Canadian Obesity Advocacy Network

As readers are well aware, the current public and health policy discussions around obesity are centred around the notion that obesity is largely a “lifestyle” problem that can be addressed largely by population-wide and individual-based initiatives focussed on promoting healthy eating and increased physical activity (eat less – move more).

Irrespective of whether or not this is intended, the impact of this simplistic narrative on the lives of people living with obesity are clear: not only does this narrative squarely place the blame (eating too much, not moving enough) on individuals living with obesity, it also largely ignores the vast body of research that points to the complex interplay of biological and psychosocial drivers of obesity, most of which are beyond the control of the individual. This narrative is also now recognised as the root cause of weight bias, stigma, as well as health and social inequalities that can reach the level of outright discrimination.

Importantly, this simplistic narrative, together with the failure to recognise obesity as a chronic disease (like type 2 diabetes or hypertension), by governments, health systems, public and private payers, the public, and media has a trickle-down effect on access to treatment for those living with this disease. As outlined it the Obesity Canada’s Report Card on Access to Obesity Treatment for Adults in Canada 2019, the vast majority of Canadians lack access to behavioural interventions, medically supervised weight management using meal replacements, anti-obesity medications, and bariatric surgery.

In an attempt to change this narrative, Obesity Canada has now assembled a large (and growing) coalition of stakeholders, who are willing to speak with a united voice on obesity and advocacy efforts.

Members of the coalition support the notion that obesity is, “a chronic disease that is defined by having adipose tissue (body fat) that impairs health. It is not solely based on weight, BMI or body size but rather the degree of physiological, functional, and psychosocial barriers that affect one’s holistic health”

Overall, the mission of this Advocacy Network is to unite and align key organizations and the community around education, policy, and legislative advocacy efforts in order to elevate the obesity as a chronic disease narrative on the national agenda. It is through this change in narrative, that people affected by obesity may gain access to the same medically necessary and covered management avenues afforded to all others who suffer from chronic diseases.

All of this serves the ultimate goal to reduce weight bias and obesity stigma, improve access to evidence-based care, improve standards of quality care and rehabilitation, and educate health care professionals, policy makers and the public about obesity as a complex chronic disease.

For more about the Canadian Obesity Advocacy Network and on information how your organisation can join this coalition contact Obestiy Canada at

Berlin, Germany

p.s. to date, representatives of the following organisations have participated in meetings of the Canadian Obesity Advocacy Network:

  • Canadian Medical Association
  • Canadian Society for Endocrinology and Metabolism
  • Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
  • Canadian Psychiatric Association
  • Canadian Psychological Association
  • Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
  • Obesity Canada
  • Diabetes Canada
  • Hypertension Canada
  • Dietitians of Canada
  • Canadian Network for Health Behavior Change
  • Exercise is Medicine Canada
  • Novo Nordisk Canada
  • International Behavioural Trials Network
  • Yukon Medical Association
  • Saskatchewan Medical Association
  • Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis
  • Canadian Human Rights Commission
  • National Aboriginal Diabetes Association
  • Canadian Guidelines for Cardiac Rehabilitation and Cardiovascular Disease