Canada’s Growing Obesity Rate, New Report Out

canada obesity rateA new report was released this month from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and the Public Health Agency of Canada, revealing the prevalence, determinants and impact of obesity in Canada. Height and weight data collected from 2007-2009 indicates that 1 in 4 Canadian adults are now classified as obese, and over 8 percent of children age 6-17 are obese.

The report found that physical inactivity was the determinant most strongly tied to obesity for both men and women. Some indirect factors such as income level, rural residence and minority status also had an association with obesity, even after controlling for more direct health behaviors, such as inactivity, consumption of fruit and vegetables and the use of alcohol.

Obesity has an enormous effect on both the physical and fiscal health of Canada. It has been found to be a significant risk factor for many diseases and health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancers. Using a conservative estimate, the report found that obesity cost the Canadian economy approximately $4.6 billion in 2008. This cost increased $735 million – or about 19 percent from $3.9 billion in 2000.

We spoke with Dr. Stephen Burpee, expert bariatric surgeon at the Southern Arizona Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery, about the report. As a Fellow of The Royal College of Surgeons of Canada, and member of several Canadian medical associations, Dr. Burpee remains up to date on the latest obesity information in Canada. He said: “Not surprisingly, obesity is increasing dramatically in Canada, just as it is in the United States. The country has seen a 2.5 fold increase in obesity over the past decade, to reach a point where approximately 1 in 4 Canadians are now classified as obese. An in-depth analysis such as this is an excellent start to aid in determining a nationwide strategy to deal with this epidemic.”

Dr. Burpee added that the report reveals that the strongest associated factors are lack of physical activity and poor diet – which is no surprise. “However, cultural, gender, socioeconomic and regional variations also have significant impact,” he said.

“Clearly, obesity is a significant health problem in all developed countries. Treatment efficacy is poor with the notable exception of bariatric surgery. However, surgery is not a practical solution on a national scale for such a prevalent disease. Therefore, as indicated in this report, prevention through public health initiatives will be the only way to significantly decrease the incidence and along with it, the morbidity and mortality related to obesity. Both Canada and the US have to move more and eat less, or at least eat better,” Dr. Burpee concluded.

You can read the entire report here.

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