32 — apple November/December 2010
Commitment to wellness – reaching our
In January of this year, when Premier Stelmach appointed me as the Minister of Health
and Wellness, I made several
commitments to help improve
health 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 of
Federal Provincial Territorial Ministers of Health,
my fellow Ministers and I endorsed a declaration
on prevention and promotion that will guide our
efforts to promote wellness.
We also released Curbing Childhood Obesity: A
Federal-Provincial-Territorial Framework for Action to
Promote Healthy Weight to respond to Canada’s high
rates of childhood obesity and we made a national
call for everyone to reduce sodium intake levels.
While healthy weight is a very significant component of overall wellness, being healthy also means
having good mental, social and spiritual health.
Wellness is more than just the absence of excess
weight, sickness or disease. It means having healthy
bodies and minds, supported by a healthy community, all of which help us to achieve our human
Making wellness a priority throughout as many
sectors as possible will also give us the power to
create a healthier economy for our province.
In early December, I will be hosting Alberta’s
first-ever Wellness Forum with leaders of major
Alberta corporations, municipalities, school boards,
health professionals, colleges and universities and
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, listen
to ideas from more than 15 top researchers and
leaders in their respective fields, and commit to
promoting and acting on wellness initiatives.
Among the goals of this forum is to develop a
stronger, collective understanding among these
leaders that the wellness of our society should be
everyone’s responsibility, especially since, collectively, we are paying a hefty tab for preventable
health issues, including chronic disease.
For example, researchers at the Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health have found that the
cost of mental health issues to the Canadian economy is $51 billion annually. Statistics for obesity and
inactivity are also staggering, given that the annual
burden of unhealthy eating and inactivity is nearly
With the rates of children who are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes climbing rapidly, the
human toll is also rising.
It is estimated that one quarter of our province’s
children are at an unhealthy weight and more than
50 percent don’t get enough physical exercise. More
than 40,000 people visit hospital emergency rooms
annually in Alberta because of either a mental illness or an addiction issue, which means they are
already in crisis. Our budget allocates about $500
million annually toward mental health.
On the positive front, Alberta has created a number
of initiatives to combat and help prevent these issues
— encouraging healthier behaviours and increasing
access to treatment programs, for example.
In 2008, Alberta created its own nutrition guidelines for use in schools, daycares and other places
that children gather. It has simplified healthy food
decision-making for families and caregivers.
Within the private sector, we are encouraging
food manufacturers and processors to produce or
develop foods that meet these nutrition guidelines.
The Premier’s Food for Health awards were presented in July, and the call for entries has already
been made for next year’s participants.
Alberta has supported 102 projects through
The Alberta Healthy School Community Wellness
Fund, which has positively impacted more than 600
school communities and approximately 220,000 stu-
Alberta Health &