'Invisible pandemic': Alberta receives failing grade for nutrition

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The province of Alberta has been given a failing grade on its nutrition report card on food environments for children and youth.

A distinguished professor in the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health told CTV News a D is the lowest grade recorded in the last seven years.

“We’ve become somewhat complacent in thinking about nutrition and health,” Kim Raine said.

According to the University of Alberta, COVID-19 has brought to light weaknesses and opportunities in the way public policies can support children’s long-term health.

“COVID-19 has overtaken everyone’s consciousness around health,” Raine added.

Many kids used to receive their meals from schools programs and childcare facilities. But due to the pandemic, many of those places were shutdown for long periods of time and youths didn’t have the same level access to supplied nutrition.

Raine explained to CTV News the general trend of nutrition-focused public health policies are worsening rather than improving.

“Diet is only the second to tobacco for the number one premature cause of death in Canada,” she said.

At this point nutrition education isn’t enough for the province to bounce back, according to Raine. There needs to be more environmental controls put in place to better protect the kids and reduce marketing in areas where kids are present.

“It’s cheaper, it’s so much more readily available it marketed it’s much more attractive to kids,” she said.

“Without using some of those strategies that we used in tobacco control… some of those strategies used in COVID-19, then we’re not taking nutrition seriously and it’s time for us to wake up to the fact that we have an invisible pandemic of diet related chronic diseases.”

In years past, Alberta has hovered around a “mediocre C” on the report card. Moving forward, Raine said they plan to get local communities involved in strategizing policy and an app is currently in the works.