Going for the gold
Jill Hillhouse, RNCP, ROHP
As BC prepared to host the Winter Olympics in 2010, the BC government encouraged residents to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
When the 2010 Winter Olympics come to British Columbia, not only will the Olympic athletes want to be faster, higher, and stronger but the provincial government wants all British Columbians to be leaner, fitter, smoke-free, and full of vegetables and fruit.
In fact, Premier Gordon Campbell wants the province to be the healthiest jurisdiction ever to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. To this end, the BC provincial government is contributing $30 million toward promoting healthier lifestyles for provincial residents.
These are ambitious, laudable goals, especially as the health conditions associated with smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity cost the BC economy $3.8 billion in 2004. That’s a lot of money going toward chronic health problems that are largely preventable with lifestyle changes–and BC already has the lowest smoking and obesity rates of any province in Canada.
There are other federal, provincial, and municipal programs already in place across the country to address smoking, obesity, and inactivity. Working with the government, the BC Healthy Living Alliance (bchealthyliving.ca) has made 27 recommendations based on other successful, evidence-based lifestyle interventions.
These recommendations fall into a number of categories.
Regulatory and Economic Interventions
Recommendations here include restricting food advertising aimed at young children, tax incentives to encourage physical activity in the young, and increasing cigarette prices.
Two recommendations in this category include enhancing access to both indoor and outdoor locations for physical activity and providing funding for 1,200 community groups throughout the province that have ideas on how to address the health-risk factors in their communities.
Certain socioeconomic and ethnic groups are at increased risk, and support would be provided for specific programs designed to reach these populations.
School- and Work-Based Interventions
These recommendations revolve around partnering with businesses, unions, and WorkSafeBC to assist employers and employees in creating healthier work environments. Expansion and support of existing school programs have also been recommended.
Will this help British Columbians meet these goals in two years? Could it be a model for other provinces? Maybe. The proof will be in the pudding, or rather, the broccoli.
Concern about lifestyle risk factors has been with us a long time–even before ParticipACTION started in the 1970s. While money is essential to get programs going, the missing puzzle piece may be personal responsibility. If someone can design a program for increasing that, then we will have won the gold.
BC Healthy Living Alliance Goals for 2010 Include: