Addressing Obesity in the Yukon

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending a beautiful warm and sunny day ( in Whitehorse. Located around two flight hours north-east of Vancouver, Whitehorse is the capital of Canada’s north-western most territory. A city of roughly 22,000, Whitehorse is home to roughly two-thirds of the territory’s population.

I was invited by the Yukon Health and Social Services to meet with dietitians, physicians and other health professionals to discuss obesity management in the Yukon. My visit followed in the tracks of a recent visit by the Edmonton Weight Wise staff, a few weeks ago. Currently, the Whitehorse General Hospital, the only hospital in the Yukon, does not have the capacity to provide bariatric services although there is clearly an increasing recognition of the need for a local obesity program.

In the past years, many patients from the Yukon have been referred for bariatric assessment and surgery to our program in Edmonton, but the distances (especially for bariatric patients) make this a most expensive and ineffective endeavor. The aim of my visit was therefore to provide input into the possible creation of bariatric assessment and management services in Whitehorse itself.

Given the attendance and level of discussion, I have no doubt that there is an increasing recognition for the immense need for such services for the local population. Particularly given the large local aboriginal population, which appears particularly prone to obesity and its complication, there is no doubt that serious consideration of developing obesity management locally will in the end be cost-saving and likely the only feasible route to managing the obesity problem.

During my visit I not only visited the only long-term bariatric suite in Whitehorse but also saw, what I was told, was the only bariatric wheelchair in the city (I understand it is in high demand).

I am grateful to my most generous hosts for their kind hospitality and very much look forward to working with my new Yukon friends to help address this pressing and growing health issue in Canada’s North.

Edmonton, Alberta