Friday, January 04, 2008


St. John's, proudly known as "The oldest city in North America", has a thriving, bursting economy, and lately, is known to have a bursting obesity rate of 36.4%, the highest among Canadian cities.

A University of Alberta researcher found that the rate is related to the proportion of fast-food outlets in the region. The Atlantic region had the highest in comparison to other Canadian regions.

In Quebec city the obesity rate is 17.3% and the # of fast-food outlets per 10,000 residents is 1.97. In St. John's the # of fast-food outlets per 10,000 is 3.54.

There are 100,646 residents in St. John's proper (1/5 of NL's population), and 181,113 (nearly 2/5 of NL's population) residents in the St. John's metro area (City of St. John's).     The following table is from the CTV story

That's a large proportion of people, and, potential health problems related to obesity. This is a concern, most importantly for personal health, but also for the health care system - it's medical staff and infrastructure, and the provinces health care budget.

While this study compared cities, there is no reason to believe that other areas of NL would have better rates.

Various factors are associated with Atlantic Canada's higher rate - socio-economic factors, weather, cost of healthier foods, and quite possibly an inadequate amount of education about the dangers in many foods. It would be an interesting idea to make more room in school curriculums for food and nutrition education, reinforced by healthier food choices in schools. (NL has the highest teenage obesity rate in the country as well)

Food and our body's food processing system is in a way like an engine, or a plumbing system. If you put harmful oils, pollutants, grease, and junk into it, the system can clog, and need to be cleansed (angioplasted, or snaked).

It's not easy to change eating patterns .. boy, it's not easy, but the more we learn about bad foods, and how it can affect our direct health and daily being, the better decisions we can make on what food we want our bodies to process.

This earlier blog post has information that was released a few months back on the relationship between cancer and weight. Another warns of dangerous sodium levels in food, and here is an analysis of Dr. Yoni Freedhoff's exposure of the misleading Health Check symbol.

Food and health education is a big part of individual health, and the health care system. Our province, schools, health and any individual or organization can promote more informed citizens to make healthy choices.

In the first half of the 1900s and before, people in Newfoundland and Labrador, did much more physical work than todays computer age workers. There wasn't much nutritional information going around, but people did eat plenty of organic food, which many grew themselves. Of course, there was lots of fat in meat, or salt meats, but people, perhaps unknowingly, were exercising as they worked, and burned off calories.

The province, and St. John's can help people by encouraging more physical activity. The trail system around the town and Mount Pearl is a great place for walkers, and more can be done.

Ottawa has the Rideau Canal where 1000s of people skate. The city is lucky to have a 7 km canal maintained in the winter for skaters. We have unsupervised ponds but there is a real threat of drownings. A public skating rink would be great for St. John's - a shallow water rink where families can go for general skating.

Unfortunately there are now few areas of the city where such a rink could be placed, as commerce is the first priority it appears. What little practical space is left for such an endeavor should be frozen (pun intended), and assessed to determine how the area could either just simply be flooded in the winter, or an actual open air rink with rink boards, benches, etc., could be constructed.

Winter is difficult for getting around. Sidewalks at the best of winters are hidden beneath tons of snow. It's not possible to keep them cleared constantly like during the last week's four major snowfalls. The city has been doing a fine job of keeping roadways cleared so far. However, better sidewalk clearing than has been witnessed in past years, needs to happen. It would mean safer streets, safe people, and importantly, contribute to lowering risk of obesity.

No comments: