2022 in review: Obesity Canada (OC)
2022 will stand out as the year that Obesity Canada reaffirmed its deep commitment to Canadians living with obesity and the healthcare, research and policy communities which serve them.
OC retooled and realigned their resources to become more collaborative with their stakeholders, more strategic in the way they identify priorities, and innovative in the way they propose and design solutions.
Dawn Hatanaka, Executive Director at Obesity Canada, outlines some of the standout projects from 2022:
Obesity Canada Action Teams
We developed our 'Action Teams', small working groups of leading researchers and graduate students, healthcare professionals, and people with lived experience, who prioritise and conduct strategic initiatives designed to answer key questions and identify important knowledge gaps related to developing an obesity care framework rooted in the CPGs.
The goal of each team is to produce annual, high-impact intelligence:
- Education: Scoping review to identify measures to map obesity education in undergraduate medical schools.
- Community: National survey to assess obesity care practices within obesity-related chronic disease strategies.
- Policy: Environmental scan to map uptake of Canadian adult obesity CPGs across provincial and territorial obesity policies.
- Research: James Lind Alliance process to create a research agenda for obesity care in Canada.
We are thrilled with the reaction to our initial call for applications and the passion and creativity we’ve seen this year – we have nearly 40 team members in all, and they’ve come from 13 universities across Canada, as well as professional associations, health NGOs, patient advocacy groups, and clinical practice.
These are critical communities that can support OC’s work toward a national obesity care framework, and we are expecting really meaningful and actionable results from this inaugural round.
Clinical Practice Guideline Update
In 2022, authors of two key chapters – medical nutrition therapy and pharmacotherapy – felt there were enough new publications to warrant an update.
Authors updated evidence currently in the nutrition chapter recommendations involving the use of partial meal replacements, as well as intermittent fasting. The pharmacology chapter updated recommendations to include a fourth medication now approved for obesity management by Health Canada, added some new recommendations based on patient-oriented outcomes that move beyond weight loss, and created new sections that discuss the effect of obesity medications on cravings and quality of life. Both chapter updates used the same methodology as the original guidelines, which involved the engagement of an independent methods team at McMaster Evidence Review & Synthesis, as well as the use of the GRADE guideline development framework.
Anyone who has worked on CPG development knows that they are major undertakings, and only reliable when they are up to date – our authors did a great job of updating these critical chapters. As a reminder, none of the chapter authors receive remuneration for their work. We are so thankful for the hundreds of volunteer hours dedicated to guideline updates by obesity experts in Canada.
Clinical Practice Guideline Adaptation
In partnership with the European Association for the Study of Obesity, OC launched a pilot project in 2021 to see if the Canadian guideline could be used as a foundation upon which to build country-specific obesity care recommendations. Adaptations of guidelines in other disease areas is common, but this is the first time that an obesity clinical practice guideline has even been adapted. Two international adaptations of the Canadian adult CPGs were completed and published in 2022. Through this pilot project we concluded that the Canadian CPGs can indeed be adapted for different health systems and populations while maintaining their overall vision and key principles.
Ireland published their adaptation in October of this year, followed by Chile in November.
Pediatric Clinical Practice Guidelines
OC is proud to support the development of updated pediatric obesity guidelines – the first update in more than a decade. Led by a team of pediatric experts, these guidelines will include recommendations to establish core competencies among healthcare professionals to optimize patient- and family-centred care while informing the development of evidenced-based health services and policies that serve this population. The pediatric guideline group also published the results of a stakeholder survey (which included caregivers of children with obesity and CPG Steering Committee Members). The stakeholder survey was designed to identify and prioritise key health indicators that would inform data reporting and interpretation in the CPGs.
Obesity Canada’s Education Pathway
We launched a new education pathway via a new online portal this year that will allow easy one-stop registration and access to all of OC’s online education offerings. These will be created and tailored as needed as the CPGs are updated, and in line with our Education Action Team projects as they identify priorities and opportunities.
A free introduction to obesity course for healthcare professionals was launched, with a free course for patients coming soon. The Certified Bariatric Educator designation exam for both Canadian and international healthcare professionals was brought into the portal and updated to reflect the CPGs; we expect to add in our Advancing Obesity Management Program soon.
In 2022, we focused on leveraging the evidence base from the CPGs into international, national, provincial, and local policy forums. OC participated in the national dialogue to inform the National Framework for Diabetes hosted by the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University. OC also became a member of the Framework for Diabetes in Canada: External Advisory Group on Diabetes.
We also continued to work with our members to influence policy change at provincial and territorial professionals associations. For example, in 2022, medical associations in BC, Alberta, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador officially recognised obesity as a chronic disease.
Our advocacy work also contributes to the elimination of weight bias, stigma and discrimination in public policy. In 2022, OC co-chaired a working group on weight stigma hosted by the World Obesity Federation. OC is an international leader in weight bias, stigma and discrimination research and through this international working group, we worked with 39 experts and advocates from 18 countries representing healthcare professionals, policy makers, youth advocates, and individuals with lived experience to develop consensus on recommendations for a global effort to reduce weight stigma. This consensus paper has been submitted for publication.
OC also disseminated the CPGs to benefit plan providers to change the way obesity is viewed and treated by private benefit plan providers and health insurance companies. In 2022, through the support from our FOCUS partner Desjardins Insurance, the OC team presented key messages from the CPGs for benefit plan providers who attended the annual Chronic Disease At Work conference.
OC continues to prioritise activities to empower patients to stand up for their rights and to participate in policy influencing activities. Through the OC Connected Conversations hosted by Lisa Schaffer and Ian Patton, we aim to bring together academics, health professionals and individuals living with obesity for meaningful discussions that will bridge the gap between the science and real world application.
OC Connect Patient Community
The OC-Connect online patient community has continued to grow and has been an important resource for advocacy. In 2022, we launched an Advocacy 101 course with OC-Connect for individuals living with obesity who are interested in advocating for themselves and their families. This course will help us educate and empower members of our community and enable them to get more involved in OC advocacy efforts.
Obesity Care Finder
To help people living with obesity access evidence-based obesity care, OC also relaunched the Obesity Care Finder. This resource can help Canadians living with obesity find healthcare professionals or clinics in their local community. A key strength of this resource is that healthcare professionals and clinics listed in this obesity care finder have demonstrated some level of obesity management training and certifications.