Research team to tackle NB obesity epidemic

Atlantic Gateway Minister announces $386,000 grant

by adam huras
Times transcript Staff

FREDERICTON – A research team led by the University of New Brunswick will aim at reversing the obesity epidemic in the province with a new study that targets the province’s overweight before they begin suffering from chronic diseases.

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Stacey Reading, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research-funded researcher, said the province’s rising health care costs as a result of rising chronic illness are unsustainable.

A startling 29 per cent of New Brunswickers are considered obese and beckon to further strain the province’s health care system without preventive intervention.

Reading maintains that the source of the problem is that unless obese adults in New Brunswick have suffered a heart attack, diabetes or another serious illness, many of the provinces physicians currently have nowhere to send their patents for help in managing or even controlling unhealthy weight gain.

“It’s the long-term consequence of the condition that is the issue,” Reading said, who is also an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of New Brunswick. “The longer you are obese the increased risk you have for developing more significant diseases that require hospitalization, hospital care, or significant intervention.”

Atlantic Gateway Minister Keith Ashfield announced a $386,000 research grant yesterday towards research to improve New Brunswick’s preventative health care system.

The funding was awarded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation.

The fund will launch a research study into several different variations of a program that will bring experts in kinesiology, personal training, as well as dietitians to 120 obese New Brunswickers.

The program then has aspirations to expand across the province.

“Lifestyle intervention programming is effective, we have learned that from other studies: people who follow certain exercise prescriptions and dietary advice, they will lose weight and that will improve their health,” Reading said. “But these studies have often been limited to urban centres at hospital metabolic wards or research centres, but when you live in a province like New Brunswick a lot of the communities are rural, distanced away from centres with more difficulty to reach those people.

“This is a ground-based approach that goes to the people rather than having people come to us.”

The first year of the program will run out of the University of New Brunswick, with another site in Fredericton Junction, and a third location at a legion hall in the Grand Lake region.

The program is voluntary for adult New Brunswickers whose body mass index places them as class one or two obese.

The research team includes researchers from the University of New Brunswick, Dalhousie University, the Horizon Health Network, family physicians and other community professionals.

Each site will have different version of the same program, varying the degree of focus on physical activity, work with a registered dietitian and goal setting around healthy eating.

The research will scrutinize the program delivery model.

Energy Minister and Fredericton-Lincoln MLA Craig Leonard, who attended the announcement yesterday, said the province must begin to invest more in preventive intervention as health care costs climb.

“I think that everyone understands that’s the problem we have with our health care system,” Leonard said. “It is completely reactive and it’s based on an acute care model which basically means that it’s the most expensive service providers in the most expensive facilities. But if we can get more preventive health care taking place out in communities where its people making the proper health care choices that avoid those future costs then no question that those are solid investments to make.”