New Brunswick

New Brunswick Medical Society takes aim at obesity

With some studies indicating up to 63 per cent of adults, and up to 36 per cent of children in the province, are overweight or obese, the New Brunswick Medical Society Anthony Knight says "systemic barriers” work against people in the province who are trying to get fit.

Organization wants suggestions from obese residents about what influences their food and lifestyle choices

With some studies indicating up to 63 per cent of adults, and up to 36 per cent of children in the province, are overweight or obese, head of the New Brunswick Medical Society Anthony Knight says systematic barriers" work against people in the province who are trying to get fit. (Reuters)

With some studies indicating up to 63 per cent of adults, and up to 36 per cent of children in the province, are overweight or obese, head of the New Brunswick Medical Society Anthony Knight says "systemic barriers" work against people in the province who are trying to get fit.

"Some of us have probably seen the advertising for chocolate milk, for example, and how it's a great source of protein and something that kids and adults should be drinking after a workout," said Knight. "You look at the sugar content of a glass of chocolate milk and it's as much as a can of Coke. It sends us in a direction we shouldn't be going."

New Brunswick is near the top of the list of high obesity rates, but Anthony Knight, CEO of the New Brunswick Medical Society, says they want to transform it into one of the healthiest provinces in Canada. 9:45
Some of the strategies used to try and cope with the the problem in recent years have included re-evaluating school cafeteria menus and giving doctors prescription pads on which to prescribe healthy activities. A recent report to the Canadian Senate on obesity suggested a 20 per cent tax on sugary and artificially flavoured drinks.

Here in New Brunswick, Knight said, there are other complicating factors ranging from harsh winters that keep people inside, to a lack of education.

"Whether the lack of bikes lanes in communities, or no sidewalks near schools, which makes it both difficult and unsafe to be active, there are decisions politicians and elected officials can effect," Knight said.

Suggestions sought from overweight people

The New Brunswick Medical Society is looking for suggestions from New Brunswickers — specifically, those personally struggling with obesity — about what influences their food and lifestyle choices, said Knight.

"We've got lots of ideas and one of the big parts of our campaign is that we want to hear from New Brunswickers and share them with government," he said.

The society will compile the suggestions in a report to the provincial government, which is poised to develop a province-wide strategy on healthy weights this fall.

Knight says the idea is to turn around New Brunswick's crisis with obesity within a decade.

Advertising influences health info

Knight says food industry advertising pressure has unduly influenced how even “trusted” publications like the Canada Food Guide are structured. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)
Even the most well-intentioned people can find themselves at a loss when it comes to educating themselves on getting fit, said Knight. Food industry pressure has had an undue influence on how even "trusted" publications like the Canada Food Guide are structured, he said.

Further, "advertising targeted at children, food choices that exist in public institutions like schools and hospitals, and access to recreational activities and opportunities […] all combine to provide a negative influence for individuals that are trying to overcome weight challenges," said Knight.

Knight says that doesn't mean good information and support are impossible to find.

He encourages members of the public to check out the New Brunswick Medical Society's Facebook page for a video, more information on healthy eating, and details on how to "submit ideas and suggestions on what could be done [about obesity in the province], and encourage people to be active, healthy, and make the right food choices."

with files from Information Morning Saint John

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