Canadian Health Care System Needs a Dash of Consumer Incentive
Earlier this week the federal, provincial and territorial health ministers met in Newfoundland to discuss important issues facing the Canadian health care system. One of the issues receiving attention is the amount of salt Canadians are consuming in their diet.
Health Canada’s Sodium Working Group released a report in July 2010 titled Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada – Recommendations of the Sodium Working Group. It calls for a reduction in the amount of salt in processed and restaurant foods available to Canadian consumers. The report recommends reducing the daily intake of salt in the Canadian diet from 3,400 mg to 2,300 mg (roughly a teaspoon) by 2016. The long-term reduction goal is 1500 mg per day. The group claims that reducing salt intake will reduce the occurrence of high blood pressure, one of the risks for developing heart disease and stroke.
Salt is not all bad, in fact the body requires a certain amount of it to function properly. Reducing salt intake may work for a section of the population but other risk factors including obesity and a lack of physical activity can contribute to high blood pressure. The strategy for reducing the amount of salt in our diet raises some important questions for Canadians.
What types of chemicals will replace the role of salt in food texture, taste and preservation? What are some of the risks and long-term health effects associated with these chemicals? How does this impact the safety of food and consumers? Now that the federal government has developed a sodium reduction strategy will it also create a national sugar working group to develop a sugar reduction strategy?
Consumer demand drives the food market. If the goal of the federal government’s sodium reduction strategy is to improve disease prevention and save money in health care, then it should also consider adding a dash of consumer incentive to the Canadian health care system. Providing the public with data and information on the costs and quality of their health care could help Canadians make healthier choices.