Overall health of Islanders decreasing: chief public health officer

Teresa Wright
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Dr. Heather Morrison says Islanders need to get active, eat healthier to reduce risks of chronic disease

Change activities like drinking, smoking, eating poorly to reduce risk of developing problems later in life, says Dr. Heather Morrison

Prince Edward Islanders are less active, more overweight, drink more alcohol and are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions than the rest of the country.

These are some of the findings highlighted in the 2014 health trends report from P.E.I.’s chief health officer.

This is the second report of its kind, and although it has been two years since the last one was conducted, the overall health of Islanders has not improved.

In fact, it has gotten worse.

“We’ve seen unfortunately a decrease in overall general health of Islanders in the two years since our first report,” said Dr. Carolyn Sanford, who was among those who compiled the data in the report.

P.E.I.’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said her biggest concerns centre around the obesity and inactivity levels of Islanders.

Sixty per cent of Islanders over the age of 18 are overweight or obese, according to the data compiled from the 2011-12 Canadian Community Health Survey.

Less than a third of Islanders consume the recommended five or more fruits and vegetables per day. A quarter of the population says they are heavy drinkers. Half of all Islanders are inactive.

As a result, more Islanders are developing chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and cancer.

The report further shows that in P.E.I., there is a steeper rise in these chronic conditions among those in the younger 35 to 45 age demographic compared to the rest of the country.

Morrison said the report also examined the social determinants of health. This data included for the first time this year indicates those with less education and with lower incomes are more likely to report these kinds of poor health indicators.

She pointed to the fact the Island has a lower median household income than the rest of the country as a factor in why Islanders are scoring worse than their Canadian counterparts in so many areas of their health.

“We think that can affect your health status and your ability to make sure that you eat enough fruits and vegetables and get enough activity.”

Childhood obesity levels also appear to be increasing faster in P.E.I. than the Canadian rate. One in five children in P.E.I. are overweight and another eight per cent are obese.

A large section of the report also focuses on P.E.I.’s aging population.

The number of seniors in P.E.I. is projected to dramatically increase in the coming years. By the year 2020, 20 per cent of Islanders will be over 65 years of age. By 2040 this will increase to one in three Islanders.

The report looked at aging and frailty and how these factors affect health outcomes.

In total, 43 per cent of P.E.I. seniors reported feeling frail – a state of vulnerability that can lead to poor health.

Although this number is high, the report indicates it is not surprising given the prevalence of chronic conditions and risk factors in P.E.I.’s population.

That’s why Morrison says she hopes Islanders will take note of these unfavourable statistics and start making better choices.

People can’t change their age, but they can change activities like drinking, smoking and eating poorly in order to reduce their risks of developing problems later in life, she said.

“Part of aging well is that we are more active and staying active, if at all possible. And that will help some of that chronic disease levels.”

Health Minister Doug Currie says the province is investing in initiatives like ‘Go P.E.I.’ to encourage more people to get active and adopt more healthy lifestyles.

But in the end, it’s up to each individual Islander to make healthier choices.

“What we’re really talking about here is people taking responsibility, people being aware, looking at initiatives and programs,” Currie said.

“This information is the cold hard truth about what we’re currently dealing with and what we’re facing, but it also gives us an opportunity to make strategic policy and investment to support programs.”

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Geographic location: P.E.I.

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  • Island Resident From Away
    June 30, 2014 - 08:20

    Bill Meeker....This article was written by an Islander about Islanders, from a report by PEI's Chief Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison regarding the sad state of Islanders health; drinking, smoking and not eating healthy....I didn't write this. My comment was based on my own personal observation. I'd like to comment on your remark "why do you bother living here". Had I known how rude, sarcastic jealous and two-faced Islanders can be, not only to people from away, but to other Islanders too, I would have never moved here and I am not the only one that have found this to be true. It's just a matter of time and I'll be on my way! You can't keep people here when you treat them like that. You'll take our hard earned money, smile to our faces, but gossip behind our backs. No wonder so many Islanders leave this province...you make better money elsewhere and don't have to put up with the narrow-mindedness of this red-neck province. You guys are getting a bad reputation because you created it and you have no one to blame but yourselves. BTW, members of my family are Islanders, now I know why they left and never came back. What a shame! It's a beautiful province! Enough said!

  • sick of it
    June 29, 2014 - 08:50

    It's not only the people on social assistance who cannot afford "real food", gym memberships and sports for our children...It is also us working poor. We have two pay checks coming in and we are still only doing it pay check to pay check. With the rent prices, gas prices, and the price of "real food", we can't do it. 89 cents for banana's.....$1.79 and up for a bag of apples...all fresh fruit and veggies for that matter are priced too high...the prices of meat is unbelievable!!! especially chicken breasts!!! The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer...The Ghiz government only looks out for the rich!! It's time people do something....CHANGE!!!!

  • Billy
    June 29, 2014 - 04:39

    Love the way people blame, government,income,farmers,Ghiz without looking in the mirror. Easier to do then being accountable to yourself and continue to eat like a pig and sit on your duff.Well done and continue the rant to your graves boys as I'm SURE the blame game will save your soul! This is one instance that I am glad I was not born here as I can distance myself form the island mentality of shifting blame which you do SO well.

  • Micheline
    June 28, 2014 - 22:43

    Well then, let's keep cutting jobs, forcing families to send someone west to work. Spray more pesticides on the food that is grown here so that the islanders who are choosing fresh healthy food can ingest it. After we finish doing that, lets cut more healthcare professionals so there is nobody to care for the sick, depressed unemployed population that is PEI.

  • Island Resident From Away
    June 28, 2014 - 18:57

    It saddens me to see the amount of junk food Islanders buy from take-out fast food restaurants and grocery stores. All I ever see in the check-out line at Sobeys or Superstore, is cases of pop, chips, frozen prepared foods, cookies, cakes, white bread and list goes on and on. I've heard so many say they can't afford to buy fruits and vegetables. I've said, buy less red meat and junk food and you'll have money to buy them, they also spend money on cigarettes, gas and booze. No one walks here...no they all own cars and will jump in their car to go 2 blocks to a store and the one's that don't own cars, take taxis and they are expensive. I've never seen so many overweight kids and adults. Yes, there are issues with the Health Care system; not enough doctors to go around, but when you stuff your face with pure chunk, how can you expect to be healthy; then they whine and cry the blues about their ailments and blame others for the state of their health. All I've got to say is - pathetic!!!

    • Bill Meeker
      June 29, 2014 - 09:29

      Island Resident From Away, we don't know what province you are really from since you did not have the courage to sign your real name, but are you saying people there do not eat junk food, smoke and drink beer and never drive? I find it hard to believe that the world wide junk food business can survive by just supplying a small place like P.E.I. By the way, why do you think it is permissible (that means OK) to judge the people of P.E.I? If we are as bad as you seem to think why do you bother living here. In fact I would think the Utopia (that means a place where everything is sweetness and light) would be a far better place to live than slovenly (that means messy, dirty and fat) old P.E.I

    • veggie
      July 01, 2014 - 14:51

      I found meat too expensive and I use alot of vegetarioan recipees including tofu satein temphra. If you do your research it not that expensive using beans lentals . Black rice has eqvilent photo nutrients as black berries . The root vegatables such as beets are inexpensive etc . I have a min income I find im fuller longer eat less as well many of the dried goods various beans quinoa etc keep and do not spoil .biggest expense is spices .seasonings . If price of meat is too high I dont buy it .As far as fruit I buy frozen .and only get the sale items . Some is alot of work to prepare but much cheaper . I wonder if it would help to send low income clients to a nutrionist as well nutrition study students at upei could do a study ? As well many may need help in assist in healthy preparation etc and cost saving ideas . I see alot of unhealthy items in shoppers carts chips .junk food that are just as expendsive chips close to 3 dollars a bag and dips close to 300 as well ?alternate for me is popcorn and much cheaper as well .just some examples . My grandmother fed 12 kids herself and husband they had a small farm but didnt have much she lived to ninety six .sometimes I think we dont need as much as we think .

  • Island Resident From Away
    June 28, 2014 - 18:56

    It saddens me to see the amount of junk food Islanders buy from take-out fast food restaurants and grocery stores. All I ever see in the check-out line at Sobeys or Superstore, is cases of pop, chips, frozen prepared foods, cookies, cakes, white bread and list goes on and on. I've heard so many say they can't afford to buy fruits and vegetables. I've said, buy less red meat and junk food and you'll have money to buy them, they also spend money on cigarettes, gas and booze. No one walks here...no they all own cars and will jump in their car to go 2 blocks to a store and the one's that don't own cars, take taxis and they are expensive. I've never seen so many overweight kids and adults. Yes, there are issues with the Health Care system; not enough doctors to go around, but when you stuff your face with pure chunk, how can you expect to be healthy; then they whine and cry the blues about their ailments and blame others for the state of their health. All I've got to say is - pathetic!!!

  • healthy foodie
    June 28, 2014 - 15:59

    The foodie allowance covers laundry and sundires as well .like cleaners .soap .personal care toilet tissue . To buy fruit and vegatables it about 40 dollars to make a few salads over a few days while higher incones spent 92000.oo on burger live event such as above or snacks poolside with rooms in hotel with a veiw . Some people have health problems in the first place from poverty . And adversity .spend money in a SA client that can in six months have good housing goid foid and back to work instead of scraps .most single people if they invested in are highest taxes taken off so in stead of social assistance as a way of life for single healthy people build them up instead of decline downward spiral .

  • Hawkins
    June 28, 2014 - 15:21

    This doesn't surprise me one bit...This morning, I saw a line up of cars at a Tim Hortons spilling out onto the road. God forbid anyone should park in the parking lot, get off their butt and walk the ten paces to pick a coffee up by hand! I have said it before, Islanders have to be the laziest people on the planet...

  • TO SOME EXTENT
    June 28, 2014 - 12:04

    I agree to some extent that diets and non exercise are a part of the cost. A lot of the families have a problem providing the basis essentials let alone getting their children into organized sports, or getting themselves gym passes. I truly believe that the main health problem here on PEI is chemicals that are poured on the fields that also seep into the water supply. Even the bees cannot live here now. You cannot blame all the health problems on the people and not put some of the blame on corporations that are poisoning the land to make more and more profit. The million acre farm as it was once called is becoming the million acre chemical dumping ground.

    • patrick
      June 28, 2014 - 21:32

      no where in the above article does it refer to pesticides! People don't want to own up to their problems and want to blame some one else for their own poor life decisions

    • patrick
      June 28, 2014 - 21:33

      no where in the above article does it refer to pesticides! People don't want to own up to their problems and want to blame some one else for their own poor life decisions

  • George
    June 28, 2014 - 11:03

    I have been waiting for over a year now to see a specialist, - I am skinny as a rail, don't drink or smoke, - but I need to see this specialist, - where does that leave me Minister Currie, -- up the creek, so never mind the lecture. You were party to wasting money on that washboard a road called Plan B, that our pigheaded Premier insisted on, instead of providing health care, so maybe you should pipe down and buckle down to earn you high salary. Thank you, Sir, for nothing.

  • Edward Gregory
    June 28, 2014 - 09:34

    YAY!!!! We're number one!!!

  • Stewart Smith
    June 28, 2014 - 09:28

    Our deaths from cancer, asthma, and other preventable diseases could be reduced by stopping industrial potato farming. We are being killed and maimed so that certain large corporations can make more money, and this has to end now!

    • Really?
      June 28, 2014 - 11:14

      So if we stop potato farming all the cancer and asthma will go away on PEI and we can be lazy, fat, drink and smoke and it will have no effect on our health. Super! If potato farming is the root of all evil how come we still have potato farmers? They are on the front lines and should be dropping like flies from cancer and asthma.

    • patrick
      June 28, 2014 - 21:36

      @ stewart smith. another stupid comment !

  • Fed up
    June 28, 2014 - 08:52

    Poor health also due to Ghiz government spending money on more roundabouts instead of bringing in doctors! We wait months for ct scans and MRIs...then more months to have them read. Currie standing there putting on weight on his big salary and NO HEALTHCARE!!!

  • Concerned islander
    June 28, 2014 - 08:40

    why can't they start subsidizing gym passes for obese people? they have started a pilot project in alberta and i think it is going well. in the end you end up saving money

  • A Voice
    June 28, 2014 - 08:38

    Lovely to look at, delightful to visit, if you should live here, then consider it a blessing or a curse! I was born here, lived elsewhere, and when I see what one has to contend with, if not traffic, high cost of rent, crime, and other expenses like food and entertainment, never mind the humidity, I would think we are one of the lucky ones! Mind you, there could be more coffers put in the pot, to feed those less fortunate and housing can be improved. I don't know what's up with all these condominiums, when we have such a great need more subsidized housing for Seniors and people on fixed income. No matter where you live, there will always be challenges, but with so many young people leaving our province, to seek work and shelter, something is wrong with the system. The golf courses, eating establishments, theatres, beaches where one has to pay to enjoy, is not there for the average person to enjoy, so we are becoming a " Coney Island " and to be catered to those who can afford it! We need more jobs other than " service " jobs. The Gov't can do better, when it knows better!

  • pin-up
    June 28, 2014 - 07:23

    No question, we need a pep-talk, and should make an effort to live healthier. - I have to say though that this gov. is not helping the stress factor with all the lunatic decisions for spending our hard earned tax dollars. The mere sight of our arrogant Premier sends the blood pressure up.

    • The Way It Is
      June 28, 2014 - 15:16

      I totally agree. My drinking has gone way up since Ghiz was elected. It's the only way I can cope with the ridiculous ways that he spends OUR money.

  • Well now
    June 28, 2014 - 06:31

    Well now it could all be caused by stress of trying to eke out a living here on the island due to the failure of this fat cat Ghiz Liberal govt we have - some members of which totally over eat due to high meal expense accounts.

  • carbs
    June 28, 2014 - 03:17

    Every one knows that on a low inccome it is cheap food stretches the dollar kraft diiner is .69 a box the cheaper foods as well as sodium rich TV dinners and soups . Food allowance on social assistance is 260 a month . By the way minister currie looks like in this picture he also vould take a few reduced pounds off and Im sure its not from KD like the rest of Islanders . It easy to say for Dr morrison and Currie whose income are in the 6 figure range compaired to what the average islander income of minimun wage .ccp.social service and EI .

  • L.C.B.
    June 28, 2014 - 00:31

    This is an economically depressed area.Lowest wages in Canada.And some of the worst winters which cause us to stay indoors.So we dont have a lot going for us . I have lived back here for a few years now having been born here and I just want out.It is not a positive place to live. Bad politics, education, health care and overall low esteem have me scaning every possible way to get out of here ASAP. Having lived in other parts of Canada, I do question my sanity at coming back here, but I WILL find a way out....and be better off for it......in every way. But it is a choice, I agree.Stay and put up with the horrible lifestlye or be pro-active and get out. So many people choose to leave and I cannot blame them.It's called voting with our feet !!! I can't wait til the day I can finally vote with mine......and say ADIOS to this place. A great place to visit....8 weeks of the year.The rest is not good.

    • free
      July 01, 2014 - 15:03

      It costing money to government any way when people havevto basically committ crimes to eat . But then when they charged rest of most population suffer in the rise if costs . How much does it cost when people get depressed or committ crimes .addiction to stay in the institutions .but at least they pay no rent ,get three squares a day heat lights cable and there usually a gym at jail and hillsbough .That be pretty costly ?Than spending dollars on making sure people get enough to eat that have social assistance the government paying one way or another with our taxes ?