Surveys have indicated that malnutrition is a condition not confined to any one particular part of the country or income group. It may be said that the three main causes of faulty nutrition are lack of money, lack of information and lack of interest. The Department of National Health and Welfare is taking active steps on all three fronts. The payment of family allowances makes possible the spending of a larger amount on adequate foods. Along with other agencies the department is active in combatting the lack of information on proper nutrition and in attempting to arouse interest in the subject.
The nutrition work of the department is greatly aided by the Canadian council on nutrition which meets twice yearly to plan future programs, ensure co-ordinated effort and eliminate possible duplication of services. The council is representative of provincial and private agencies and consists of scientists, home economists, doctors and others who give freely of their time to answer problems referred to them and also bring to the attention of the department any aspect of nutrition which they consider important and concerning which remedial action should be taken.
While several divisions of the Department of National Health and Welfare take part in efforts to improve the nutritional status of Canadians, the one most intimately connected with the problem is the nutrition division. Also co-operating in that field are such divisions as those relating to child and maternal health, dental health, civil service health, Indian health and family allowances.
The prime responsibility of the nutrition division on its formation in 1941 was to improve the health of war workers through encouraging improved nutrition both in the workers' homes and in connection with cafeterias and canteens operated by war contract plants. While the activities of the nutrition divisions were originally related mainly to the war effort, the end of hostilities has seen a continuation and broadening of its aims. In its objective to improve the health of Canadians through improved nutrition the department has sought and is receiving the active co-operation of provincial and private agencies.
For the past two years the nutrition division has conducted nutrition surveys, on request, in various parts of Canada; in particular in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Along with the surveys a special effort is made to discuss individual problems with the persons studied or, in the case of children, with their parents. The results show that in some sections one child in five has evidence of past rickets; in other sections one person in eight is definitely anaemic. There are evidences that nutritional levels are improving but improvement is achieved slowly. Much more needs to be done and, with the co-operation of various interested governmental and private agencies the work is proceeding.
All types of educational approaches are being used to assist Canadians in establishing good food habits. The nutrition division has prepared booklets, posters, films, filmstrips and teaching materials on various aspects of food and nutrition. Literature has been compiled on food budgeting, school lunches, the feeding of those in different age groups, the value and sources of particular foods and food elements, and on approved methods of cookery. A point of interest is that the nutrition division prepares the bulk of nutrition education material in use in Canada and distributes it free of charge, with most of it being channelled to and through the provincial governments. In the educational approach to nutrition problems the Canadian council on nutrition has played a very important guiding role.
Although inspection of food services in war industries stopped with the end of the war, many Canadian plants have continued to operate such services. Part of the work of the department consists of continuing to give advice on matters of food service to industries requesting it. Information and assistance in connection with group feeding is also sought by camps, hospitals and other institutions, and by other departments of the federal government. During the past year, in response to a request from the Indian health services, the nutrition division established a consultation and advisory service on food and nutrition in Indian residential schools across Canada. Many of these schools have been inspected by nutrition experts, and steps are being taken to improve the nutrition and health of our Indian population.
A result of the greater interest in food and nutrition problems has been an increasing number of inquiries received by the department on such subjects. In many cases such requests can be dealt with by forwarding litera-
ture on the particular topic. In other cases reference is made to the department's nutrition library in order to supply data on particular points. The information requested may vary from a very small item to a request for detailed plans for a provincial nutrition program or a request for assistance in planning a large scale food service and appropriate meals.
Subtopic: IMPROVEMENT OF NUTRITION