Integrated health and agri-food strategy needed
"In Canada, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are approaching epidemic proportions," says the study, called Finding Common Ground: Food for a Healthy Population and a Healthy Agri-Food Sector.
"The social and economic costs of these diseases are staggering. Agriculture and food production have a huge role to play in population health. In Canada, policymakers are realizing that human health, and the agriculture industry, could both benefit significantly from an integrated agri-food policy framework."
CAPI is a non-profit corporation that provides an independent voice on agri-food policy issues. CAPI's objective is to identify initiatives that could provide Canadians with improved health benefits, while contributing to the economic well-being of the agricultural and food sector.
The project team, consisting of academic experts from across Canada, reviewed initiatives relating to food and health that have demonstrated an impact on the health of the population and the agri-food sector in Canada and other countries, or which could potentially do so in the future.
CAPI is now working on developing a framing paper to identify a possible vision and guiding principles for an integrated strategy, a step recommended by the study.
According to Statistics Canada, by 2004 Canada's total expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product had ballooned to over 10% of gross domestic product.
The CAPI study suggests that the agri-food industry can contribute greatly to alleviating health problems and health-care costs. However, an integrated strategy will only be successful if it's based on strategic collaboration among industry, governments, and the health care community.
The federal government has endorsed the study, and mandated CAPI to produce the integrated health and agri-food strategy.
The study identified numerous projects abroad:
"The findings of the first phase of this project both validate and enhance our understanding of the complex relationships that exist between food and health," said Gaëtan Lussier, CAPI Chair. "We will use the findings and recommendations from this work to mobilize governments and a variety of other stakeholders in support of the development of an integrated agri-food and health policy for Canada and Canadians."
Eight other organizations participated with the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute in this project: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, Dietitians of Canada, Health Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Public Health Agsency of Canada.