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Government of Canada and Heart and Stroke Foundation take action on obesity

Ottawa (March 8, 2011) The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, today announced three new research initiatives studying how the design of neighbourhoods impact obesity. The studies were funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC).

"The research announced today will lead us down a path to better health for Canadians by reducing obesity levels through improved community design, more active lifestyles, and increased access to healthy food choices," said Minister Aglukkaq.

The three research teams will be funded through the Built Environment: Population Health Intervention Research Strategic Initiative for a total of $1.7 million over three years. The projects were approved through a competitive peer review process. This research will build on the 11 research projects funded by the built environment initiative in 2007.

"How we plan, design, and build communities has a lasting influence on the activity levels and food choices of the people who live in them," said Dr. Jean Rouleau, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health. "Furthering our understanding of how neighbourhood layout and design influence health will inform polices and future urban planning to improve the health of Canadians."

The successful projects are:

  • Identifying causal effects of the built environment on physical activity, diet and obesity among children. Dr. Jason Gilliland and team (University of Western Ontario)
  • A moving study: Physical Activity and diet before and after residential relocation. Dr. Lawrence Frank, Dr. Michael Brauer, and team (University of British Columbia)
  • TIME (Tools, Information, Motivation, Environment) for health: a multi-level intervention to promote healthy eating in children and their families. Dr. Sara Kirk and team (Dalhousie University)

Neighbourhoods that are designed to encourage physical activity can literally be a lifesaver. Being physically active 150 minutes a week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more, can dramatically lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Regular activity also helps prevent and control risk factors for heart disease and stroke such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. Yet only 15% of Canadian adults accumulate 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity each week.

The studies will also look at the impact of improved access to healthy foods.

"Healthy eating is a key factor in preventing heart disease," says Bobbe Wood, HSFC CEO. "By limiting the availability of unhealthy food choices and promoting healthier food options at home and in communities, we can help improve the health of children and their families."

She says that availability of nutritious food in communities, and one's access to it, can help reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 30 percent.

Currently almost 50 per cent of Canadian adults and 37 per cent of Canadian children are either overweight or obese. Being obese increases the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and cancer.

The research will be discussed at the Sharing Knowledge Building Links advancing Research, Policy and Practice on the Built Environment workshop, being held in Ottawa from March 7 to 9. Researchers, decision- and policy-makers, designers, and planners from across the country will explore solutions that will contribute to improvements in the well-being and sustainability of our communities.


Contact: David Coulombe
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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