Policy Priorities

Policy Priorities

Healthy public policies to improve diet have the potential to dramatically reduce the prevalence of hypertension and other diet-related chronic disease.

The following policy priorities were established by CIHR/HSFC Chair in Hypertension Prevention and Control in collaboration with the Canadian Hypertension Advisory Committee based on their potential to decrease dietary risk associated with hypertension.

These directions are supported by the World Health Organization and the United Nations and are consistent with international food policy recommendations for healthy diets.

For more information:

World Cancer Research Fund International: NOURISHING framework
World Health Organization. Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of NCD 2013-2020

Priority: Sodium Reduction

salt-teaspoon-200The Problem: Canadians consume an average 3,400 mg of sodium per day, twice the recommended daily intake of 1500mg for non-hypertensive adult and significantly higher than the maximum recommended limit, and national goal, of 2300mg/day. Over 75% of Canadians sodium intake comes from processed food.

Why it matters: Excess sodium intake is a leading cause of hypertension, which afflicts over 7 million Canadians, and is major contributor to cardiovascular disease.  Dietary sodium reduction is a cost-effective and efficient way to reduce cardiovascular disease. 

Policy Position:  Regulate reductions in sodium in the food supply.

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Priority: Unhealthy Food and Beverage Marketing to Children

m2k-doraThe Problem:  Today, an estimated 26% of Canadian children aged 6-17 years are overweight or obese.  Children in Canada are heavily exposed to marketing practices promoting consumption of food products that are inconsistent with national dietary recommendations.

Why it matters: The marketing of foods and beverages to children influences their food preferences, short-term consumption habits, and purchase requests and has been linked to child obesity.   Canada’s current industry self-regulated approach to minimize children’s exposure to unhealthy food and beverage marketing is not working.

Policy Position: Federal government to immediately begin a legislative process to restrict all marketing targeted to children under the age of 13 of foods and beverages high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or sodium and that in the interim the food industry immediately ceases marketing of such food to children.  Read the full Health and Scientific Organization Policy Consensus Statement

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Priority: Healthy Food and Beverage Procurement

The Problem:  Canadians self-reported dietary intakes do not meet national dietary recommendations; children and adults are under-consuming the recommended servings of vegetables and fruits and exceeding daily recommended intakes of sodium.  The development and implementation of food procurement policies is a recommended strategy to improve the availability of healthy food and beverages in all settings that buy, sell and/or serve food to Canadians.

Why it matters: Comprehensive adoption of healthy food procurement policies can improve the food environment for Canadians by decreasing the availability and consumption of foods and beverages that contribute to disease risk, including sodium, sugar, saturated and trans fats. 

Policy Position:  That government and non-government organizations (both commercial and non-commercial) to broadly adopt healthy food and beverage procurement policies across the spectrum of our society.  Read the full Call to Action to Buy and Sell Healthy Foods: Consensus Recommendations of Canadian Health and Scientific Organizations

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Priority: Fiscal Strategies (Taxation and Subsidies)

The Problem:  Dietary risk is the leading risk factor for total death, disability and years of life lost in Canada.  Canadians diets are dominated by highly processed food and beverage products.

Why it matters: Price influences food choices and diet. Changing food prices through taxation of disease causing food products and subsidies on healthy foods products are effective means to improve eating patterns and reduce dietary risk, while generating revenue to offset the costs of diet-related chronic disease.

Policy Position:  There is sufficient evidence and support to implement food pricing policies as part of a multi-component strategy to improve Canadians’ dietary habits.

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Priority: Nutrition Labelling

labellingThe Problem:  Canadians self-reported dietary intakes do not meet national dietary recommendations.  In addition to Health Canada’s Nutrition Facts Table (NFT), Canada has over 20 different industry regulated front-of-package (FOP) nutrition labeling systems to provide consumers with key nutrition information.   Eating establishments are not required to provide nutritional information.

Why it matters: Studies show consumers are often confused by nutrition labelling and may not understand the information presented.  Standardized, consistent and easy to understand labelling on foods and in food service establishments has the potential to improve the food environment for Canadians.

Policy Position:  That the Canadian government research, adopt and implement a national  nutritional labelling program so the public can easily understand what food products are unhealthy and healthy.

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Priority: Conflicts of Interest

The Problem:  The food and beverage industry are actively engaged in policy and decision shaping nationally and internationally.

Why it matters: As with tobacco and alcohol, food industry involvement in policy setting risks stalling and undermining the development and implementation of effective public health polices to improve diet.

Policy Position:  As major contributors to the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases, industries involved in the production, sale, marketing and profit of unhealthy food and beverage products should not be engaged in the setting of dietary policies to improve health.

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