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Aglukkaq Highlights Need For Culturally Appropriate Interventions

Yesterday’s Summit on Healthy Weights brought together a wide range of stakeholders from all sectors to discuss community based responses towards improving health and wellness in Canada’s children and youth.

In the discussion, I was particularly pleased to hear the Honourable Minister Leona Aglukkaq point out the importance of ensuring that community based interventions were culturally appropriate and community driven with a focus on improving health and wellness rather than simply reducing weights.

A particular challenge exists in Canada’s North, where communities are isolated with less availability of affordable healthy foods. Lifestyle transition has significantly reduced hunting and gathering of traditional foods, which provided these populations with nutritious and delicious diet.

As Gita Sharma, Endowed Chair in Aboriginal Health at the University of Alberta, a participant at this meeting pointed out,

“It is essential to work with Aboriginal communities to have community driven multi-institutional nutrition and physical activity intervention programs, that are evidence-based and evaluated. These programs must also provide training and capacity building for employment at the local level, so communities can implement these programs and ensure sustainability.”

Gita Sharma emphasized the benefits of partnerships with the food retail based companies, as people make decisions about food choices at the point of purchase, making this the natural target for community based nutrition interventions. In addition, findings from such research must be distributed to the communities, stakeholders, and to the endusers to guide policy.

Given the importance of culturally appropriate community and population-specific interventions, the Canadian Obesity Network will dedicate a full day to this issue at the 3rd National Obesity Summit, in Vancouver next year.

Edmonton, Alberta


  1. The question is, how many times has Ms. Aglukkaq (or her predecessors) trumpeted this exact same message? And what, precisely, have they done about it?

    Someone should tell her the basic rule of Communications 101: “Keep the message consistent. And keep your actions consistent with the message. Otherwise, people will begin to question your sincerity.”

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  2. Some time ago a business magazine gave a first-nations businessman an award for entrepreneurial excellence for bringing pop vending machines to remote communities. Made lots of money.
    Retail food venders have an agenda that conflicts with the goals of gov’t beaurocracies.
    I bet if food sellers become “partners” they’ll be trying to get government (taxpayers) money for some “program” as well as making money off what they sell, while continuing to offer those products which are most profitable.

    The “point of purchase” is NOT the “natural target for community based nutrition interventions”.

    – “People make decisions about food choices at the point of purchase” –
    That is the PROBLEM, not the solution.

    Making food decisions at the “point of purchase” is what food retailers encourage. They get people to buy what makes the most profit. Here in the south, supermarkets have a wide range of strategies, from advertising to shop layout, to entice people to spend on impulse and buy more quantity, more expensive food, and more junk food.

    What do we ordinary folk do to get the most nutrition out of our grocery dollar?

    In todays world, this is more than important – it’s a basic survival skill. If you eat whatever you buy on impulse at the point of purchase, you’ll be paying big bucks for food that will make you fat and unhealthy. Making a shopping list is not as easy as it seems – you have to know what’s available at what cost, how to plan menus and cook, not to mention how to make food sociable and satisfying.
    Luckily, northern people have shown they can develop amazing survival skills in an incredibly difficult environment, so they can certainly develop this survival skill too.

    What’s the “natural target for community based nutrition interventions”? – making THE LIST.

    Develop a list of what is needed with the people who EAT, and the people who COOK.
    That’s a community project. And it’s quite a big project because the food people are eating is changing.
    If the only non-native food locals know about is what they see in their local store, they have no idea what is possible using staples from the south which are healthy, cheaper to transport, and delicious. If people know what is possible to ship and store, what they want to cook and eat, what they need – when they know that, they make THE LIST.

    Then they can take THE LIST to the food retailer, and you’ve got something to work from. If the food retailer doesn’t provide what you need, or offers bad substitutes, you look for alternative sources. In this case, it could be charter flights. (Maybe that guy who sold pop needs a new project – this time responding to the community’s SHOPPING LIST)

    “THE LIST” can be made with consideration of air freight costs – for example dried fruit, milk powder, oats and cooked cereal, dried beans, bulk purchases of cheese, baking staples, oil, etc, etc which can be shared among several purchasers (more community co-operation). Bulk purchases save packaging garbage as well as freight costs – another community benefit.

    Yes, as you can tell, I’ve done this myself.
    I lived for 8 years where I shopped only 4 or 5 times a year for almost everything we needed, and shared planning, costs and transport with my neighbours.
    Many Canadians in remote locations live like this all the time. Find some of them to help with developing menus and recipies and THE SHOPPING LIST for remote communities. They can also trade recepies for wild game with local people.

    Sure, there can be a growth industry producing reports and policies and evaluations distributed to communities and departments and stakeholders and researchers and beurocrats, but in the end, you can’t eat paper.

    Much more fun to get people together who already thrive on a combination of wild food and homemade food from many traditions using staples which ship and keep well.
    Share food, share cooking skills, plan menus, make THE SHOPPING LIST. Then go shopping and make the best deal possible because the store will stock what the customers buy.

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  3. Wow, did you and Yoni end up on different planets on this news item!!

    Is Gita Sharma a relation?

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