Ms. Pam Damoff (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to offer the government's support for Motion No. 173, brought forward by my colleague, the member for Brampton South. I would also like to commend the member for her dedicated work on this important public health issue. She has been a tireless advocate and has ensured that diabetes and the work that needs to be done remains top of mind for all of us. She introduced a motion at the Standing Committee on Health to study this issue, which resulted in a very substantial report from that committee, and now she has brought forward this motion.
Motion No. 173 would declare November of each year diabetes awareness month. This would be another example of Canada showing leadership in helping those with diabetes. This is leadership that dates back to the discovery of insulin almost 100 years ago by Dr. Frederick Banting, from my home town of London, Ontario, and Dr. Charles Best.
Support for Motion No. 173 would also complement the recognition of November 14 as World Diabetes Awareness Day, which already takes place in Canada. A diabetes awareness month would create more awareness and understanding among all Canadians about this disease, what it is, how is can be prevented and how it can be managed.
Diabetes is a serious chronic disease that can hamper a person's ability to fully participate in the economic and social life of Canada. If left uncontrolled, all three forms of diabetes can lead to serious complications, and for some, premature death.
There are three types of diabetes. Type 1 is not preventable. Gestational diabetes, which occurs in pregnant women, usually disappears after delivery, although it does lead to an increased risk of developing diabetes later in life.
Close to 90% of diabetes cases in Canada are type 2, which is preventable. It is why a diabetes awareness month could have a great impact from an awareness and education perspective. Through greater awareness, we could help stop type 2 in its tracks. This would include drawing greater attention to how Canadians can address the risk factors for diabetes, including physical activity, unhealthy eating, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol.
It is important to recognize that it can be challenging for some to address these risk factors for diabetes. They are often tied to issues such as income, education and the social and physical environments in which a person lives. These issues can result in a person having more difficulty accessing and affording healthy foods or undertaking regular physical activity.
The government support for Motion No. 173 aligns with recommendations from Diabetes Canada's diabetes 360° plan to promote healthier environments. It also complements this recommendation put forth by my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Health:
explore options to improve public awareness and education on diabetes, particularly through community programming, including public awareness of the relationship between nutrition and diabetes
Over three million Canadians, or 8.6% of the population, have diagnosed diabetes. Some population groups have higher rates of diabetes than others, including men, first nations and Métis people, people of African and South Asian descent and people with lower income and education levels.
Healthy eating has a significant impact on the health of Canadians and on the health care system. It contributes to obesity and to the onset of chronic diseases like diabetes.
Also challenging is that Canada's food environment can make it difficult for some Canadians to make healthy eating the easy choice. Less than half our teenagers report eating enough fruits and vegetables. First nations children living off reserve and Inuit and Métis children experience higher levels of food insecurity than non-indigenous children. Preliminary studies are also starting to show that the risk of Inuit developing type 2 diabetes has increased significantly in recent years.
The Government of Canada has been taking action through our healthy eating strategy. Led by Health Canada, the government has strengthened nutrition labelling on food products and has eliminated industrial-produced trans fats in foods.
The launch of the new Canada food guide, which is based on scientific evidence and facts, not only proposes a wide range of nutritious foods for Canadians but emphasises that healthy eating is more than just the foods one eats. It promotes lifelong healthy eating habits by encouraging people to prepare healthy foods at home and to eat together and it offers creative resources to help Canadians do so.
The government is also investing in promising community-based partnerships through the Public Health Agency of Canada's program called promoting healthy living and preventing chronic disease through the multi-sectoral partnerships. Funding delivered through this program has leveraged additional investment from non-taxpayer resources, which has enabled the government to increase the reach and impact of its funding. Funded projects, such as farm to school: Canada digs in; kid food nation; and APPLE schools are helping Canadian youth and children to eat better by building their food literacy skills and to have fun while learning.
The government is also investing in FoodFit, which provides low-income adults with hands-on food skills, tips for preparing affordable and nutritious meals, group physical activity and goal-setting to help participants eat well and lead healthier lifestyles.
Finally, our food policy for Canada sets out a vision that will help Canadians and the communities in which they live access food that is healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate and locally produced. This includes support for food security in northern and indigenous communities and support to reduce food waste.
Diabetes awareness month would also be an excellent opportunity to promote and reinforce efforts to get Canadians to move more and sit less. While Canadian adults report being more active now than in the previous decade, we know Canadians still are not getting enough physical activity. Only 18% of Canadian adults are meeting the 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity guideline per week, or the equivalent to biking for a little over 20 minutes a day. As well, only 40% of children and youth are meeting their recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. Of them, girls are less active than boys.
The government recognizes that we cannot solve the issue of getting Canadians more physically active alone. In June 2018, the government joined the provinces and territories in releasing a report entitled “A Common Vision for Increasing Physical Activity and Reducing Sedentary Living in Canada: Let's Get Moving”. Federal, provincial and territorial governments and a wide range of organizations and partners worked together to develop this policy framework. The common vision is catalyzing efforts across Canada at national, provincial, territorial and local levels to put in place actions to help Canadians get more physically active.
Through budget 2018, $25 million over five years is being invested to support Participaction to increase participation in daily physical activity among Canadians through the Let's Get Moving initiative. Participaction is working with governments, communities and organizations from other sectors to change social norms through long-term and coordinated public education and engagement to increase physical activity. I recently participated in the community better challenge, run by Participaction, to identify Canada's most physically active community.
Another project funded through this program, which will help get Canadian girls moving more, is FitSpirit Healthy Lifestyles for Teen Girls. This eight to-10-week training program for girls empowers them to adopt healthy lifestyle habits and to celebrate the completion of the program by collectively completing a five-kilometre running challenge.
In her 2017 report, entitled “Designing Healthy Living”, the chief public health officer of Canada highlighted that how we design and build where we live, work, study and play is key to improving physical and mental health for all.
With this objective in mind, the Public Health Agency of Canada has invested in projects such as Housing for Health. Housing for Health will combine improvements to neighbourhoods in cities with health promotion programming and encourage community engagement to increase physical activity, healthy eating and social interaction among residents in their communities. This project is an excellent example of how partners from diverse sectors can work together to encourage active and healthy living.
In closing, the government believes that recognizing diabetes awareness month would benefit all Canadians. It would help to increase awareness about this chronic disease, which can help reduce the stigma attached to those living with it.
I would like to again thank the member for Brampton South for sponsoring the motion in the House, and I am thankful for the opportunity to show the government's support for it today.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Diabetes Awareness Month