Today’s post is written by Neha Saroya, A research coordinator student assisting Obesity Canada’s Community Action Team.
Obesity is a complex, progressive, relapsing chronic disease where excess or abnormal adipose tissue impairs health. However, most Canadians living with obesity can tell you that their healthcare providers don’t treat obesity as a chronic disease. This could be partly attributed to the fact that no province or territory recognizes obesity as a chronic disease. As a result, doctors are woefully under trained in obesity management and there is no framework for obesity care. It is clear from the 2019 Report Card on Access to Treatment for Obesity that there are relatively few certified obesity medicine physicians in Canada and a distinct lack of interdisciplinary obesity management teams. This leaves us with the question, where are Canadians actually able to access obesity care?
Obesity is associated with a number of other chronic conditions, ranging from diabetes and heart disease to sleep apnea and PCOS. These conditions typically have frameworks for care in place and specialists that patients can go to receive treatment. In many cases, successful obesity management can play an important role in the treatment of these related health conditions or even be a vital preventative mechanism for these diseases. So, while we know that there is a lack of access to specific obesity specialists and management, what we do not know is if healthcare providers are talking about obesity when patients go to a doctor’s office for the management of an obesity related health condition.
To answer this question, Obesity Canada’s Community Action Team is heading a research study focused on the experiences of Canadians living with obesity. A nationally representative survey is currently being developed in order to determine if and where Canadians with obesity related conditions are accessing obesity care and what that might look like. This will be followed by interviews with Canadians living with obesity related conditions that will help us understand where there are supports that can be leveraged and gaps that can be addressed in the existing healthcare system that could improve obesity management for Canadians and support Obesity Canada as we develop a national obesity care framework.
If you have obesity related chronic disease, let us know if your doctor has ever talked to you about obesity and what that conversation looked like by emailing [email protected] and keep an eye out for more information about this important research soon!