a family of four stand in their living room doing yoga together

Healthy living

Why it matters

Besides not smoking, having a healthy body weight is one of the best things you can do to reduce your cancer risk. About 1 in 5 of all cancers can be prevented by eating well, being active and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Taking a comprehensive approach

The reasons for unhealthy lifestyles and the causes of obesity are complex and include social, economic, physiological, environmental and political factors. The reality is that no one policy option is going to change behaviours or solve the rising rates of overweight and obesity in Canada. It will take policy, education, programs, supports and research from all levels of government, industry and the public. Change is needed in the community, school, at work and at home over a continued period of time and at all stages of life.  

Action from all levels of government and across sectors is needed to make healthy food and physical activity choices easier for Canadians. 

Our position

The Canadian Cancer Society is committed to supporting public policy and programs that make it easier to keep a healthy weight, adopt a healthy diet and be physically active. A comprehensive approach to create supportive environments that make healthy decisions easier is required.

We want to emphasize the role of governments in helping shape policies that support healthy choices. The federal government specifically can play a strong leadership role in implementing policies and programs that will have an important population health impact. We also recognize that governments can’t do it alone. We need coordinated action across all levels of government and across a number of different sectors.

Improving nutrition labels

CCS is calling on Health Canada to adopt a front-of package nutrition labelling on packaged food.

A simple rating system will help bridge gaps in literacy and a standardized system would allow for comparison of nutrition information within and across food products. Health Canada should collaborate with Canadian researchers to understand the effectiveness of various front-of-package systems within the Canadian context and test any proposed front-of-package systems to know if they are easy to understand among a wide demographic of Canadians. A visual front-of-package system is an opportunity to bring research and policy makers together to find the best tool to further support Canadians with choosing what foods to purchase and knowing how much to eat.

It is important to have nutrition labels that are clear, informative and easy to understand. Front-of-package nutrition labels, along with continued education, will ensure that more Canadians understand the nutritional value of foods they are eating and can make informed decisions for their health.

Restricting marketing to kids

CCS is advocating to protect children and support parents to make healthy decisions for their families through marketing restrictions.

The time has come to protect children and support parents to make healthy decisions for their families. The Canadian Cancer Society is a proud supporting partner on the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition and one of over 100 endorsers of the Ottawa Principles. The Ottawa Principles call for restriction of commercial marketing of all food and beverages to children and youth age 16 and under with the exception of non-commercial marketing for public education. They also include a set of definitions, scope, and principles to guide policy development.

Research has shown that food and beverage marketing has an impact on:

  • the foods children eat
  • their food preferences and beliefs
  • the foods they ask their parents to buy
  • rising rates of childhood obesity
  • increased risk factors for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer

From a cancer risk perspective, this is concerning because if children who have obesity remain obese as adults, they are at increased risk for at least 11 different types of cancer.

Food and beverage companies bombard children with millions of irresistible messages every year, and we’re all living the unhealthy results. It’s time for Canadians to push back. Take action. Tell food and beverage companies our kids are not their business.

Join us in telling government to restrict the commercial marketing of foods and beverages to children and youth. Take your voice to Twitter and start a conversation today with #marketing2kids.