Alberta Targets Obesity with Funds for Weight Loss Surgery
Alberta’s provincial government is taking steps to combat obesity by increasing access to weight loss surgery and funding programs in the province’s schools. Alberta Health, the provincial health agency, estimates there are one million obese Albertans, and another one million who are overweight. That’s about 25 per cent of the province’s population. The agency has declared obesity the most serious chronic disease facing the province today.
“Let us spend our health care dollars where we can make a difference. I see far more value in my own tax money going to prevent and treat obesity than continuing to pour endless resources and money into treating all of its many complications,” said Dr. Arya Sharma, medical director of the Alberta Health Services Obesity Initiative.
To fight obesity, the province’s government is putting $15.8 million over 5 years to allow 1,500 more patients access to life-saving bariatric surgeries over the next few years.
90,000 Albertans are obese enough to qualify for weight loss surgery, but the new funding will only cover surgeries for about 2 per cent of those who qualify. That leaves 98 per cent of Albertans who need a potentially life-saving weight loss surgery out in the cold, so to speak.
Thankfully there are several private clinics in Canada that perform weight loss surgery. Several specialize in gastric banding, which is safer than the more invasive gastric bypass, and also completely reversible. In gastric banding an adjustable gastric band is fitted around the top part of the stomach, allowing patients to feel full faster. At the Slimband Clinic in Toronto the medical team has led the way in weight loss surgery programs for over 9 years. The clinic has performed over 6,000 weight loss surgery procedures to date.
The Alberta government estimates obesity costs more than $1.4 billion annually in terms of reduced quality of life, loss of workforce productivity and cost to the healthcare system.