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Establishing Common Ground in Obesity Prevention and Management

Obesity is complex. Few health professionals are specifically trained in obesity management – few health systems have invested in managing it.

As regular readers will recall, Alberta Health Services recently launched a province-wide obesity initiative ranging from population health and community projects, across primary care, to establishing speciality centres for complex medical and surgical management of kids and adults with severe obesity.

Currently, around 100 health professionals and administrators from across the province, working on getting this initiative off the ground are meeting in Edmonton to discuss details of the plan. Many have already worked in obesity and chronic disease management and bring their own views and experience to the table. This is immensely important as sharing of best practices is one of the key mechanisms to ensure that we do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

It is also essential that we establish common ground on the basic principles and practice of addressing this health problem – the sooner we are all on the same page, the sooner we can begin working towards consistency in obesity prevention and care across the province.

This will not happen overnight – there will be learnings, there will be things that work well and things that don’t.

But I am fully confident that in the end we will be moving in the right direction towards reducing the emotional, physical, and economic burden of obesity on all Albertans.

We may not be able to cure obesity, but we can certainly do a much better job at preventing and treating it.

Edmonton, Alberta


  1. I am glad to hear that Alberta is investing in obesity. It is my deep desire is that it will not be a “top down” approach but will strive to include the voices of the obese themselves. Too often we have heard to “talk to our doctor” when trying to tackle obesity when their training amounts to little more than one nutrition course. So in the province wide initiative, I hope that you invite both obese and formerly obese to be included in the panel as regular and contributing members.

    I read and follow this blog because it encompasses so much of the inner life that I experienced being obese. I went from a BMI of nearly 55 to 32 now through surgery. And it surprised me at how different and yet the same life is from this perspective. There are things I thought would hve been different that are the same (my preoccupation with weight, body image, eating, etc.) and things that I thought would remain the same yet are different (the way I am treated by strangers, members of the opposite sex, etc.)

    Keep up the good work, Dr. Sharma. We need you out there.

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  2. I think the “uptake” on the AHS Obesity Initiative has been rather “slow,” to say the least!!

    I can see it all now – another 100 people sitting around a table trying to figure out what should be done. Oh, brother!

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  3. I need to wish you good luck with that.

    How successful have you been in the past? How are you going to measure success? What is different to suggest that your success will improve?

    There are a wide range in recommendations as to “How to recover”. There are a group of obesity doctors who’s obesity recovery success is notably better than others. I choose to follow them, while studying how to loose further but maintain something like a EOSS Class I stage 1, having come from Class III stage 2-3.

    Until your program bans consumption by the obese of sugar in all forms, grains in all forms, especially wheat, excess Omega 6 oils, and all manufactured foods, your success will be limited. The first primary reason to ban these is these are all appetite stimuli, and secondly largely empty calories. There are a long list of other reasons not to touch food containing these dangerous substances.

    Alberta produces much of these products. I doubt that there is the political will to push against the these products, so good luck with success. That is not to say that it is not a worthy struggle, but I fear limited success without a careful definition of success.

    The second reason that your success will be limited is that overeating is largely a psychological issue, or a imprinted reactions issue, after knowledge of food content and body requirements is obtained. It is a problem of difficulty of following the diet, dealing with the constant cravings, the desire to eat, by some method. Alberta has never been willing to pay for psychological counseling, even if that could help. Obesity is largely a individual social dysfunction, that can only be corrected by a major change in personal attitude sufficient to bring about a “willingness follow the diet” attitude. All I can do is wish you good luck with this social engineering project.

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