TORONTO, Mar. 5, 2013 – A report aimed at driving down Ontario’s sky high childhood obesity rate has the backing of the province’s registered nurses.
Recommendations outlined in “No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy” were released March 4 by Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and Teresa Piruzza, Minister of Children and Youth Services. The report’s 23 recommendations look at everything from how to lay the groundwork for better child health early on to changing the way food is packaged, marketed and sold.
“We applaud the government for taking a serious look at this pervasive and very alarming problem. We know one third of the children in this province already have an unhealthy weight and the majority of them will remain obese as they become adults,” says Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). “That’s why the timing to get this right couldn’t be more urgent.” Grinspun says nurses are in a unique position to work with children and families to confront this major public health challenge.
RNAO is particularly pleased with the panel’s recommendation to better promote the importance of breastfeeding. RNAO developed a nursing best practice guideline on breastfeeding 10 years ago, and it has since been revised to reflect current evidence. The guideline recommends that new mothers breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months of a child’s life. Not only does breast milk provide important nutrients and antibodies, there is also evidence breast-fed babies are less likely to become obese later in life.
RNAO says tackling obesity isn’t as simple as dangling more carrot sticks in front of kids or persuading them to run and skip more. RNAO’s President Rhonda Seidman-Carlson says focusing on children and families who live in poverty and those with mental health issues is critical to a comprehensive obesity strategy. “It’s not always easy for parents to make the right decisions when it comes to healthier food choices. Foods that are higher in fat content are often cheaper and more readily available, and that has to change,” says Seidman-Carlson.
The province’s Healthy Kids Panel brought together 18 professionals from all walks of life, including an RN who implemented another RNAO best practice guideline related to primary prevention of childhood obesity in her workplace. Carol Diemer, who works for the Windsor Essex Community Health Centre, helped implement RNAO’s BPG on the prevention of childhood obesity in her facility. She credits it with assisting countless children and families. The guideline is being used by numerous health-care organizations including Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and Grey Bruce Health Services.
Seidman-Carlson says the association looks forward to continuing its work with members of the province’s Healthy Kids Panel so “we can achieve Ontario’s goal of reducing childhood obesity by 20 per cent by 2018.”
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.
For more information about RNAO and the two best practice guidelines cited in the provincial Healthy Kids Strategy, visit www.RNAO.ca  You can also check out our Facebook page at www.RNAO.org/facebook  or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RNAO .