How Will Obesity Affect the Sustainability of the Health Care System?

Yesterday, I presented a brief talk on obesity at the Summit on Sustainable Health and Health Care, organised by the Conference Board of Canada.

While the two-day conference deals with a number of issues relevant to sustainable health, it was my task to discuss some of the implications of the obesity epidemic.

As I pointed out, obesity no doubt presents important challenges for any health care system, especially if we continue to pretend that this is a problem that will simply disappear if we step up preventive measures (e.g. impose higher taxes on junk food, bring back phys-ed classes to schools, etc.). While such measures may or may not help prevent a further advance of the epidemic, they will hardly help solve the problems of the 20,000,000 Canadians, who are already overweight or obese.

In fact, there is no hope for a sustainable system unless we begin accepting the fact that obesity, at least for the foreseeable future, is here to stay and that unless we begin providing treatments for those, whose health is being affected by increased adiposity, in the same manner as we would for any other chronic progressive condition, we can only expect that our spending on obesity related health problems will continue to increase.

Irrespective of any measures that we may or may not be able to implement to prevent obesity, not offering evidence based help to those who already have this condition is simply disrespectful and discriminatory.

Halifax, NS