Weighing in on Canada’s Heart Health Strategy

Yesterday, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) announced funding for its Canadian Heart Health Strategy Action Plan (CHHS-AP), which will involve spending $700 Mill on a wide range of efforts aimed at reducing the incidence and burden of heart disease in Canada.

(ERRATUM (March 9, 2009): It turns out that the above announcement was NOT actually an announcement of funding, but rather only the announcement of a REQUEST FOR funding – thus, whether or not this strategy will actually be funded remains to be seen).

The strategy includes six key recommendations:

• Create heart healthy environments, such as making healthy foods cheaper and building cities where walking is easy;

• Help Canadians lead healthier lives with education programs and screening programs;

• End the “cardiovascular health crisis among aboriginal/indigenous peoples” by improving everything from prevention to treatment for natives;

• Reform the delivery of health care to emphasize integrated, patient-centred care, with particular emphasis on heart disease;

• Build a “knowledge infrastructure” that promotes research on heart disease and stroke;

• Ensure that there are enough health professionals to ensure appropriate care.

While I agree with the need for addressing heart disease as the #1 cause of premature death in Canada, I wonder if this is at all possible without first addressing the #1 cause of heart disease, namely obesity.

I may well be accused of taking a rather “obesocentric” view of this issue, but to my knowledge, obesity is not only the most important or root cause of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and low-HDL cholesterol, but fear of obesity or weight control is also one of the most important motivators for smoking (especially amongst women).

As the Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, I can certainly promise that PHAC and the CHHS can count on the full support of the many obesity researchers and health professionals in Canada to help reduce the burden of obesity on Canadians – clearly, a nice “side effect” of any endeavour that helps prevent obesity and provides better access to obesity treatments for the 1 in 5 Canadian, who already have this condition, will likely be a notable reduction in heart disease.

I must admit that I have yet to see the full Action Plan, but am indeed curious to see how much of the $700 Mill are specifically devoted to obesity prevention, increasing public and professional education on obesity, and improving access to obesity treatments for Canadians.

To hear what I had to say about the CHHS on CBC-Newsworld click here

Edmonton, Alberta