Pediatric Weight Management In Canada

Around the world, management of childhood obesity is posing increasing challenges for already overburdened health care systems.

While prevention efforts may eventually halt or even reverse the obesity epidemic, for children already living with excess weight, prevention efforts are similar to locking the barn door after the horse has bolted – these kids need help now.

So how does the landscape for pediatric weight management in Canada look today?

This question was addressed by Geoff Ball (University of Alberta) and colleagues in a paper just published in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity.

With support from the Canadian Obesity Network Ball and colleagues conducted a national environmental scan of pediatric weight management programs in Canada.

Using an online survey, the researchers identified 18 pediatric obesity programs from across Canada.

These programs were generally accessed through physician referral and all included multidisciplinary teams that take a family-centred, lifestyle/behavioural therapeutic approach.

Most programs were launched in the past five years with public funding and enrolled approximately 125 clients/year into one-on-one and/or group-based weight management care. However, as the researchers note, the total capacity of all 18 weight management programs is three orders of magnitude smaller than the number of boys and girls eligible for weight management care in Canada.

Although many programs were affiliated with academic institutions, most did not systematically evaluate their obesity-related programming due to lack of funding to support evaluation and research. Furthermore, the variability in intervention models and treatment outcomes make it challenging to make comparisons across centres.

As in other countries, Ball and colleagues recognise that there is a clear need to translate obesity-related health services from specialized centres (i.e., children’s hospitals) to the primary care environment (i.e., family physician offices) where most families access care.

Till then, most Canadian children with excess weight and their families will likely have to fend for themselves or fall back on the rather limited (if any) resources currently available in their communities.

Edmonton, Alberta

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Ball GD, Ambler KA, & Chanoine JP (2010). Pediatric weight management programs in Canada: Where, What and How? International journal of pediatric obesity : IJPO : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity PMID: 20799914