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CON Public Webinar #2: Answers to Viewers' Questions

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff answers questions arising from his webinar 'Swimming Against the Flood: How the World We've Built Challenges Both Weight and Health'(March 23, 2016). Click here to view the archived webinar.

In your opinion, what are some steps that people can take to advocate for change?

Think of expanding circles of advocacy.

At the heart would be your own family. What changes might you make that would improve upon the lives your family members are living? Could you implement a cooking together night? A weekly walk? A concerted plan on reducing restaurants and take outs?

Next might be extended family. Are their caregivers who with great intentions, are pushing food for celebration, comfort, or spoiling too frequently?

Then look to teachers, coaches, and the like and perhaps offer to them some alternatives to the junk food and candy that are being offered to your kids.

If you’re keen, meeting with school boards or parent councils, writing letters to the editor, meeting with program directors of community centers. 

And certainly the next time a politician knocks on your door to ask about the issues that matter to you, bring up food and health. 

How to handle a household where one parent sets an example of healthful eating (i.e. eating vegetables with dinner, not consuming processed foods, etc.) but the other parent does not consume vegetables and eats plenty of processed foods? It feels like an impossible battle to lead by example and encourage a child to eat healthful food and make wise snacking choices when they never see one of their parents eat vegetables and reach for the chip bag far too often.

Parenting can be boiled down into living the lives you want your children to live. That said, while sometimes a thoughtful discussion with a partner whose life lived isn’t necessarily the one you want for your kids will influence behaviour change, it won’t always. Try to find middle ground and compromises, but unfortunately, sometimes that may not be doable. 

What are some non-food related fundraising ideas that schools could do to generate funds needed for sporting activities?

There are plenty of resources that suggest alternatives to junk food fundraising. Here’s a bunch.  

With limited resources and funding to invest in reducing obesity (programs, services, investing in advocacy), as well as less and less government investment in health; how do communities, sport organizations, health institutions get away from accepting money from the food industry? The food industry seem to be the ones with money to spare.

At some point, regardless of whether or not there are obvious other sources of funds, health institutions need to ask themselves whether money justifies the sale of illness and the health washing of our culture of convenience. 

Now that we have the knowledge, how do we as health professionals, consumers and parents change the tide? Some suggestions of who to write to would be good.

I think the likelihood of institutional change before societal change is low. Consequently, I do recommend starting with our own local communities first with the goal of raising awareness in a door to door fashion. But as mentioned before, letting your government representatives know that issues pertaining to nutrition, the food environment, advertising, etc. matter to you is important even if it doesn’t lead to quick change.

How do you, as a parent, handle school pizza days, etc.?

On a case-by-case basis, and each family needs to determine for themselves which battles they feel are worth fighting. 

Thanks, Dr. Freedhoff! Do you know of any templates for advocacy letters that parents and health professionals can use to more quickly and effectively respond to the barrage of messaging out there (i.e. to a lunch program or fundraising initiative at school, or cafeteria choices in a hospital, or a sports program)?

I wrote a piece on how to approach kids’ junk food pushers, but I think it would apply in responding to adult situations as well.