There is growing evidence of the negative health impacts of high sodium consumption. National and local media have recently brought attention to this major health concern, but there is little public education being carried out on the topic, either in Canada or in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is an international movement, World Action on Salt and Health (WASH), and a national effort led by Dr. Norm Campbell and organizations such as the Canadian Stroke Network. But while dietitians and other health professionals, and nonprofits such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, have information available, actions are piecemeal. The task of educating the community to effect reductions in salt intake is multi-faceted and huge, and requires the concerted effort of all stakeholders.
Given Newfoundland’s history of having the highest levels of salt consumption in the world, the Community Sector Council Newfoundland and Labrador (CSC) believes it is imperative, for the better health of our people and our communities, to start a process to help deal with this major public health concern. Although this matter is related to our traditional culture and eating patterns, it is also, like in other developed countries, closely connected to the consumption of processed and fast foods.
A public education and social marketing campaign will focus on several aspects of this complicated and pervasive problem. Nutrition label reading and interpretation, alternatives to cooking with salt, ways to reduce the amount of salt added at the table, working with the food industry (food processing, fast food and other restaurants) to reduce sodium levels, and government policy and legislation are all important aspects to be investigated and addressed.
Original partners in this initiative were Brighter Futures Coalition of St. John’s and District, Heart and Stroke Foundation NL and Dietitians of NL. Many more have since joined the Working Group, including representatives from MUN’s Faculty of Medicine, Janeway Cardiology unit, Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, Sobey’s community education initiatives, Food Security Network NL, Seniors Resource Centre NL, Kids Eat Smart Foundation, Canadian Diabetes Association, Newfoundland & Labrador Lung Association, Women’s Institutes NL and Canadian Cancer Society.