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5th Canadian Obesity Summit – Call For Abstracts And Workshops Now Open

banff-springs-hotelEvery two years the Canadian Obesity Network holds its National Obesity Summit – the only national obesity meeting in Canada covering all aspects of obesity – from basic and population science to prevention and health promotion to clinical management and health policy.

Anyone who has been to one of the past four Summits has experienced the cross-disciplinary networking and breaking down of silos (the Network takes networking very seriously).

Of all the scientific meetings I go to around the world, none has quite the informal and personal feel of the Canadian Obesity Summit – despite all differences in interests and backgrounds, everyone who attends is part of the same community – working on different pieces of the puzzle that only makes sense when it all fits together in the end.

The 5th Canadian Obesity Summit will be held at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies (which in itself should make it worth attending the summit), April 25-29, 2017.

Yesterday, the call went out for abstracts and workshops – the latter an opportunity for a wide range of special interest groups to meet and discuss their findings (the last Summit featured over 20 separate workshops – perhaps a tad too many, which is why the program committee will be far more selective this time around).

So here is what the program committee is looking for:

  • Basic science – cellular, molecular, physiological or neuronal related aspects of obesity
  • Epidemiology – epidemiological techniques/methods to address obesity related questions in populations studies
  • Prevention of obesity and health promotion interventions – research targeting different populations, settings, and intervention levels (e.g. community-based, school, workplace, health systems, and policy)
  • Weight bias and weight-based discrimination – including prevalence studies as well as interventions to reduce weight bias and weight-based discrimination; both qualitative and quantitative studies
  • Pregnancy and maternal health – studies across clinical, health services and population health themes
  • Childhood and adolescent obesity – research conducted with children and or adolescents and reports on the correlates, causes and consequences of pediatric obesity as well as interventions for treatment and prevention.
  • Obesity in adults and older adults – prevalence studies and interventions to address obesity in these populations
  • Health services and policy research – reaserch addressing issues related to obesity management services which idenitfy the most effective ways to organize, manage, finance, and deliver high quality are, reduce medical errors or improve patient safety
  • Bariatric surgery – issues that are relevant to metabolic or weight loss surgery
  • Clinical management – clinical management of overweight and obesity across the life span (infants through to older adults) including interventions for prevention and treatment of obesity and weight-related comorbidities
  • Rehabilitation –  investigations that explore opportunities for engagement in meaningful and health-building occupations for people with obesity
  • Diversity – studies that are relevant to diverse or underrepresented populations
  • eHealth/mHealth – research that incorporates social media, internet and/or mobile devices in prevention and treatment
  • Cancer – research relevant to obesity and cancer

…..and of course anything else related to obesity.

Deadline for submission is October 24, 2016

To submit an abstract or workshop – click here

For more information on the 5th Canadian Obesity Summit – click here

For sponsorship opportunities – click here

Looking forward to seeing you in Banff next year!

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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My Miniseries on Obesity As a Disease

NN Benefits White Paper CoverOver the past weeks, I have presented a miniseries on the pros and cons of calling obesity a chronic disease.

Clearly, I am convinced that the arguments in favour, carry far greater chances of effectively preventing and controlling obesity (defined as abnormal or excess body fat that impairs health) than continuing to describe obesity merely as a matter of ‘lifestyle’ or simply a ‘risk factor’ for other diseases.

That said, I would like to acknowledge that the term ‘disease’ is a societal construct (there is, to my knowledge no binding legal or widely accepted scientific definition of what exactly warrants the term ‘disease’).

As all societal constructs are subject to change, our definitions of disease are subject to change. Conditions that may once have been deemed a ‘normal’ feature of aging (e.g. type 2 diabetes or dementia) have long risen to the status of ‘diseases’.  This recognition has had profound impact on everything from human rights legislations to health insurance to the emphasis given to these conditions in medical education and practice.

People living with obesity deserve no less.

Thus, I come down heavily on the ‘utilitarian’ principle of calling obesity a disease.

When, calling obesity a ‘disease’ best serves the interests of those affected by the condition, then, by all means, call obesity a ‘disease’ – it is as simple as that.

First consequences of the American Medical Association declaring obesity a chronic disease are already evident (see here and here).

We can only hope for the same impact of the Canadian Medical Association declaring obesity a disease – the sooner, the better for all Canadians living with obesity.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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Arguments For Calling Obesity A Disease #5: Access To Care

sharma-obesity-doctor-kidContinuing in my miniseries on arguments in favour of calling obesity (defined as excess or abnormal fat tissue that impairs health) a disease, I turn to the perhaps most important reason of all – access to care.

Currently, few health care systems feel obliged to provide individuals presenting with obesity treatment for their condition (beyond a few words of caution and simplistic advise to simply eat less and move more).

Most health plans do not cover treatments for obesity, arguing that this is simply a lifestyle issue.

In some countries (e.g. Germany), health insurance and health benefit plans are expressly forbidden by law to cover medical treatments for obesity.

Although long established as the only evidence-based effective long-term treatment for severe obesity, many jurisdictions continue to woefully underprovide access to bariatric surgery, with currently less than 4 out of 1,000 eligible patients receiving surgery per year in Canada.

Pretty much all of this can be blamed on one issue alone – the notion that obesity is simply a matter or personal choice and can be remediated by simple lifestyle change.

Declaring obesity a disease can potentially change all of this.

As a disease in its own right, health care systems can no longer refuse to provide treatments for this condition.

In the same manner that no health system or insurance plan can refuse to cover treatments for diabetes or hypertension, no health system or insurance plan should be able to deny coverage for treatments for obesity.

As a chronic disease, obesity care must now be firmly integrated into chronic disease management programs, in the same manner that these programs provide services to patients with other chronic diseases.

How long will it take before this becomes accepted practice and funding for obesity treatments rises to the level of funding currently available for treating other chronic diseases?

That, is anyone’s guess, but no doubt, declaring obesity a disease finally puts patients living with this condition on an equal footing with patients living with any other chronic disease.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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May 21 Is European Obesity Day

obesity dayHere an announcement/reminder for my readers in Europe:

Please support European Obesity Day

European Obesity Day (EOD) takes place this coming Saturday, 21 May, and is aimed at raising awareness and increasing knowledge about obesity and the many other diseases on which it impacts.

EOD is a major annual initiative for the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) and so would like to ask you to support the activities by joining in the conversation on social media. It will help us to reach more of the policymakers, politicians, healthcare professionals, patients and the media who we are targeting with important messages about the need to take obesity more seriously.

There are several ways you can show your support:

Like the European Obesity Facebook Page

Follow EOD on Twitter @EOD2016

Join the conversations on twitter using the hashtag #EOD2016

Pledge your support on the European Obesity Day website

Visit the EOD website to see what we have been doing

Encourage your friends and colleagues to support us too

In line with the Action for a Healthier Future theme for EOD 2016, we hope we can count on your support.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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Are We Seeing An Upward Shift In Healthy Weights?

scaleI don’t like the term “healthy” weights, because we have long learnt that good health is possible across a wide range of shapes and sizes.

Nevertheless, epidemiologists (and folks in health promotion) appear to like the notion that there is such a weight (at least at the population level), and often define it as the weight (or rather BMI level) where people have the longest life-expectancy.

Readers of this literature may have noticed that the BMI level associated with the lowest mortality has been creeping up.

Case in point, a new study by Shoaib Afzal and colleagues from Denmark, published in JAMA, that looks at the relationship between BMI and mortality in three distinct populations based cohorts.

The cohorts are from the same general population enrolled at different times: the Copenhagen City Heart Study in 1976-1978 (n = 13 704) and 1991-1994 (n = 9482) and the Copenhagen General Population Study in 2003-2013 (n = 97 362). All participants were followed up to November 2014, emigration, or death, whichever came first.

The key finding of this study is that over the various studies, there was a 3.3 unit increase in BMI associated with the lowest mortality when comparing the 1976-1978 cohort with that recruited in 2003-2013.

Thus, The BMI value that was associated with the lowest all-cause mortality was 23.7 in the 1976-1978 cohort, 24.6 in the 1991-1994 cohort, and 27.0 in the 2003-2013 cohort.

Similarly, the corresponding BMI estimates for cardiovascular mortality were 23.2, 24.0, and 26.4, respectively, and for other mortality, 24.1, 26.8, and 27.8, respectively.

At a population level, these shifts are anything but spectacular!

After all, a 3.3 unit increase in BMI for someone who is 5’7″ (1.7 m) is just over 20 lbs (~10 Kg).

In plain language, this means that to have the same life expectancy today, of someone back in the late 70s, you’d actually have to be about 20 lbs heavier.

While I am sure that these data will be welcomed by those who would argue that the whole obesity epidemic thing is overrated, I think that the data are indeed interesting for another reason.

Namely, they should prompt speculation about why heavier people are living longer today than before.

There are two general possible explanations for this:

For one these changes may be the result of a general improvement in health status of Danes related to decreased smoking, increased physical activity or changes in social determinants of health (e.g. work hours).

On the other hand, as the authors argue, this secular trend may be that improved treatment for cardiovascular risk factors or complicating diseases, which has indeed reduced mortality in all weight classes, may have had even greater beneficial effects in people with a higher BMI. Thus, obese individuals may have had a higher selective decrease in mortality.

There is in fact no doubt that medical management of problems directly linked to obesity including diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia have dramatically improved over the past decades.

Thus, it appears that the notion of “healthy” weight is a shifting target and that changes in lifestyle and medical management may have more than compensated for an almost 20 lb weight increase in the population.

This is all the more reason that the current BMI cutoffs and weight-centric management of obesity both at a population and individual level may need to be revisited or at least tempered with measures of health that go beyond just numbers on the scale.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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