Is Obesity a Worthy ‘Cause’?

One thing I have learned as Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, is that ‘obesity’ is not a ’cause” that people will easily rally around – not even people who suffer from it!

Compared to the hundreds of millions that are raised each year to ‘fight’ cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, etc., fundraising to support obesity – research, prevention, or treatment – is virtually non-existant.

To drive this point home: the entire annual operating budget of the Canadian Obesity Network is less than $1 million a year – three fantastic and amazingly dedicated staffers and a few as committed contract consultants run the whole network and all of its activities.

Compare this to the actual size of the problem – just $1 from every Canadian, who is overweight or obese (or loves someone who is overweight or obese), would easily raise over $20 million to support CON’s activities.

Imagine all the work that CON could do with this kind of funding.

Imagine creating a Canada where all children and adults with excess weight

  • are treated with dignity, respect and fairness;
  • have equitable and timely access to credible health services to prevent and treat obesity;
  • can count on policy makers to address the societal ‘root causes’ of obesity.

Imagine the public campaigns that could educate Canadians about the very real emotional, physical and economic pain of weight-bias and discrimination that kids and adults with excess weight suffer everyday.

Imagine going to your doctor’s office and actually getting evidence-based and empathic advise on how best to manage your weight and related health problems.

Imagine going to your doctor’s office and NOT being told to simply lose weight, when weight is not your problem.

Imaging not having to wait for months (if not years) to see an obesity specialist or a bariatric surgeon.

Imagine public health campaigns that do not simply stereotype and blame Canadians with excess weight or reduce solutions to simply ‘eating more fruit and walking around the block’.

Imagine a Canada where policy makers actually consider the ‘obesogenic’ impact of their policies (food, transport, zoning, education, etc.).

Imagine a Canada where ‘fat-jokes’ and weight-based bullying are no longer acceptable.

Imagine a Canada where ‘average Joe’ actually appreciates the complexity of the obesity problem and understands why ‘shame and blame’ is not a solution.

Imagine a Canada where makers of ‘weight-loss’ supplements, diets, devices and services are held to the same ethical standards as providers of treatments for other medical conditions.

Imagine a Canada, where no health professional is licensed without demonstrating a sound understanding of the complex socio-psycho-biology of obesity, its prevention and treatments.

Imagine if we actually had obesity treatments that did not require surgery!

If any of the above goals are worth achieving – would this not be a worthy ’cause’?

Then why is it so hard to find organisations or individuals willing to support CON (current supporters excluded!).

Who does not have a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter, a friend, or a colleague struggling with obesity with nowhere to turn but the next (useless?) diet or exercise program?

Who does not wish that they or their loved ones could finally receive the best psychological and medical (or even surgical) help in a timely, equitable, and non-judgemental manner.

Which employer does not see obesity and related health problems cutting into their bottom line.

I, the directors and many dedicated members volunteer our time to the Network – but its staff and contractors expect a paycheck. All of the educational and training activities of CON also cost money, so does running a website, printing brochures, publishing CONDUIT magazine, meeting with policy makers, supporting the student networks, and all the other activities that the network engages in to realise its vision.

Perhaps my readers have ideas on how to better make obesity a ’cause’ worth giving to and supporting.

Perhaps my readers know of individuals or organisations, who believe in the mission and vision of the Canadian Obesity Network.

All ideas are appreciated!

Thanks to all the members, partners and friends who already support the Canadian Obesity Network – your help is very much appreciated.

If less than 5 cents per overweight Canadian got us here – how much further could we go with more?

Edmonton, Alberta