The Policy Against Obesity In Canada

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With Canada being labeled as one of countries with the most overweight population in OECD’s 2017 Obesity Calendar, there is a rising concern among policy makers to battle this epidemic. At least 25.8% of Canada’s population above the age of 15 is considered obese. (Ferreras) These are some pretty astounding statistics given the serious implications of obesity. (https://globalnews.ca/news/3595135/canada-fattest-countries-activity-inequality/).

Studies show that obesity leads to various health problems such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, osteoarthritis, chronic back pain, cancer (colorectal, kidney, breast, endometrial, ovarian and pancreatic cancers) and major types of cardiovascular diseases. A strong relationship has also been found between psychiatric condition and obesity (larre).(https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/healthy-living/obesity-canada/health-economic-implications.html). With population growth levels already declining in most Western nations, including Canada, (https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/without-immigration-canadas-growth-could-be-close-to-zero-in-20-years-if-low-fertility-rates-persist-statscan), there is an urgent need to ensure that Canada has a healthy, able-bodied population. While the government has already started taking action by introducing various programs, from educating people about more nutritious diets, to introducing programs to increase physical activity, and offering subsidies programs to promote healthy eating. It is unlikely that there is a single solution to solve this problem, however, an additional step the Canadian government can take to further their goal of a healthier population is to offer people a fitness tax credit.

The tax credit would reward citizens that can show proof of an active lifestyle with an additional credit on their taxes, without penalizing anyone who isn’t able to do the same. By making the fitness tax credit more about lifestyle choices instead of just a number on the scale, will enable the government to use this as positive reinforcement. A similar tax credit introduced in 2007 for children was very well received. The new program witnessed an increase in physical activity among children, often encouraged by the adults. This has paved the way for the government to consider a similar program for adults as well. Research shows that adults should engage in a minimum of 60 minute/day of physical activity. With an increasing sedentary lifestyle, encouraged by automation, Canadians have become infamous for their deteriorating health and the subsequent association with obesity. Effective policy implementation should play a huge role in aiding the Canadian government fight this epidemic.

A parallel can be drawn between the concession the government already provides for people using the transit over personal modes of transportation. A tax credit is available to people that can provide evidence of a regular purchase of transit passes. This has encouraged people to adopt public transportation as a way of life, and also improved their carbon footprint. The added benefit of saving money while improving their health, should be enough of an incentive for Canadians to seriously consider making changes to their lifestyle, and adopt a healthier one. Recent reports show evidence that Canada already spent a whopping $242 billion on health related purchases in 2017, which adds up to about 11.5% of nation’s GDP. Receiving a credit for such purchases should help Canadians adopt the healthier habits quicker.( https://www.cihi.ca/en/health-spending).

With an already increasing interest in adopting a healthier lifestyle, this added push by the government should help bring down the alarming obesity levels. Not only will this tax credit reward citizens for making the decision to get fit, but it will also continue to reap benefits for people that stay fit. Improved fitness reports by their doctor can be used by citizens as evidence to get their tax credit. Getting a credit for gym memberships, and recreational fees should serve as an added incentive. While this policy may not fix Canada’s obesity problem, it will certainly aid in helping our population make the right fitness choices. A combination of such policies should help Canada fall lower OECD’s obesity calendar.

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