Putting healthcare on the table this election

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Project: Food Policy

We’re hearing a lot of promises in the lead up to the provincial election.  We have heard promises to cut taxes or invest in new services.  And we’ve heard some promises about healthcare.  Promises of more doctors and nurses, reduced wait times, and increased access to services.

We already spend a lot – over $6 billion – to help us when we get sick.  And while those services are essential, we need to change how we think about health.  This election, let’s start a conversation about what we can do to not get sick in the first place.

At Food Matters Manitoba we believe all Manitobans deserve good food. This isn’t just a nice idea. When people eat good food they are healthier.  When people are healthier their lives are better and we all save money.  It’s a win-win.

Diet affects our health in many ways including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few. What does this look like across our province?

Brandon – over one-in-four people are affected by hypertension and the prevalence of diabetes is 10%.

Dauphin – over one-in-four people are affected by hypertension and the prevalence of diabetes is 10%, a rate that has increased by nearly 20% in the past five years.

Flin Flon – over one-in-four people are affected by hypertension and the prevalence of diabetes is 9%.

Portage la Prairie – one-in-four people are affected by hypertension and the prevalence of diabetes is 9%, a rate that has increased by 12% over the past five years.

Selkirk – nearly one-in-three people are affected by hypertension and the prevalence of diabetes is 11%.

Steinbach – one-in-four people are affected by hypertension and the prevalence of diabetes is 8%.

Thompson – one-in-three people are affected by hypertension and the prevalence of diabetes is 14%, well above the provincial average.

The Pas – nearly one-in-three people are affected by hypertension and the prevalence of diabetes is 18%, the quickest rising rate in the province.

Winnipeg – nearly one-in-three people are affected by hypertension and the prevalence of diabetes is 7.4%.

These diet-related issues cost our province far more than we may realize.  In Manitoba, the direct and indirect costs of Type-2 diabetes alone are over $500 million and is expected to rise to $640 million by 2020.  Diet-related chronic diseases, and the cost of treating them, are rising rapidly in all parts of the province.

If we want to have a healthcare system that can continue to provide much needed care when we get sick, we need to invest now to keep us healthy.  So what can we do?

We can invest in community programs that equip people with skills to buy, grow, or cook good food.  We can teach youth in our schools practical food skills that last a lifetime.  We can ensure that all Manitobans can afford and access the healthy food they need.

Investments in healthy food now will, like any good investment, provide a strong return to our province and help bring our spiraling healthcare costs under control.  Not only will Manitobans be proudly eating well and feeling good, but we will also have the money we need to do all the other things we need for our province to flourish.

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