The Obesity Epidemic – New Brunswick needs a strategy!

The evidence is overwhelming. Over the past several years New Brunswick has experienced an alarming increase in obesity rates among adults, children, and its youth. And while obesity itself may often be overlooked as a chronic condition, Health Canada cautions that obesity is directly linked to many chronic diseases, like diabetes, asthma, heart disease, stroke and cancer, burdening our health care system, and costing the Canadian economy more than 7 billion dollars annually.

New Brunswickers are no stranger to chronic disease or obesity. In 2017, the New Brunswick Health Council released data showing that over 61% of New Brunswickers are battling at least one chronic health condition. Even more alarming, Statistic Canada, the same year, released annual estimates showing over 70% of adults in New Brunswick are either overweight or obese. Experts are warning we may soon have the first generation with a shorter life expectancy then their parents.

Action around obesity prevention needs to be taken to avoid devastating outcomes for our province’s health care system and our economy. Our hospital systems are already straining under the increasing demands from skyrocketing rates of chronic disease.  New Brunswick already has the longest wait times for specialist care in the country, with patients waiting over twice as long as the Canadian average and 6 times longer than 20 years ago. With more than two thirds of the population sick with chronic disease, our economy will suffer. If nothing is done, the cost to treat chronic conditions in New Brunswick is projected to rise by another $100 million in the next 7 years. We need to address the obesity epidemic, the root causes of chronic disease, today, with a comprehensive strategy, engaging all stakeholders, before the burden become too heavy and leave us dealing with significant economic issues, like lack of resources, and access to health service.

While many organizations, including the authors of this article, have dedicated actions to mitigate the impact of the obesity epidemic we are experiencing, there needs to be a coordinated approach that includes all stakeholders. A strategy would serve to bring together the good work that is being done by all stakeholders under a province wide committee, leveraging resources and improving outcomes.

Our organizations implore that the provincial political parties in New Brunswick to include in their election platforms a comprehensive obesity strategy that would be actioned by a province wide implementation committee of stakeholders.

Anthony Knight, CEO
New Brunswick Medical Society

Kurtis Sisk, CEO 
Heart and Stroke Foundation of New Brunswick

Jake Reid, Director
Diabetes Canada