Healthy eating and cancer in Canada

Healthy eating and cancer in Canada

Background information populated by NCCMT findings, Analytics, Research and Innovation

  • Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, responsible for over 28% of all deaths1 
  • Unhealthy eating is the ??? most common cancer risk factor, contributing to approximately ???% of all cancer cases2                                                 
  • Unhealthy eating accounted for nearly ??? new cancer cases in Canada in 20213  
  • Estimates suggest that adherence to healthy eating nutritional guidelines could reduce cancer risk by ???%4  
  • Healthy eating interventions could prevent cancer cases with the impact on cases becoming more pronounced over the long-term, with estimates suggesting Canada could prevent ??? cancer cases in Canada by ??? 5 6   
  • Strong evidence links healthy eating to a decreased risk of ??? [types of cancer] 7 8 9       

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H2: Policies promoting healthy eating    

  • There is a need to understand what types of interventions – particularly those that can be applied at a population level through local, provincial/territorial, or federal policies – are most effective at increasing healthy eating. 
  • Effective healthy eating policies need to be equitable, inclusive, and follow a health-in-all-policies framework.  
  • Regardless the aim of a policy, all levels of government should be notified and/or engaged. Maneuvering through multiple levels of government can present challenges but can often result in robust and sustainable policy decisions.  
  • Policies that create supportive environments are more effective than individual approaches in improving population health, given their increased reach, scalability, and sustainability.  
  • Policy approaches tend to be more equitable than program interventions as they influence change at population levels versus individual levels. 
  • Add sentence that hyperlinks to subpages?

H2: Healthy eating policy analysis    

[CALL-OUT BOX]: The Partnership’s policy analysis includes review of active policies from every province and territory along with thirty-one municipalities across Canada.  

This policy pack is an update to the Partnership’s published 2018 Healthy Eating Policy Pack. The document covers many changes to federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal policies that nudge Canadians towards healthy eating, which contributes to cancer prevention.  Each section discusses the current policy landscape for each healthy eating policy domain, followed by an opportunity for action commentary. Please note that the policies included in this document represent a highlight of the current policies across Canada, and do not make up an exhaustive list of all policies.   

[CALL-OUT BOX]: Pathways to Policy. When designing policy, one needs to consider eight elements to effectively create change: relationships, staffing, expertise, resources, evidence, engagement, collaboration, and issue framing. Learn how to create a path to policy change. 

  • Healthy eating policies generally encompass legislation, regulations, provincial and territorial policies, mandated school curriculums, local bylaws, and community or municipal plans. 
  • Policies can be enacted at federal, provincial, territorial, and/or municipal level with one or multiple government jurisdictions involved in policy implementation. 
  • Less populated municipalities, such as rural areas, tend to have less developed policies in relation to healthy eating.  
  • Different policy approaches are needed across different settings and different population groups. For example, settings catered to youth, elderly populations, First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities, or low-income neighbourhoods.  

Levels of adoption 

A level of adoption label has been assigned to each analyzed policy domain to help illustrate strength and gaps within the Canadian healthy eating policy landscape.  

Policy Domain  Level of attention  Description/Summary  Commentary / Opportunities for Action 
Food Labelling  Low       
Food Provision  High       
Food Prices  High       
Food Promotion  Medium       
Food Retail  Low       
Food Composition  Medium       


Note: Policy adoption were graded across ISPAH domains amenable to action at a regional or national policy level. The remaining ISPAH domains – healthcare, workplaces, and community-wide programming – are programmatic and/or influenced through organizational practices and were therefore not analyzed.   

Level of Adoption:  

  • LOW = no or very few provincial/territorial and municipal jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action, and/or the breadth of the policy action is limited in scope 
  • MEDIUM = some, but not all provincial/territorial and municipal jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action, and/or the breadth of the policy action is incomplete 
  • HIGH = most provincial/territorial and municipal jurisdictions have adopted comprehensive evidence-informed policy action 

H2: Federal healthy eating policy analysis: 

  • The degree of federal healthy eating policy adoption is LOW – while the federal government heavily regulates food production, safety, and quality standards, there are very few policies that directly relate to healthy eating.   
  • The federal government’s Food and Drug Act regulates food preservation, additives, and ingredients with a focus on food safety. For example, the act mandates a nation-wide ban on partially hydrogenated oils – a source of trans fats – which has direct implications on consumer health.   
  • Federal policies appear to place a minimal emphasis on healthy eating – though one policy reviewed encourages healthy eating in the context of diabetes.  
  • No policies discuss healthy eating in relation to cancer prevention.  
  • In general, the federal government places responsibility on the provinces and territories to develop and enact healthy eating policies and programs.  

H2: Opportunities for Action: 

  • Implementing a federal mandate related to healthy eating is encouraged as there is little consistency in healthy eating policies across all provinces/territories.  Such policies could include food and menu labeling, retail, and promotion.  

H2: Healthy eating nutrition guidelines  (this could also go on Key stats page)

[CALL-OUT BOX]: Pathways to Policy: Pathways to Policy represents critical success factors for policy development and implementation and can inform healthy eating policies across Canada. 

[CALL-OUT BOX]: Canada’s healthy eating nutritional guidelines recommend ….  (this seems pretty important and could be highlighted) 

[CALL-OUT BOX][Highlight national charitable organizations related to healthy eating]  



H2: Healthy eating during the COVID-19 pandemic   

H2: Healthy eating policy shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic   

H2: COVID-19 pandemic recovery and healthy eating  

[CALL-OUT BOX]: The need for innovative policy approaches to increase healthy eating are needed as Canadians emerge from COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.  

H2: Further research on healthy eating policy