Senate Report on Obesity: Here’s What’s MIssing

sharma-obesity-policy1Yesterday, I listed the 21 recommendations of the Canadian Senate Report on Obesity in Canada.

Of the 21 recommendations, 12 essentially fall under the category “Eat-Less” (2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,20) and 6 under the category “Move-More” (5,14,15,16,17,18).

Of the remaining 3, two deal with surveillance and consultations (1,19) while recommendation 21 deals with comprehensive public awareness campaign on healthy active lifestyles.

So there you have it.

The Senate’s solution to obesity is pretty much “Eat-Less Move-More”, which, as someone who responded to me on yesterday’s blog post describes as,

“…little more than a backhanded insult, a polite rephrasing of “Put down the fork, Fatty and move.”

Now, in all fairness, the report does talk about social determinants of health.

It does also vaguely mention genetics, epigenetics and pregnancies (but not antibiotics or environmental toxins or endocrine disrupters) – but none of this is deemed relevant enough to prompt any recommendations (not even, “we need more research”).

Nothing about reigning in the commercial weight-loss industry with their false claims and promises – no mention of the fashion industry and media that promote unrealistic and harmful body images.

However, what I find most alarming about the entire report is that it essentially writes off the 7,000,000 Canadians living with obesity as being beyond help.

In view of the liberal use of the terms “lifestyle” and “choice” scattered throughout the report, one can truly sense that many involved in the report are likely of the opinion that 7,000,000 Canadians have simply “chosen their cake and should now eat it”.

I simply cannot imagine another health “epidemic” where there would not be at least some call for providing better access to treatment.

No mention of weight-bias or discrimination.

No mention of encouraging provincial governments to reduce wait times for bariatric surgery.

No mention of urging Health Canada to expedite reviews for novel obesity medications (an unmet medical need if there ever was one).

No mention of legislation to ensure that benefit plans cover all evidence-based treatments for obesity.

No mention of ensuring access to adequate equipment and professional services within Canada’s health system.

Nothing, in fact, that would actually help improve the lives of the 7,000,000 Canadians living with obesity.

And let me clear. I am not against the recommendations or policies in the report – all of these can, if implemented, potentially improve the health of Canadians – everyone can benefit from eating better and being more active – everyone!

But framing all of this as a bold and far-reaching solution to the obesity “crisis” is not only overly optimistic but also simply reinforces the nonsense that all it takes to “conquer” obesity is for people to push away from the table and walk the dog.

If only things were that simple.

Edmonton, AB