A perspective from Quebec on healthy living habits

38.8 million premature deaths by 2025: that is the conclusion of a recent Lancet study that evaluated the impact of the global population’s unhealthy living habits.

The two leading causes of deaths identified by the study’s researchers are well-known--tobacco consumption and pulmonary arterial hypertension. By reducing tobacco, salt, and alcohol consumption, stopping the rise of obesity and diabetes, and reducing the number of people affected by pulmonary arterial hypertension, the world could reduce or even prevent 37 million deaths over the next 15 years.

Healthy living habits are a hot topic around the world, and in particular in Quebec, where these issues have a long history of government and civil society innovation. In 2006, the government launched an ambitious set of programs around the province that empowered local communities to fight, at the ground level, against unhealthy habits of all sorts.

Substance abuse, lack of physical activity, and junk food consumption are among the numerous and demanding challenges we face. One-third of Québec’s population is overweight, and the rate of obesity verges on 20 percent. Almost a quarter of people who are age 18 and older, as well as 10 percent of high school students, smoke. Chronic diseases and cancers are the primary causes of death.

Throughout Quebec, people are working within their communities to raise awareness of the benefits of healthy living and physical activity. Collective kitchens and community gardens are contributing to educating people and fighting against the loss of culinary skills.  By targeting people with low revenue, they have an important role in making sure that no citizens are left out of the health movement. The popularity of annual sport challenges, like the Défi Alter Go or Le Grand Défi de Pierre Lavoie, that target the general population as well as specific segments like kids or people with disabilities, also reflect an intensifying interest in adopting healthy habits by the population as a whole.

Quebec’s civil society and social entrepreneurs have revealed themselves to be resourceful and creative at bringing sustainable solutions to our pressing public health issues. Ashoka Fellow Jean-François Archambault leads a successful social enterprise that combats food waste and educates teenagers about healthy eating. La Tablée des Chefs, which he started in Québec, now intervenes in countries around the world, which demonstrates the potential of Quebec’s innovative, home-grown ideas for replication. With her organization Fitspirit, Claudine Labelle, another Ashoka Fellow, helps teenage girls discover the pleasure of taking part in physical activity and promotes healthy self image. Throughout the years, Labelle has managed to create a wide movement across Quebec and Ontario to foster the enthusiasm and energy of hundreds of teenage girls.

The Play Exchange is an opportunity for every individual and organization across Canada to share ideas and solutions for fighting unhealthy habits.  The diversity and dynamism of Quebec’s solution-makers could help reshape the nation. The potential gains for health are tremendous--enter the Play Exchange or nominate a local organization that is doing innovative work!

 

Follow #PlayExchange on Twitter to stay updated on the wealth of ideas for healthy living emerging across Canada, and check out the Facebook page to become part of the conversation.

Photo Credit: http://www.tableedeschefs.org/fr/medias/photos