Our mission at Obesity Canada is to improve the lives of individuals living with obesity through research education and advocacy.
What do we mean by advocacy? Advocacy can mean a number of things. It can mean we are demanding better access to care for Canadians living with obesity from policy makers. We are regularly in contact with federal and provincial governments, attending meetings and having events that focus on this type of advocacy like our federal advocacy event in Ottawa or our provincial event held in Quebec.
Advocacy can also mean standing up for individuals living with obesity and supporting their efforts to create a change. For example, Obesity Canada supported Melody in her efforts with a human rights complaint in Nova Scotia. We also held a campaign based on the story of Ellen to gain attention for the weight bias and discrimination faced by individuals living with obesity.
Advocacy can mean representing the voices of Canadians living with obesity and ensuring that the lived experience is front and center. For example, Obesity Canada patient advocates are actively involved in the Canadian Transportation Agency’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Mental Health and Chronic Disease Network, the development of Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines and future pediatric clinical practice guidelines.
Advocacy can mean ensuring Canada is helping lead the way globally when it comes to patient representation and moving towards recognition of obesity as a chronic disease. Our patient advocates are involved in a number of global efforts, such as the Global Obesity Patient Alliance as well as the Obesity Policy Advocacy Network.
Advocacy can mean coordinating and working with other relevant organizations to amplify our efforts and ensure that we are all speaking the same language and utilizing messages that support each other’s efforts. The Canadian Obesity Advocacy Network, with more than 25 partner organizations (and growing), does just that.
Advocacy can also mean sharing lived experiences and contributing the patient perspectives in research, health professional training and industry settings. Nothing is more powerful than centering our work and efforts with patient voices in everything we do. Our patient advocates are experienced speakers who bravely share their stories and remind us why this work is important. Here is an excellent example of one by Lisa Schaffer.
Advocacy can also involve large-scale efforts, like the letter writing campaign we did to raise awareness of the lack of access to treatment. Or, it can be much smaller-scale, like helping an individual find appropriate care and supporting their efforts to speak up for themselves.
If you want to help and be a part of the change we are making, there are a number of things you can do. First, if you can, donate to Obesity Canada; as a registered health charity, we rely on the generous contributions of our supporters, and with your help we can continue our work and have a greater impact. You can also become an advocate yourself! Share your story, tell us your experiences with weight bias, and make sure you support our campaigns when they happen. Finally, you can make a big difference simply by sharing Obesity Canada’s content and sparking fresh talk about obesity with friends and family. Changing how the world understands this disease is not easy; it will take a grassroots movement of many people changing conversations.
This starts with you.
Photo: Speak Up by beverlyislike/Flickr/CC-by-2.0