McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Federal program launches Canadian Obesity Network

Association will pull together researchers, health professionals, industry
Published: March 28, 2006
Sharma
Dr. Arya Sharma
To address the growing epidemic of obesity among Canadians, the creation of the Canadian Obesity Network (CON) with an initial $800,000 federal government investment over two years under the Networks of Centres of Excellence program was announced today by Irving Gold, Director, Knowledge Transfer and Exchange of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation and Chair of the inaugural network Board.

Led by Dr. Arya Sharma, a world-renowned expert in obesity research and management at McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, the organization pulls together researchers, health professionals, industry, policy makers and others across Canada to become the primary network focused on preventing and reducing the consequences of excess body weight.

"The Canadian Obesity Network will provide an urgently needed response to this growing epidemic affecting 18 million obese and overweight Canadians, and costing the Canadian health care system in excess of annually $4.3 billion," says Sharma. "There is little appreciation of the complexity of this disorder, its dramatic impacts on virtually all aspects of physical, psycho-social and economic well-being."

"Our vision is to reduce the health and economic impacts of obesity. We call on researchers in many disciplines, health planners, industry and policy makers to engage in our Network and pursue collaborations that create innovative strategies for prevention and treatment."

McMaster University President Peter George said the University is delighted to host the important national network.

"This epidemic of obesity is complex, and must be addressed in innovative and creative ways. We’re known for our collaborative teams and excellent medical research, so this is an excellent fit, so to speak."

Networks of Centres of Excellence are unique partnerships among universities, industry, government and not-for-profit organizations aimed at turning Canadian research and entrepreneurial talent into economic and social benefits for all Canadians.

At this time CON involves scientists in 21 Canadian universities, more than 10 international institutes in North America and Europe, 15 non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, and 20 industry partners. Interest in participating in the network is very high and membership growing rapidly. Among local partners of CON are Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare which are dedicated to developing state-of-the-art obesity treatments. Partnerships with the McMaster Children’s Hospital will focus on prevention and management of childhood obesity

Diane Finegood is scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes, which supports the new network.

"The network will complement our work, which has focused on building obesity research in Canada since 2001," she says. "Some of the most exciting research today brings together researchers working in different disciplines to answer important questions regarding how our biology and our environment interact to affect our behaviour. The network will also help researchers in different fields connect so they can work together to help us understand how best to prevent and treat obesity."

"Tackling the critical health issue of obesity, through research and other means, is a priority for the Heart and Stroke Foundation," says Nicola Lewis, director of research for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. "The Foundation already supports the work of Dr. Sharma and other outstanding experts in this area, and we look forward to working with him and the Network to further our understanding of obesity."

The Canadian Obesity Network will promote research excellence, train researchers and practitioners maximize health and economic benefits, build national consensus on obesity policy to reduce the human and economic impact of obesity by creating collaborations with a wide range of partners.

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