Having looked at the obese population in Canada from a variety of angles, using the core concepts of SGBA, we can see the importance of definitions. How we define the population has a profound impact on how we understand and respond to an issue and those it affects. Much of the time we won’t be able to include everyone or every characteristic in our definition, but we can be precise about who is included and who is missing. And as we learn more about the population and the issue, we will likely have to revisit our definition. This process of repeatedly reflecting on and revising our work is referred to as “iteration”. The modules on Issues and Evidence provide greater insight into the limitations we face in defining and responding to a population. Along with the modules on Implications and Recommendations, they highlight the importance of iteration.
In the meantime, though, let’s consider what we do know about obesity in Canada and whether we can answer the question “Who is at risk, in need or affected?”
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Because obesity is a complex issue it is especially challenging to define the obese population in Canada. Many factors affect who is at risk of or becomes obese and we will not be able to address them all with a single research project or a one-size-fits-all program. We may need to think about which of many populations we want to work with or focus on. For example, based on the information we have we might decide to develop a public education campaign aimed at young men. In every case it is important to be absolutely clear about who is included and who is missing from the evidence and analysis.
At the same time, we can see that there are groups and factors about which we know little or nothing. We need to encourage researchers and policy makers to gather information about these groups and factors. We also need to constantly ask ourselves if these kinds of gaps are the result of inequity, such as racism, sexism and homophobia, or contribute to inequity, such as increasing food insecurity by taxing unhealthy foods without making nutritious foods more affordable.