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Hindsight 20/20

It’s probably fair to say that this year did not quite unfold the way anyone expected. As many have rightly pointed out, the pandemic turned a magnifying glass on many issues that existed before but got a lot worse as a result of the virus (e.g. old-folks homes and meat-packing plants, just to mention two). While some businesses saw opportunity (e.g. on-line retail and home-delivery takeout), others experienced catastrophic misfortune (e.g. hospitality and the performing arts). Not just medical practice, but countless other businesses changed their operations seemingly overnight – suddenly working virtually became a virtue! The epidemic also magnified the fissures in our societies, some of which appear to have grown to the size of the Grand Canyon. One could not help but note interesting paradoxes. For one, the same crowd that generally calls for “law and order”, meaning that people need to follow the laws, which in turn need to be enforced, suddenly discovered the rather unlawful notion of civil disobedience by openly refusing to wear masks. The same people, who did not appear to value science or scientists, suddenly turned to science to provide the vaccine that would save the day. The same folks who support virtually unlimited budgets for arms and the military (to keep us safe-lol) – found their arsenals empty and their governments unprepared for dealing with an actual danger that scientists had long predicted and was by far more likely to occur than WW III. Interestingly, the most passionate religious and ideological “believers” discovered that it was rather easy to extend their “beliefs” to even the most unlikely conspiracy theories.  I could go on, but you get the point. On a more personal note, the year certainly turned out quite differently from what I had planned but with some interesting unexpected positive spins. Thus, although all of my heavily booked travel itinerary got cancelled, I ended up (thanks to virtual platforms) speaking to far more and far larger audiences globally than I would have, had I needed to physically travel to each event. Although I spent most of the year more or less in lockdown or in quarantine, I connected and reconnected (virtually) with more colleagues around the world than in any other year – in fact, for most of the year, my daily walk-and-talk routine was the most enjoyable part of my day. Although the many planned live events related to the (rather… Read More »

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Arthur Kleinman’s Eight Questions

The 2020 Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines for Adult Obesity stress the importance of patient-centred care and ensuring that we understand the patient’s story. In this context, it may be a good idea to consider presenting the patient with Arthur Kleinman’s eight questions. These questions evolved from Kleinman’s work as a medical anthropologist working across a range of ethnic populations and are particularly helpful in approaching patients of other cultures – but nut not just those. What do you call your problem? What name do you give it? What do you think has caused it? Why did it start when it did? What does your sickness do to your body? How does it work inside you? How severe is it? Will it get better soon or take longer? What do you fear most about your sickness? What are the chief problems your sickness has caused for you (personally, family, work, etc.)? What kind of treatment do you think you should receive? What are the most important results you hope to receive from the treatment? The answers to these questions – which the patient can formulate ahead of the clinical encounter – can provide important insights and form the basis of an explanatory model towards understanding the patient’s interpretation of their disease state and their health beliefs including their worldview, culture, social context, and spirituality. For more on Arthur Kleinman and his Explanatory Model click here @DrSharmaBerlin, D

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EOSS: Time To Drop Stage 0?

Readers will be well aware of the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS), which classifies the severity of obesity on a five-point ordinal scale based on presence of medical, mental, and/or functional health issues related to excess weight. By design, EOSS considers Stage 0 in individuals, who meet the BMI criteria for obesity but do not have any apparent health issues. However, given the recent change in definition of obesity expressed in the newly released Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines, obesity is defined as, “the presence of excess or abnormal body fat that impairs health”, BMI should no longer be used as the defining characteristic of obesity. Thus, one would not consider someone who has no health impairments, irrespective of BMI, to have obesity. As a result, the EOSS stage 0 no longer makes sense, as this individual, by definition, would no longer meet the key criterion for obesity, namely an impairment in health (perhaps one may consider the term “pre-obesity” in this context?). This also means that it is now time to abandon the term “healthy obesity” – either you have obesity, meaning you have a health impairment attributable to excess body fat, or you simply do not have obesity! In practice, you need to be able to list exactly what weight-related health impairments a given person has before labelling them as having obesity. If you cannot specifically list the health impairments (at least possibly) attributable to excess body fat, then that individuals, irrespective of BMI, does no longer meets the diagnostic criteria for obesity. This seismic change in how we apply the term “obesity” to a clinical diagnosis will take time to implement and be adopted. No doubt, many will long back for simpler times, where you could just step on a scale, plug the numbers into a BMI calculator, and make a diagnosis based on tables or charts. It will be interesting to see how long it will take for this new definition to be widely adopted in policy and practice. @DrSharmaBerlin, D

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Living With Obesity? Time To Connect!

In its continuing efforts to improve the lives of people living with obesity, Obesity Canada, has now launched OC Connect, its exclusive and private portal to engage and empower individuals living with obesity in a safe, supportive and interactive space.   The OC Connect platform, which runs on MightyNetworks, is a place where anyone living with obesity will recognize that they are not alone in their journey and become empowered to live happy healthy lives while connecting to others who get it! If you or someone you care about is living with obesity (or for any of your patients living with obesity), OC Connect is for you.  Through this community you will learn the latest science of obesity, what to do about it, and where to find help while building a supportive and interactive community of empowered people fighting the same fight.  By Joining OC Connect people living with obesity will immediately be connected to others just like them, across various stages of their journey who are looking for and offering friendship and support.  They will also have access to unique and valuable content from Canadian and global experts on obesity, access to exciting live and virtual events designed to inform and empower this community and perhaps most importantly, will be given the opportunity to make a difference.  Whether that be making a difference for themselves or their loved ones, the members of this community will become and important part of something much bigger! To join “OC-Connect” – click here. Health professionals may wish to join “OC-Connect Pro” – by clicking here. @DrSharmaEdmonton, AB p.s. The “OC-Connect Pro” site works best on the the TimedRight app, which can be downloaded here

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From Blog Posts To Guidelines

Yesterday saw the release of the long-awaited Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines. Getting to these guidelines was a long journey, that started well before the decision, about three years ago, to begin the daunting task of assembling the steering committee, the chapter authors, the literature review, the crafting of recommendations, the rating of recommendations, preparing the publication and the actual launch. Looking back, I realise that many of the so-called “novel” concepts included in the guidelines, stem back to topics and ideas about obesity, its nature, its causes, and management that I have thought about and discussed on this blog almost a decade ago. To illustrate this thought process, I have provided links to some of my previous posts on topics which have now found their way into the guidelines. They certainly make for some interesting reading: October 2007: Why I Don’t Like BMI March 2008: Obesity Classification: Time to Move Beyond BMI? April 2008: Recognising Barriers Key to Obesity Management? August 2008: Obesity is a Sign, Overeating is a Symptom February 2009: Edmonton Obesity Staging System October 2009: Do Mental Health Problems Predict Obesity? Novermber 2009: The M & Ms of Obesity Assessment August 2011: Weight Loss is Not a Goal September 2011: The 5 As Approach To Obesity Counseling It is indeed humbling to realise just how many of these ideas, first discussed in these decade-old blog posts, are now reflected in the new CPGs. @DrSharmaEdmonton, AB

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The Canadian Obesity Guidelines Are Here – Time To Join The Conversation!

As of this morning, the 2020 Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines for Obesity Management in Adults are out on the CMAJ and Obesity Canada websites, respectively. These guidelines present a departure from previous guidelines on a number of important issues. For one, Obesity is clearly defined as “a prevalent, complex, progressive and relapsing chronic disease, characterized by abnormal or excessive body fat (adiposity), that impairs health.” Although BMI and waist circumference can still be used for populations surveillance and screening purposes, the ultimate diagnosis should be based on the impact that adiposity has on health and not some arbitrary anthropometric cutoffs. Other topics that receive strong consideration include the role of weight bias in clinical practice, a departure from solely weight-centric outcome with a focus on health and wellbeing, learning from the body positivity movement, recognising the importance of root causes including psychosocial factors and mental health, and much more. Given that there will be many questions and issues around many of these topics, especially with regard to implementation in practice, Obesity Canada is also launching an online information and discussion platform OC-Connect-Pro, where health professionals can connect and share information, tap into tools and education about the guidelines. To join OC-Connect-Pro click here. @DrSharmaEdmonton, AB

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Early Registration For Obesity Guideline Webinars Now Open

We are now just one day from the long-anticipated release of the 2020 Canadian Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) and on the Obesity Canada website. But, registration for a first series of six webinars, starting Aug 11, by some of the leading chapter authors is already open. This interactive webinar series is offered through a partnership between Obesity Canada and the University of Alberta’s Office of Lifelong Learning. For a nominal fee of just $50 (Canadian) for all six webinars (i.e. less than $10 per webinar), participants will be able to: Provide obesity chronic disease management in a planned, proactive manner Support patients to understand how their root causes, comorbidities and personal context are related to their obesity management List, review and select therapeutic approaches (behavioural, medical, surgical) to help patients develop personalized plans to manage their obesity as a chronic disease. Speakers include Drs. Sean Wharton (Toronto), Sara Kirk (Halifax), Michael Vallis (Halifax), Sue Pedersen (Calgary), Rita Hendersen (Calgary), and myself. For more information visit the Obesity Canada website by clicking here. @DrSharmaEdmonton, AB

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The 2020 Canadian Obesity Guidelines for Adults are Coming!

Finally, after about three years of hard work by a panel of over 60 authors (not to mention the incredible staff at Obesity Canada), the 2020 Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines for Obesity Management in Adults will be released in the Canadian Medical Association Journal next week (Aug 4). This monumental undertaking, that began with extensive literature searches (identifying over 550,000 potentially relevant articles), which was systematically whittled down to about 80 GRADEd recommendations, represents a state-of-the-art evidence and practice informed overview of managing obesity as a complex progressive chronic disease. Without divulging too much, I can share that the guidelines will cover a broad range of topics from re-defining obesity, to the importance of recognizing weight bias in obesity medicine, to taking a patient-centred approach, where the focus is on improving health and well-being rather than just changing numbers on the scale. Importantly these guidelines are perhaps unique in the field of obesity, as they include analyses of both quantitative and qualitative research, the latter having often being largely ignored by previous guidelines. In addition, there was ample involvement and representation of the patient voice in the discussion of findings and wording of recommendations. Targeted at primary care practitioners, the guidelines outline what we know about obesity management but also outlines the often extensive and important gaps in our knowledge. So please stay tuned, as more information becomes available over the next few days and weeks. @DrSharmaEdmonton, AB

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