November 12, 2014 6:14 pm

N.B. obesity rates top priority for Medical Society

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MONCTON, N.B. – The New Brunswick Medical Society said the province’s high obesity rates would be one of the priorities discussed during the society’s first meeting with new Health Minister Victor Boudreau.

In an interview with Global News before the meeting, CEO Anthony Knight said he would be raising the issue during the meeting with Boudreau Wednesday.

Knight said the goal was to create a strong partnership to tackle the issue.

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“New Brunswick’s doctors see between 20-30,000 patients every day in our health care system,” he said. “We think doctors can be a huge ambassador for influencing the choices people make in their daily lives, whether it’s smoking, the right food you should be eating or being active.”

He said they are working on initiatives like pushing for healthier lunch menus at schools and partnering with RunNB on a program called Small Strides, Healthy Lives. The partnership provides medals to encourage children 14 years and under to participate in children’s races throughout the season. Knight said so far the partnership has worked with 5,000 children.

New Brunswickers are among the heaviest in Canada, with more than two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of kids overweight or obese.

“We need to have more programs in place to get our weight under control and make things more fun,” said nursing student Hayley Wilson. “We have these long, cold winters and no one wants to go outside.”

She suggested more funding for programs targeting social media to encourage young people to get active and eat healthier.

“It’s too easy to eat fast foods. It’s too easy to eat junk food,” said Joe Tippet, adding the schools needed to put more emphasis on teaching Canada’s Food Guide so that kids understood what they needed to eat healthy.

Christine Roherty, Manager of Health Promotion at the New Brunswick branch of the Heart & Stroke Foundation said the foundation was focusing its attention on childhood obesity with two programs: ScreenSmart, aimed at getting kids to reduce their time in front of screens and getting active, and SipSmart, aimed at educating Grade 4 to 6 students on making healthier drink choices.

“There are certainly lots of strategies, but we really feel that the youth are our future and we really want to give then a good foundation,” she said. The SipSmart program tells kids to “choose water – it’s always a great choice first and also include healthier choices like unsweetened milk or milk-alternative beverages,” while limiting soft-drinks and other sugar-sweetened drinks.

According to a recent survey by the New Brunswick Health Council, when asked, a third of kids said they had drank two or more sugar-sweetened drinks the day before, while almost three-quarters said they had eaten chocolate, candy or other sweets.

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