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.
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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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.