32 — apple November/December 2010
Commitment to wellness – reaching our
In January of this year, when Premier Stelmach appointed me as the Minister of Healthand Wellness, I made severalcommitments to help improvehealth outcomes in Alberta,including elevating the “Wellness” part of this portfolio.
Focusing on wellness is
now more important than
ever, given recent statistics,
However, while Alberta and the rest of the coun-
try are weathering the global economic downturn
better than others, financial hardships still exist
for many families; therefore, governments across
Canada have agreed to keep wellness at the top of
In fact, during the recent Annual Conference ofFederal Provincial Territorial Ministers of Health,my fellow Ministers and I endorsed a declarationon prevention and promotion that will guide ourefforts to promote wellness.
We also released Curbing Childhood Obesity: AFederal-Provincial-Territorial Framework for Action toPromote Healthy Weight to respond to Canada’s highrates of childhood obesity and we made a nationalcall for everyone to reduce sodium intake levels.
While healthy weight is a very significant component of overall wellness, being healthy also meanshaving good mental, social and spiritual health.Wellness is more than just the absence of excessweight, sickness or disease. It means having healthybodies and minds, supported by a healthy community, all of which help us to achieve our humanpotential.
Making wellness a priority throughout as manysectors as possible will also give us the power tocreate a healthier economy for our province.
In early December, I will be hosting Alberta’sfirst-ever Wellness Forum with leaders of majorAlberta corporations, municipalities, school boards,health professionals, colleges and universities andother stakeholders.
My intention is that this meeting will fuse the
creativity and the resolve needed among influen-
tial Albertans so that the commitments to wellness
can be increased for the benefit of all — especially
This three-day forum — Action on Wellness —will be a workshop where leaders will gather, listento ideas from more than 15 top researchers andleaders in their respective fields, and commit topromoting and acting on wellness initiatives.
Among the goals of this forum is to develop astronger, collective understanding among theseleaders that the wellness of our society should beeveryone’s responsibility, especially since, collectively, we are paying a hefty tab for preventablehealth issues, including chronic disease.
For example, researchers at the Centre forAddiction and Mental Health have found that thecost of mental health issues to the Canadian economy is $51 billion annually. Statistics for obesity andinactivity are also staggering, given that the annualburden of unhealthy eating and inactivity is nearly$12 billion.
With the rates of children who are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes climbing rapidly, thehuman toll is also rising.
It is estimated that one quarter of our province’schildren are at an unhealthy weight and more than50 percent don’t get enough physical exercise. Morethan 40,000 people visit hospital emergency roomsannually in Alberta because of either a mental illness or an addiction issue, which means they arealready in crisis. Our budget allocates about $500million annually toward mental health.
On the positive front, Alberta has created a numberof initiatives to combat and help prevent these issues— encouraging healthier behaviours and increasingaccess to treatment programs, for example.
In 2008, Alberta created its own nutrition guidelines for use in schools, daycares and other placesthat children gather. It has simplified healthy fooddecision-making for families and caregivers.
Within the private sector, we are encouragingfood manufacturers and processors to produce ordevelop foods that meet these nutrition guidelines.The Premier’s Food for Health awards were presented in July, and the call for entries has alreadybeen made for next year’s participants.
Alberta has supported 102 projects throughThe Alberta Healthy School Community WellnessFund, which has positively impacted more than 600school communities and approximately 220,000 stu
Alberta Health &Wellness MinisterGene Zwozdesky