Canada, like many nations, is in the midst of an epidemic of overweight and obesity. Currently, 59% of adult Canadians are either overweight or obese1. Cities in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia were significantly higher in overweight/obesity population than the national average for adults2.
There has also been a dramatic increase in unhealthy weights in children. In 1978, only 15% of children were overweight or obese. By 2007, Statistics Canada found that 29% of adolescents had unhealthy weights2. Most adolescents do not outgrow this problem and in fact, many continue to gain excess weight3. If current trends continue, by 2040, up to 70% of adults aged 40 years will be either overweight or obese4.
Adults who have unhealthy weights are at increased risk of heart disease5, cancer6, strokes and type 2 diabetes7. In 2005, the total cost of obesity to Canadians was $4.3 billion; $1.8 billion in indirect healthcare costs, and $2.5 billiion in indirect costs8. Affected adults may die up to 3 to 7 years earlier than counterparts with a healthy weight9.
The resultant toll in dollar's cost and lives list is a call for action. Obesity is difficult to reverse and public health measures must include effective prevention beginning in childhood as well as treatment.
1Tjepkema M. Measured Obesity: Adult obesity in Canada: Measured height and weight. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-620-MVE2005001
2Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2009, 2010.
3Singh AS, Mulder C, Twisk JWR. (2008) Tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood: a systematic review of the literature. Obesity Reviews 9. 474 - 488.
4Le Petit C, Berthelot JM. Obesity: A Growing Issue. Statistics Canada catalogue no 82-618-MWE2005003
5Zalesin K, Franklin BA, Miller WM, Petersen ED. Impact of Obesity on Cardiovascular Disease - Endocrinology Metabolism Clinics North America - 01-SEP-2008;37(3): 663 - 84
6Danaei G, et al. (2005) Causes of Cancer in the world: comparitive risk assessment of nine behavioural and environmental risk factors. Lancet,: 366, 1786 - 1793
7Smith SC. Multiple Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Mellitus. (2007) American Journal of Medicine., Vol 120 (3A)
8Janssen I, Diener A. (2005) Economic Burden of Obesity in Canada
9Peeters A, et al. (2003) Obesity in adulthood and its consequences for life expectancy: A life table analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 138, 24 - 32
“In 2004, over a third of children aged 6-11 logged more than 2 hours of screen time each day” (Canadian Children):
“Currently children and youth average close to 8 hours of screen time per day with only 19% of kids aged 10 to 16 meeting the 2-hour guideline”
“Of 51 922 Canadian youth in grades 6 to 12, 50.9% spent more than 2 hours per day in screen-based behaviours. The average daily screen time was 7.8 (± 2.3) hours”
The average Canadian child is sedentary for three to five hours a day in front of the TV. A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal also showed that between 1981 and 1996, the prevalence of overweight boys increased from 15% to 35.4% (the prevalence of overweight girls increased from 15% to 29.2%).
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Teachers interested in learning more about Screen Smart and receiving free copies of Screen Smart resources should sign up for the Action Schools! BC 5-2-1-0 Workshop. This workshop is cross-curricular collaboration featuring Action Schools! BC Healthy Eating and Physical Activity, Sip Smart! BC, and Screen Smart resources that support school health promotion messaging of: 5 or more servings of vegetables and fruit; 2 hours of screen time or less; 1 hour or more of physical activity; and 0 sugary drinks per day. The Screen Smart program is available free of charge on the Screen Smart website here.