There has been a lot in the news over the last few days about the approach Canada is taking as it tries to tackle an obesity problem that is very similar to the one in this country.
In both the UK and Canada, almost 30% of the adult population is classified as obese – that means they have a body mass index (BMI) above 30.
The approach that Canada will be adopting is encouraging its medical establishment to tackle obesity in a new and different way. As in many countries, including the UK, a lot of doctors are inclined to talk down to or be critical of their patients who are obese. I know from my own experience of talking to patients that this tone has put them off attempting to discuss their weight with their GP.
The Canadian system will be encouraging medics to view obesity as a chronic long term condition and to engage in its treatment using the full range of tools available, in the same way that they would for any other chronic condition. As part of that process, it is asking doctors to talk about people’s weight in a different way, including asking permission to discuss it, rather than offering unsolicited advice.
This means that GPs will be encouraged to discuss the causes of a person’s weight and to help them address those causes.
Importantly, the new approach will also discourage medics from encouraging weight loss in those people who are ‘overweight’ but healthy. Canada will instead focus treatment on those people who have excess fat and for whom it is affecting their health. This will better focus resources where it is needed.
In this way, they will be able to identify these people who are close to or who are beginning to experience health problems from weight-related conditions, such as abnormal glucose levels and prediabetes.
All of these measures make sense. In this country, experts have been arguing for many years that we need to change the narrative and start to treat obesity as a long term chronic condition. It may take a generation before we can see the benefits of Canada’s new approach, but it sounds like a big step in the right direction.
We should do the same here.
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