Senate Report: Bold Policies To Reduce the Number of Demented Canadians

languagemattersAccording to a report just released by the Canadian Senate,

“In the past three to four decades there has been a drastic increase in the proportion of demented Canadians. Statistics Canada data reveals that almost two thirds of Canadian adults are now demented. Sadly, the increase in dementia rates among children is also dangerously high. About 13% of children between the ages of five and 17 are demented while another 20% are somewhat dull. These numbers reflect at least a two-fold increase in the proportion of demented adults and three-fold increase in the proportion of demented children since 1980.”

Just replace the word “demented”with the word “obese” in the above paragraph and you will instantly see what is wrong with this report, which happens to in fact be about obesity, and not about Canadians at risk of or living with dementia.

Only when speaking about “obesity crisis”, would an official report composed by professional writers on an important medical condition still use the name of the condition as an adjective.

Indeed, the use of “people-first language” to describe someone living with a condition rather than being defined by that condition has long been accepted in the case of virtually every other condition.

Thus, we speak of people living with addictions rather than of addicts, of people living with diabetes rather than of diabetics, of people living with psychosis rather than of psychotics, of people with arthritis rather than of arthritics, of people living with cancer rather than of the cancerous, you get my drift.

Enough has been written on this issue here, here, here, here, here and here.

A report that wants to be taken seriously as addressing the concerns and struggles of Canadian adults and children living with overweight or obesity could perhaps begin by ensuring that it uses the proper language.

This is not to say that the report does not indeed make bold and important policy recommendations – it does, from taxing sugar-sweetened beverages to limiting advertising to children, to rewriting Canada’a Food Guide to food labeling to tax benefits to promote physical activity (and more). It even addresses (although in passing) the need to provide better treatments to people living with overweight or obesity.

Just which of these policy recommendations will actually find their way into legislation and how much difference they’ll actually make remains to be seen especially as the recommendations come with no actual funding for their implementation.

More on some of the “bolder” recommendation in future posts.

In the meantime for anyone interested, the full report is available here

Edmonton, AB