In 2014, Stats Canada reported that the obesity rate in New Brunswick was 33 percent – higher than the national average. New Brunswick’s higher obesity rate has been a priority for medical professionals for the last few years. The province has implemented a push for healthier lunch options in schools and programs to get youth moving.
Danielle Bouchard and Martin Sénéchal have recently joined the University of New Brunswick’s faculty of kinesiology to explore just this. They have a lot to offer New Brunswickers and the health care system. Knowing that exercise is the best medicine, the couple have devoted their careers to decreasing Canadian obesity rates and its complications. The couple moved to UNB from the University of Manitoba this summer and are motivated to push for change.
Drs. Sénéchal and Bouchard focus much of their research on tackling physical inactivity rates that go hand in hand with obesity.
Dr. Sénéchal, who studies pediatric obesity and the hormone response to exercise, says if we were to eliminate obesity completely we’d see a 60 per cent decrease in the country’s health issues.
“We know we’re not going to completely eliminate obesity, but we see the potential to make a big difference here in New Brunswick with the work we’re doing,” he said. “Even if we’re able to decrease obesity rates slightly, it would have significant impacts on the overall health of our communities.”
Dr. Bouchard works mainly in the area of population health and gerontology. She says she hears lots of people say they need to change their lifestyles, but what many people don’t realize is that changing your lifestyle means changing for life, not just for a short period of time.
“It is well known that an active person can reduce significantly the metabolic issues related to obesity if they’re regularly active,” said Dr. Bouchard. “It’s important we keep repeating this point though because our communities – particularly here in New Brunswick – have high rates of inactivity, which result in higher than average obesity rates.”
Dr. Sénéchal says about 8 per cent of Canadians have type two diabetes and this number is on the rise. “What is shocking is that this disease, which was once mainly known to develop during middle age is now appearing in kids.”
“Only 13 per cent of Canadians are following Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines,” said Dr. Bouchard. “I’m working on finding solutions that will help more people meet these guidelines. I want people to find a way that suits their preferences so they want to make time for it.”
Despite the hectic past few months, they say they’re excited to continue their work at UNB and forge partnerships with hospitals, clinics and medical schools in the near future to attract research funding in the province.
Media contact: Sarah Williams