A few days ago, a report on Obesity in Canada was released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Public Health Agency of Canada. The sixty-two page document is a great read for geeks like me, and I’d encourage anyone who is interested in obesity treatment or research to have a read through the entire document (it’s a free download). In this blog, I have chosen some interesting facts and excerpts to share with you. This is not meant to be a review of the key points of the article – more of a collection of ‘did you know?’ facts about obesity in our country.
1. Twenty-five percent of adults in Canada are obese. (Obesity is defined by a Body Mass Index of 30 or more; you can calculate your own BMI here, in the right hand column).
2. In the last 30 years, rates of obesity have approximately doubled amongst most age groups, amongst both males and females.
3. The variation in obesity rates across the country is huge, from a low of 5.3% in Richmond, BC, to a high of 35.9% in the Northern Athabasca region of Saskatchewan. Urban centres tend to have lower obesity rates than rural areas, with Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver all having obesity rates below the national average.
4. The causes and contributors to obesity are numerous and complex (understatement of the century!) – the report does go in to quite a lot of detail on this. One interesting fact is that while a higher income (or socioeconomic status) is associated with lower rates of obesity for females, there is no relationship between income and obesity for men.
5. The cost of obesity to the health care system is about $4.6 billion per year.
The final pages of the report are dedicated to a very important discussion of just how we can combat and prevent obesity in our country. Potential interventions are categorized into individual person-level interventions, community based interventions, and public policy changes. Numerous specific interventions are discussed and put forth as potential avenues that we could expand upon in our pursuit of a healthier Canada – now let’s see if policy makers, politicians and health care providers take more aggressive action based on these suggestions.
Treatment and prevention are our biggest struggles in our understanding of obesity; as the review cogently notes: ‘There is unlikely to be a single solution that will reverse the rising prevalence of obesity in Canada; rather, a comprehensive, multisectoral response may be needed.’
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