secondary schools.
2.9 Establish a universal school nutrition program for First Nations communities.
2.10 Develop a single standard guideline for food and beverages served or sold where children play and learn.


3. Create Healthy Communities

3.1 Develop a comprehensive healthy kids social marketing program that focuses on healthy eating, active living – including active transportation – mental health and adequate sleep.
3.2 Join EPODE (Ensemble Prévenons l’Obesité des Enfants – Together Let’s Prevent Childhood Obesity) International and adopt a co-ordinated, communitydriven approach to developing healthy communities for kids.
3.3 Make schools hubs for child health and community engagement.
3.4 Create healthy environments for preschool children.
3.5 Develop the knowledge and skills of key professions to support parents in raising healthy kids.
3.6 Speed implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
3.7 Continue to implement the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.
3.8 Ensure families have timely access to specialized obesity programs when needed.

Unfortunately,  Canadian media ignored the entire report, except for the proposed ban on marketing high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, beverages and snacks to children under age 12.

Instead of focusing on the health of our kids, they decided that the real story was the potential restriction of the rights of processed food producers to convince our children to crave ‘food’ that promotes obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Well done Canadian media…I’m looking forward to your next story on childhood obesity and how we have to do something about it.




  1. WHOA!!! I read about the panel and report on Dr. Freedhoff’s site this morning. I’m sure if I had seen the accompanying news coverage I’d be having the same reaction as you!!!

    I skimmed over the report and I found it very encouraging. We need more thinking like this across the board—dump the blaming and shaming and focus on real systemic issues like the food environment and cultural changes that have occurred over the past 30-40 years. I was most encouraged by page 12 of the report that acknowledges some people ARE predisposed to be larger and crave food more. Put people like us into today’s highly obesogenic environment and managing our own nature becomes so difficult!! Why are people fatter today than decades ago? People have not changed, OUR CULTURE HAS!!!

  2. After reading the comment sections, I was even more angry/depressed. The MSM stories only served to whip up the angry libertarians amongst us.

    If only Doc Freedhoff’s site received as much traffic as the MSM sites, Canadians might be able to have a productive discussion about this problem.

  3. I went ahead and read the articles you posted but I had to stop reading the moronic comments. You put it very well yourself awhile back when I think you made a comment along the lines of don’t ban the sale of snake oil but make it harder to advertise it and to make claims about it. People still have free will to make their own choices. “Nanny state” whiners, shut up!! You’ll still be able to buy whatever you want!

    Dr. Freedhoff writes about his own kids and I’m sure what he describes is typical that children today are IMMERSED in a world of food, treats, and snacks, virtually all of it processed, everywhere they go and in everything they see. Obviously, the tough reality is that parents are NOT managing this adequately and changes are needed.

  4. Part of the problem is laziness on the part of media. They run with feed from Canadian Press or Healthday rather than read the actual report and do their own story. You can instantly see that from the wording on almost every single press outlet–print, tv, web, whatever–virtually identical. Maybe if they’d put down the donut and do some journalism we’d actually see real reporting.

  5. Don’t be afraid to be angry Doug. It is frustration that fires me up about Active Challenge when I see that OHIP will pay for a 14 year old girls to have bariatric surgery but our health care system has yet to assist with residential treatment.
    Keep up the good work.

  6. It seems wholly inappropriate if not simply irrelevant to bring bariatric surgery into the conversation. We all deserve the right to make our own healthcare decisions whether they relate to reproductive health, alternative medicine, end of life care, bariatric care, etc. I am not Canadian so I visited the OHIP website and went on to read further on websites for the Ontario Bariatric Network and the Bariatric Registry. I found that not only is there a limited number of bariatric procedures performed per year but there is a waiting list! The criteria for adolescents is separate from adults but it appears that teenagers would also be evaluated by the level of metabolic conditions they are experiencing. A 14 year old who may have already developed sleep apnea, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure should certainly not be denied bariatric treatment and appropriate after-care which should include an evaluation of their homelife situation.

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