Letter Changing environment key to battling obesity

Dear Editor,

According to a report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, obesity has tripled among Canadian adults in one short generation, reminding us once again of the seriousness of the obesity epidemic.

The World Health Organization warned in 2000 that this would lead to increased chronic diseases including diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and cancers – threatening the health of individuals, our communities, and the health care system.

But before we point fingers at individuals, let us also remember it is the world around us and not individual willpower that has changed in that generation. We will never reduce the rates of obesity by admonishing everybody to eat healthier or exercise more without also changing the environments that shape behaviour.

We are more active when we live in compact, complete, walkable neighbourhoods with stores and services nearby, commute by transit, and have easy access to parks, walking trails, and bike lanes.

We eat healthier when we are surrounded by healthy, rather than highly processed and fast foods.

Fraser Health is working with other Health Authorities across the country and colleagues in municipal planning and transportation to re-create communities that foster physical activity, healthy eating, and positive social environments.

But to succeed on a large scale, we need not just collaboration, but also serious investment in active transportation, such as biking and walking, and public transit.

The future health of our population depends on it.

Dr. Helena Swinkels and Dr. Lisa Mu

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