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Media Opportunity: Dalhousie researchers help develop new Canadian obesity management guidelines that for the first time address weight bias and stigma

Posted by Communications and Marketing on August 4, 2020 in News

Media Opportunity: Dalhousie researchers help develop new Canadian obesity management guidelines that for the first time address weight bias and stigma

New guidelines to help manage adult obesity are being released today (Aug. 4) and will include a chapter authored by a Dalhousie researcher that for the first time addresses weight bias and stigma.

Dr. Sara Kirk, Scientific Director of the Healthy Populations Institute at Dal and a professor of Health Promotion, is part of the team of health experts from across the country that spent the last two years revising the Clinical Practical Guidelines for adult obesity management originally published in 2006.

Dr. Michael Vallis with the Department of Psychology and Dr. Helena Piccinini-Vallis with the Department of Family Medicine at Dalhousie also participated in the guidelines’ development.

The updated guidelines, which were developed in partnership with the national charity, Obesity Canada, are outlined in an article today (Aug. 4) in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and are available on the charity’s website,

Dr. Kirk is the lead author of a unique chapter devoted to reducing weight bias and obesity stigma, issues that are commonplace today in everything from images in the media and jokes on TV shows to comments from educators, health-care professionals, employers, family and friends. 

Such behaviour is not only hurtful but can be harmful. Weight bias, obesity stigma and discrimination can cause anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, binge eating, and avoidance of both physical activity and health care. 

The new guidelines target primary health-care professionals, policy-makers, as well as people living with obesity and their families. 

Key recommendations:

  1. Ask permission to discuss weight: Health care practitioners must recognize obesity as a chronic disease with stigma and should not assume all patients with obesity are prepared to address it. This step helps to manage bias against people living with obesity.
  2. Assess their story: Discuss the patient's history to understand the root causes of obesity, combined with physical examination, calculation of body mass index (BMI) and other investigations.
  3. Advise on management: Discuss treatment options, such as nutrition and exercise, psychological interventions, medications to achieve and maintain weight loss, and bariatric surgery.
  4. Agree on goals: Collaborate on a personalized, sustainable long-term action plan with realistic expectations.
  5. Assist with barriers and drivers of weight gain: Barriers include lack of access to health care providers with expertise in obesity, lack of coverage of obesity medications by drug plans in Canada and long wait times for bariatric surgery.

Dr. Kirk is available to discuss these new guidelines and the importance of understanding obesity, a complex issue that involves far more than simply eating too much or exercising too little.

Media contact:

Michele Charlton
Communications Advisor, Office of the Vice President Research and Innovation 
Dalhousie University
Cell: 902-403-5628