New clinic focuses on treating obesity in Eastern Zone
A new clinic is treating adults living with obesity in Nova Scotia Health’s Eastern Zone (Cape Breton Island, Antigonish and Guysborough counties).
The Obesity Care Clinic, located in Glace Bay’s Sterling Mall, focuses on obesity as a chronic disease. It works with patients to find and treat the root cause of their obesity. It also provides some orthopedic surgical patients with weight-loss treatment prior to their surgery.
“Obesity is a complex, chronic disease that requires life-long management, similar to diabetes and high cholesterol,” said Dr. Faith Dodd, an orthopedic surgeon in Sydney. “Obesity can be caused by many factors, not just diet and exercise. A person’s environment, genetics, emotional health, underlying medical conditions, how much they sleep or even medications they take can be factors. To get to the root cause of obesity and treat it, you need to look at it from many angles and consider all factors. You also need to look at how you can provide long-term follow-up and support to the person.”
The need for the clinic stems from a pre-surgical weight loss pilot project that began in summer 2021. Through the project, a small group of orthopedic hip and knee patients took part in a six to 12-week program that taught lifestyle modifications and offered an ultra-low calorie meal replacement or calorie restricted diet prior to their surgery.
Based on the pilot, a clinic model was proposed that would look at offering a more comprehensive, multi-disciplinary obesity program in Eastern Zone.
“The pilot project just scratched the surface,” said Lisa MacDonald, the manager of rehabilitation services for Eastern Zone, who was also part of the pilot project team with Dr. Dodd. “It reinforced a need to treat obesity as a chronic disease. We knew the clinic could be far more impactful if we could expand on what we offered for treatment and provided long-term follow-up and support for patients.”
The clinic’s team includes a physician, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, dietitian, clinical social worker, counselling therapist and administration staff.
The clinic offers a 12-week group class, either in person or virtually, that teaches patients about changing behaviours, the role of the brain in obesity, healthy eating and physical activity, and skill building such as stress management, improving sleep, etc. After 12 weeks, group meetings are offered quarterly and individual appointments, as needed, for up to one year. After a year, patients are assessed for discharge from the clinic.
Patients who are referred to the clinic by a physician or nurse practitioner must be 18 years or older and live on Cape Breton Island or in Antigonish and Guysborough counties. They must also be living with obesity and have another health concern like Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart disease, osteoarthritis, etc.
Patients have the option to be referred to the clinic again, if needed. Some patients may be referred to the clinic by specific surgeons for pre-surgical weight loss treatment. This treatment helps patients lose weight before their hip or knee joint is replaced to help them get the best results from their surgery. Currently, referrals for this treatment are limited to hip or knee joint replacement surgery but that may expand in the future.
The clinic does not offer bariatric surgery. Patients who require bariatric surgery will continue to be referred to the Halifax Obesity Network team.
The clinic has been accepting referrals since February 2023. Besides the 20 patients in the pilot project, 334 referrals have been received by the clinic.
The Obesity Care Clinic is the only clinic of its kind in Eastern Zone. It follows the Obesity Canada’s Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines.
Funding for the new clinic was included as part of Nova Scotia Health’s strategy to improve access to surgical care and reduce wait times.
More information on the clinic can be found at www.nshealth.ca/obesitycareclinic.