Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee. I am pleased to be here today with my colleagues from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Status of Women Canada.
We recognize that eating disorders are a very worrisome mental health problem. Today I will talk about Health Canada's healthy eating initiatives. While these initiatives do not directly address eating disorders, they are specifically designed and implemented to minimize unforeseen and adverse consequences, such as encouraging poor eating habits.
Healthy eating plays an important role in promoting health and reducing the risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases. Health Canada has a national leadership role to play in supporting healthy eating through the development of nutrition policies and guidelines, enhancing the evidence base to support policy decisions, monitoring and reporting on what Canadians are eating, and providing Canadians with information through awareness and education initiatives that help them make informed and healthy eating decisions.
While developing national nutrition policies and health promotion initiatives, we work to ensure that there are no unintended negative consequences. Every effort is made to provide consumers with positive nutrition messages that focus on health and well-being, and not on weight, as weight preoccupation is a hallmark of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
I'll provide a few examples of Health Canada's healthy eating initiatives that put the focus on health and not weight.
“Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide” is likely the most well-known national nutrition resource developed by Health Canada. The food guide promotes a pattern of eating that will meet nutrition needs, promote health, and minimize the risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases. It is designed to help explain to Canadians what healthy eating means. It is an important tool that underpins nutrition and health policies and standards across the country and serves as a basis for a wide variety of nutrition initiatives.
In the development of Canada's food guide, energy balance was of course a key consideration in the development of the food intake pattern, especially in light of the rising rates of obesity among Canadians. Despite this, though, Health Canada did not support a focus on calorie counting in the development of the food guide. Our approach was supported by many other public health stakeholders as well.
In 2011 the FPT Ministers of Health endorsed actions taken and future directions of the framework document “Curbing Childhood Obesity: A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights ”. While the framework is a call to reduce childhood obesity, not one of its 10 recommended actions promotes or supports weight-loss diets, calorie counting, or other weight-focused efforts.
Health Canada's healthy eating awareness and education initiative provides clear and consistent healthy eating messages for Canadians. Early phases of the campaign promoted better understanding of nutrition labelling. While the current phase of this healthy eating initiative is aimed at supporting healthy weights, the public messages and media focus encourage healthy eating habits, particularly through the development of food skills. The emphasis on food skills, not body weight, was very intentional.
Let me conclude by stating once again that eating disorders are a serious mental health disorder. Nutrition promotion policies, programs, and messages such as those developed by Health Canada, which focus on health and well-being and not on weight and calories, play an important role in the prevention of disordered eating.
So concludes my presentation, Madam Chair. I will gladly answer any questions committee members might have.