By: Jordan Benadiba, Account Supervisor, Health & Wellness Team
Canadians aren’t getting healthier. Instead, we are becoming unhealthier each year – rates of obesity continue to increase, as do rates of chronic disease. In response to this concerning trend, governments at both the federal and provincial levels are undertaking regulations and instituting measures to improve population health; specifically focusing on prevention.
Prevention has become a major public health focus within the last few years across developed countries. Governments are opting to try to prevent childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, in order to reduce future healthcare costs and, ideally, foster a healthy active future society. In 2016, Canada spent roughly $228 billion on the healthcare system, or $6,299 per person. 
In Canada, the federal government is proposing significant public health changes including:
• banning trans fats;
• changes to nutritional labeling to ensure more Canadians understand their grocery purchases;
• changes to Canada’s food guide; and
• a ban on the marketing of junk food to children under 17.
Provincially, the Ontario government now requires food service providers with 20 or more locations to post the calorie count of each item on its menu. It also just recently announced that it will partner with Carrot Rewards, a health promotion app, for a one-year pilot program.
Efforts such as these are designed to help Canadians make healthier choices and remove barriers or impediments. What Canadian governments haven’t opted to do is impose a punitive tax, as has been the case elsewhere. For example, Hungary has imposed a “chips tax,” targeting packaged foods high in sodium and sugar. While Denmark tried and has since repealed a tax on saturated fat.
While many health promotion and health advocacy organizations support punitive tax measures on specific foods and beverages, current Canadian governments have resisted implementing such tools, opting to promote healthy active living and positive choices instead.
Should current measures fail to slow rates of chronic disease, it seems likely that more governments, including Canada’s, will be willing to consider and possibly implement punitive tax measures on foods and drinks deemed unhealthy.
How those measures will be communicated to the public at-large will be an essential component towards ensuring general support rather than opposition. GCI’s Health & Wellness practice is well versed in regulation, health policy and adapt at communicating complex concepts in an easy to understand manner.
 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Health Spending. https://www.cihi.ca/en/health-spending. Accessed July 2017.