In response to a worldwide epidemic of obesity and mental health disorders, the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) and the Canadian Obesity Network (CON-RCO) in partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) organised a Hot Topic Conference on Obesity and Mental Health, in Toronto, Canada from June 26th-28th.
Although obesity and mental illness are major health issues that affect millions of Canadians, the links between them are not well understood. Excess weight, beyond its adverse physiological consequences, also affects self-esteem, body image and eating behaviours while promoting depression and anxiety. The opposite is also true – a disproportionate number of patients living with mental health challenges struggle with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and premature mortality, all of which are interrelated. Both illnesses are associated with significant bias and discrimination.
As part of the event, hundreds of participants ratified the Toronto Charter for Obesity and Mental Health, a detailed call to action for health system funders, researchers and health practitioners to deal with this emerging issue. The Charter lists specific calls to action for governments and health providers to reduce the global burden of obesity and mental illness, chief among them:
• Mandatory education for health professionals on how to treat obesity and co-morbid mental illness.
• Immediate affirmative action by policy makers and funders to prioritize research and mandatory evaluation of interventions.
• Conducting a cost-analysis of mental illness co-morbid with obesity
• Compiling standards for responsible media coverage of obesity management and healthy body image.
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