March 4 is World Obesity Day. For the past few years, all of the major global obesity organizations including World Obesity Federation, European Association for the Study of Obesity, The Obesity Society, Global Obesity Patient Alliance, Obesity Action Coalition, Obesity Canada (OC) and more have coordinated a unified day for raising awareness and taking action. Obesity is a global issue that does not recognize borders, yet each country and region is faced with their own unique challenges in addressing it. With different government structures and approaches to policy change, as well as vastly different approaches to healthcare delivery, there is no single solution to improving obesity treatment and prevention globally. However, being unified in a common goal has allowed these global leaders and organizations to learn from one another to accelerate progress.

While there are unique challenges and different approaches, there are a few commonalities that are shared among these global organizations:

  • Obesity is a chronic disease. It is a complex condition that requires a comprehensive approach to prevention and treatment.
  • Weight bias and stigma are prevalent and create additional barriers that impair health and wellbeing for individuals living with obesity.
  • The time for action is now. We know over-simplifying obesity care into an “eat less, move more” narrative of personal responsibility has not worked, and will not work. We need an approach to the problem that recognizes the complexity of this disease. For this to happen we need everyone to help take action to create the change needed.

Here in Canada there is still lots of work to do, but there is reason for hope. OC is a leader in this area. Look no further than the groundbreaking launch of
the Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines which have set a new standard for obesity care – so much so that we are working with other countries to adapt our guidelines. I am sure the same will be true for the highly anticipated launch of our new pediatric guidelines, expected later this year.

While we have yet to have our federal or provincial governments follow the science and recognize obesity as a chronic disease, we have worked with a number of provincial medical associations to formally make that recognition, including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Yukon. By doing so, they join us as partners in advocating for better outcomes for individuals living with obesity. We know that Canadian physicians and allied health professionals are woefully under-prepared in their training to manage obesity in an evidence-based manner. However, Obesity Canada has provided training to thousands of health professionals and between the Advancing Obesity Management Program, the Certified Bariatric Educator designation and our highly anticipated upcoming launch of the Canadian Advanced Learning In Bariatric Care (CALIBRE), we will be exponentially increasing the number of health professionals who “get it”, thereby improving care for many Canadians living with obesity.

Many Canadians living with obesity do so silently, often because they have been conditioned to believe they are to blame and that they are a burden. Changing the narrative and reversing the damage done by generations of harmful diet culture and misinformation is not an easy task. However, OC has been actively
supporting Canadians living with obesity with education and empowerment. From our regular Connected Conversations webinar series, our annual public conference and our online support community (OC-Connect) to our efforts to elevate the voices of lived experience in every facet of our work in research, education and advocacy, we are working towards a day when Canadians living with obesity are understood, respected and living their healthiest lives.

But, we need your help! If you support our efforts and would like to see more being done, consider donating to Obesity Canada. As a registered charity, any support helps us in our mission.

World Obesity Day is a reminder for you to join the conversation and support the cause. Follow along on social media (#WorldObesityDay), have a discussion with your friends, family and co-workers about what you have learned, call out instances of weight bias when you see it, share the Clinical Practice Guidelines with your healthcare teams, contact your elected officials and ask for them to support improved access to evidence-based obesity care, or just simply step up for yourself and recognize that you deserve the same dignity and respect as anyone else.

Taking action, any action, big or small is all part of the collective movement to change how obesity is understood and managed.

Now is your chance to be a part of that change!