The Canadian Obesity Network

The Canadian Obesity Network

April 21, 2011 07:30 ET

Canadian Obesity Network: Canada's #1 Health Crisis Deserves Attention During Election

EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - April 21, 2011) - Canada's major political parties are used to debating weighty matters during an election, and a public discussion on their plans to address the nation's top health crisis should be part of the dialogue, according to several obesity experts.

"Obesity is the nation's top contributor to disease, death, loss of productivity and costs to our health systems," says Dr. Arya M. Sharma, scientific director of the Canadian Obesity Network-Réseau canadien en obésité (CON-RCO). "One in 10 premature deaths among Canadian adults aged 20–64 years is directly attributable to excess weight, and 60% of adults and 25% of kids are overweight or obese. Clearly, obesity is having a profound impact on Canadians, and policy solutions will play a key role in reversing this epidemic."

In a recent CBC/Leger Marketing poll, 37% of Canadian adults and 35% of youths identified obesity as the number-one health issue affecting Canadians. In terms of both the impact on health and cost, they're right. In an April, 2011 issue of Macleans magazine, Neil Seeman of the Health Strategy Innovation Cell at the University of Toronto suggests that obesity drives 60% of all chronic disease in Canada. A 2010 report estimated that direct costs of overweight and obesity represented $6 billion – 4.1 % of Canada's total health care budget. However, this estimate only accounts for health care costs related to obesity, and does not account for productivity loss, reductions in tax revenues or psychosocial costs.

An Australian survey looked comprehensively at the economic effects of obesity in that country and concluded the disease cost $58.2 billion there. Given the similarities between the two countries in terms of population demographics, economics and obesity rates, the same criteria may mean the true cost of obesity in Canada tops $90 billion per year.

"The fact that obesity, Canada's most pressing public health concern, isn't being openly talked about and debated as an election issue speaks volumes about the incredible and urgent need for both advocacy and action," says Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity physician and activist in Ottawa, ON and president of Reality Coalition Canada (RCC).

The RCC is a newly-formed, not-for-profit think tank whose members – some of the nations' top minds in obesity research, prevention and treatment – will issue its first white paper on the status of obesity in Canada on Saturday, April 30th at the 2nd National Obesity Summit in Montreal, QC.

"Prevention is an important aspect of any plan to deal with the obesity crisis," Dr. Sharma continues. "But 14 million Canadian adults and almost two million children are currently overweight or obese – meaning they are already experiencing the profound, negative consequences in terms of health, stigma, reduced earnings and quality of life. Canada is long overdue in making the behavioural, medical and/or surgical treatment of this disease a national priority."

Dr. Sara Kirk, Canada Research Chair in Health Services Research at Dalhousie University, stresses that scientific evidence does not support the long-term effectiveness of simple lifestyle advice, such as "eat less and exercise more", in managing excess weight, especially in people living with severe obesity.

"Mounting evidence suggests more successful weight management outcomes are achieved via individualized interventions that take a holistic approach, delivered by a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals in a manner consistent with best practices in chronic disease management," she says.

"There is still time to make obesity an issue in this election, and we encourage local and federal candidates of all parties to educate themselves on the complexities of this condition and incorporate evidence-based advice into their health platforms," Dr. Freedhoff concludes.

Obesity is the only topic of conversation at the 2ndNational Obesity Summit, April 28th-May 1st, 2011 at Le Centre Sheraton Montréal. More than 600 delegates will be on hand to hear hundreds of presentations on the latest in research outcomes and best practices in obesity prevention and management. More information is available at

Leaders from Canada's major political parties are invited to attend the 2ndNational Obesity Summit and learn more about obesity prevention and treatment – and to discuss how their government will approach the issue going forward. Contact Ximena Ramos Salas, MSc, Managing Director, Canadian Obesity Network at (780) 735-6798 or

Need more perspective on obesity as a priority issue for Canadians? Check out today's posts on the following blogs:

Dr. Sharma's Obesity Notes: A daily digest of the latest in obesity research and practice. Dr. Arya M. Sharma is Professor of Medicine and Chair in Obesity Research and Management at the University of Alberta, the Medical Director of Alberta Health Services Edmonton Region's interdisciplinary Weight Wise Program and Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network.

Weighty Matters: Outspoken obesity advocate Dr. Yoni Freedhoff's often provocative take on health, weight loss and life in general. Dr. Freedhoff is the founder and Medical Director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, a multi-disciplinary behavioural weight management program.

Obesity Panacea: Obesity Panacea examines the latest news and research in the fields of obesity, nutrition and physical activity. It is written by Dr. Peter Janiszewski, ( and Travis Saunders (, both active researchers studying the relationships between obesity, exercise, and health.

About the Canadian Obesity Network – Réseau canadien en obésité (CON-RCO)

CON-RCO was founded in 2006 to link the research, policy and practice communities to advance the development and delivery of effective obesity prevention and treatment solutions. The network's core strategies focus on addressing the stigma associated with excess weight, changing the way policy makers and health professionals approach obesity, and improving access to prevention and treatment resources. Currently, more than 5,000 professionals in Canada are members of the network. CON-RCO is hosted by the University of Alberta, and is based at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, AB.

Contact Information

  • Media accreditation and interviews with select presenters
    and Canadian Obesity Network members can
    be arranged through:

    Canadian Obesity Network
    Brad Hussey
    Communications Director
    905-628-7778 (EST)

    Pour l'accreditation des medias et les demandes d'entrevue
    avec des presentateurs et des membres du
    Reseau canadien en obesite, communiquez avec :
    Amelie Desrosiers
    +1-514-475-7431 (EST)