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Executive Summary

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is responsible for promoting and protecting public health, which includes monitoring the health and well-being of the population.

This health status report on Active Living and Healthy Eating in Windsor and Essex County was prepared by the Health Unit with the goal of describing local statistics, emerging trends, and at-risk populations as it relates to active living, healthy eating, and healthy weights within Windsor-Essex County.

The key findings of the report are summarized below:

Active Living

  • Less than 30% of residents from Windsor-Essex County are active during leisure time.
  • There were active living inequities related to gender and household income. For example, 14.8% of females from low-income households report being physically active during leisure time which is 3-times lower than males from high income households (45.2%).
  • It is recommended to limit screen time activities (TV, computer) to less than 15 hours per week; 2 in 3 residents (64.1%) of Windsor-Essex County exceed this recommendation.

Healthy Eating

  • Consumption of vegetables and fruit is low in general; locally, just over a third (34.9%) of the population consumes vegetables and fruit five or more times per day.
  • Households spend more on ‘junk food’ than they do on fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Healthy eating was linked to marital status, education, and household income. For example, among adults 45-64 years old, the consumption of vegetables and fruit five or more times per day was 3.7-times lower for those from low-income households (14.8%) when compared to those from high income households (54.7%).
  • Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is prevalent; over 2 in 5 (42.5%) adults 25-44 years old reported consuming sugar sweetened beverages every day. Further, more than half (52.8%) of local residents did not know that sugar sweetened beverages were linked to obesity/overweight.
  • Locally, the weekly cost for healthy foods for a family of four was $203.03 for 2016, which is a 28.4% increase since 2009. That is, a family of four will have to spend an additional $2,334 this year (2016) on healthy food compared to 7 years ago (2009).

Healthy Weights

  • Locally, 2 in 5 (42.0%) children, over a quarter (26.1%) of youth, and two-thirds (66.5%) of adults are overweight or obese.
  • Males and adults 45-64 years old are more likely to be overweight or obese; in fact, 4 out of 5 (80.1%) adults in this age range are overweight or obese which is significantly greater than the provincial average (71.5%) for this same age group.
  • There are significant data gaps for healthy weights. Local surveillance data on children is lacking and small local sample sizes for youth does not allow for comprehensive analysis.

Recommendations

  • In addition to universal programming, initiatives involving active living and healthy eating should target populations with the greatest needs:
    • Active living programs in Windsor-Essex County should target females and individuals from low income households.
    • Healthy eating programs in Windsor-Essex County should target males, individuals who are not married/common-law, and individuals from households with low income or lower educational attainment.
  • The social determinants of health are a driver of health inequities related to active living and healthy eating. Public health can play a role in supporting and advocating for improved societal changes to address the root causes of these health inequities.
  • Promote healthy food environments and support policies that reduce barriers to healthy eating, particularly as it relates to accessibility and affordability of healthy foods in Windsor-Essex County.
  • Work towards improved assessment and surveillance of children and youth, both provincially and locally, in the areas of active living, healthy eating, and healthy weights.
  • Due to the complex and dynamic nature of active living, healthy eating, and healthy weights, public health initiatives in these areas should continuously ensure that their programming is supported by current research, evidence, and/or best practices. These programs should regularly be re-examined for relevance and evaluated for effectiveness.

The findings and recommendations of this report will help to inform and optimize the planning, direction, and provision of public health programs and services in Windsor-Essex County. Active living, healthy eating, and healthy weights are complex, though universally  important, public health topics that are linked to multiple facets of everyday life and overall well-being. Working towards improving health in these areas will require a dedicated, comprehensive approach and collaboration across sectors.

Read the full report.