A National Fitness Plan

As in every Canadian election, one of the main topics of discussion for this election has been the state of the health care system in Canada.

So many soundbites have been directed towards our “ailing”, “ineffecient”, “overburdened”, “overtaxed”, “underfunded” health care system for me to care to count.

But is it really the system itself that is to blame for our long waiting lists and overworked (there’s another one) doctors? Perhaps we call another conference or inquiry and spend another 10s of billions of dollars, we should start looking at ourselves for the solution.

Yes, that’s you and me that I’m talking about… why? Because as the saying goes, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”.

Indeed, part of the appeal of a truly national health care system is the ability to generate positive initiatives that will help people on a national scale. I believe it’s time for a new and aggressive type of initiative. One that could be controversial, but at the same time, undeniably practical.

It’s time for a new National Fitness Plan for Canadians.

You would be hard pressed to find a doctor that would say that more, regular exercise would be BAD for a patient. Canadians need to eat better, play more and thus, go to the doctor less. This is by no means a quick fix for our current health care crisis, but if Canadians truly value and understand the benefits of our National Health Care program, then I believe they will understand the benefits of a long term educational and incentives strategy to mitigate long term health-care costs.

That doesn’t mean, however, that this cannot have an immediate impact. Strong incentives, like, say, tax credits for gym memberships… or more funding for municipal and private community fitness programs would encourage Canadians *today* to get out from in front of the TV screen and get into the Great Outdoors.

Canada is known around the world for it’s magnificent wilderness. All Canadians should be physically fit enough to get out and enjoy that magnificence.

Now here comes the negative, and controversial aspect of this strategy. People will ask, how will you fund this initiative? Well, you can probably guess. Taxes. As such, I don’t think this program would be a huge budgetary concern considering the billions already commited for health infrastructure and the like. But taxes are not just about collecting funds… taxes are also a powerful method to shape consumer and citizen behavior.

Smoking is taxed to the heavens… and it has worked very well to reinforce the notion that smoking is bad for your health. It also pays for ad campaigns, recovery programs and advanced research into the effects on smoking on your health.

And so, it’s time we taxed the foods that we all know do us more harm than good when consumed in the *vast* quantities to which we have become accustomed. Fast Food… including hamburgers, french fries, “chicken” nuggets, are the obvious ones. Then there are potato chips, soda pop (haha, i said soda… that’s so not Canadian)… there could be a long list, which will have to be scientifically validated, but that research alone would make the initiative worth it.

For too long we have blamed our own poor health on the inadequacies of our health care system, when in fact we, the users of that system, have a very large role to play when it comes to stress to the system.

If Canadians lead healthier lives the system will be freed to concentrate on our ageing population who have very different needs… if it is forced to do both, then no amount of money will ever truly fix it.

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