Obesity in Northern Ontario
by Maryanne Matthews
Obesity is a chronic disease that can affect anyone of any age, culture or income bracket. One in four people in Northwestern Ontario struggle with obesity. Our region has the second –highest obesity rate in the province. The Regional Bariatric Care Centre (RBCC) at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is a Bariatric Centre of Excellence that provides obesity treatment to patients and families in Northwestern Ontario.
“Obesity is characterized by excess or abnormal body fat that can impair your health,” said Deborah MacCabe, RBCC Manager. “It’s the leading cause of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and cancer. One in four adults and one in 10 children in Canada are now living with excess weight and it is estimated that 1 in 10 premature deaths among Canadians age 20 to 64 years of age is directly attributed to obesity.”
The Hospital’s RBCC team assesses and treats patients through surgical or medical services, applying evidenced based strategies, standards and protocols recommended by the Ontario Bariatric Network (OBN) and approved by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
“As a Bariatric Centre of Excellence, we have a team of experts promoting the collaboration and use of best practices around the care of people suffering with obesity and obesity related diseases,” said MacCabe. “Our team consists of physicians, surgeons, a nurse practitioner, Nurses (RNs and RPNs), a registered psychologist, a registered social worker, a registered dietitians, and a registered kinesiologist. However, the most important member of our team is the patient and our focus is more than just the numbers on a scale, it is about quality of life at an individual’s best weight.”
Eligible patients may be referred to the Medical Weight Management Program at the RBCC, which is a two-year meal replacement/behavior based program that helps patients achieve medically acceptable weight loss in order to improve obesity-related health conditions and quality of life. The goal is a healthier state of wellness through knowledge and life skills to change the patient’s eating and coping behaviours. The program promotes healthy eating, physical activity, and healthy living. The RBCC has provided medical weight management treatments to over 600 patients.
“While short-term ‘quick-fix’ solutions can sound appealing, they are usually temporary and linked to high rates of weight regain. Obesity is a chronic disease that requires lifelong treatment,” said Kelly Keeler, Registered Dietitian with RBCC. “Setting achievable goals with respect to weight management is crucial. A five to ten percent weight loss can have a significant impact on obesity related co-morbidities. Our goal is to help patients improve their overall health and well-being while still living a life that they can enjoy.”
For some patients, bariatric surgery is the best option for treatment of obesity and obesity-related heath conditions. The RBCC team ensures patients understand the risks and benefits of choosing surgery. The Surgical Program provides care led by an interdisciplinary team before and after surgery. Approximately 900 bariatric surgeries have been performed at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.
“Patients play an important role in any weight management program, and ours are no different. Individual success will depend on the patient’s commitment to meaningful lifestyle changes,” said MacCabe. “The good news is you don’t have to do it alone. Our team is sensitive to your needs and helps you meet goals in an unbiased, supportive and caring environment.”
Anyone with questions about their weight and obesity-related illnesses should discuss their concerns with their health care provider. Once a referral has been placed to the Regional Bariatric Care Centre through the Ontario Bariatric Network Portal, the team will work with the individual to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for them.
For more information about the Ontario Bariatric Network please visit www.ontariobariatricnetwork.ca. For more information about the Regional Bariatric Care Centre, visit www.tbrhsc.net.