Reducing sugar intake – Healthy Kids Community Challenge
Investigating the effectiveness of Ontario’s population health intervention to reduce sugar intake
With childhood obesity on the rise, effective population health initiatives are needed to curb the intake of sugar and improve children’s diets. Supported by CIHR and Health Canada, Dr. Laura Anderson is leading a study to assess the role of sugar in children’s health and to determine the effectiveness of the Ontario Healthy Kids Community Challenge program on reducing sugar intake.
Assistant Professor with the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster University and Adjunct Scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, Dr. Laura Anderson is an epidemiologist who focusses her research on population and public health.
CIHR funding is essential and without it I would not be able to carry out this time-sensitive research. This grant will allow me to expand my research program and will inform child health policy.
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) released guidelines on the intake of “free sugars” for adults and children – sugars that are added to food, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices, and fruit concentrates. The guidelines strongly recommend that:
- the intake of free sugars be reduced; and
- the intake of free sugars not exceed 10% of total energy in both adults and children.
Obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are serious concerns for public health officials in Canada and around the world. These conditions, which can result from high sugar intake, are reaching epidemic proportions among Canadians of all ages. To reduce the burden of these diseases, effective population health initiatives are needed to improve healthy eating habits and encourage physical activity.
A researcher with the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster University, Dr. Laura Anderson is answering the WHO’s Call to Action by evaluating the impact of the Healthy Kids Community Challenge. Launched by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, this initiative was designed to promote the healthy development of young children by focusing on two of the key factors associated with healthy weights: physical activity and healthy eating. In her evaluation of this initiative, Dr. Anderson will be collaborating with researchers at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and Public Health Ontario.
In Canada, children receive nearly 30% of their total daily energy from sugar. Of that amount, nearly 50% is consumed in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages and milk. Using information gathered from the TARGet Kids! Network, a practice-based research network that has acquired detailed health data on 8,000 children under eight years old, Dr. Anderson and her team will evaluate the effectiveness of the Healthy Kids Community Challenge program on reducing sugar intake.
The resulting evidence will enable provincial policy makers to determine whether the program is an effective way to encourage children and their parents to adjust their diets in order to improve their overall health.
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