Nova Scotians battling chronic obesity suddenly have fewer treatment options following the closure of the province's only medically supervised weight management clinic.
The Partners for Healthier Weight clinic was not directly funded by the Nova Scotia Health Authority, but it did provide comprehensive medical care.
Psychologists, physicians and dieticians all worked together with patients to help them set and attain their health goals.
Unique funding model was not profitable
The clinic used a unique funding model that divided the cost between patients and a charitable organization that collected revenue from hospital parking, gift shops and retail stalls at medical centres.
Patients paid $3,500 to participate in a year-long program. The clinic's annual operating budget was $330,000 but in recent years was losing at least $100,000 per year.
'Best bang for your buck'
While the program was not profitable, those who worked there say it offered savings for the overall provincial health care system.
"Obesity management is the best bang for your buck when it comes to the return on investment," said Dr. Michael Vallis, psychologist and co-director of the clinic.
"It's really fascinating to look at the downstream consequences of mismanaged obesity," he said.
The costs for leaving obesity untreated "could be as simple as increased visits to the emergency room, increased pharmaceutical costs, but also big-ticket items like cardiac stents and admissions to hospital," Vallis said.
Officials with the NSHA say it's difficult to get a clear snapshot of province-wide obesity management funding.
"Management and treatment of obesity and related conditions is complex and crosses many services within NSHA and provided through primary care and in the community. We don't have a way to quantify those costs," said John Gillis, director of media relations with NSHA.
More than one-quarter of Nova Scotians are obese, compared to the national average of 18 per cent, according to 2014 statistics from the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
A more recent study by the Canadian Obesity Network estimated that Nova Scotia's obesity rate could be as high as 27 per cent.
Vallis told CBC News: "My hope is that with this clinic closing, it will open a conversation around professional approaches to treating obesity."