Bariatric Friendly Hospital Initiative
Diabetes, Obesity & Nutrition SCN

Caring for patients with obesity in the hospital setting


Bariatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the study and treatment of obesity. Bariatric care encompasses all aspects of the healthcare of individuals living with obesity. As of October 2015, the Canadian Medical Association classifies obesity as a chronic disease.

The continuing rise in obesity is a global health issue. Approximately 29% of adult Albertans have obesity. Patients living with obesity coming into health care settings are at significantly higher risk for complications arising from skin conditions and injury, due to inadequate facility design, equipment, or lack of staff competencies in their care. Many health care providers lack the knowledge of the complex nature and causes of obesity; and believe that if a person exercises more and eats less, they can lose weight (which is not true). Weight bias generally refers to negative attitudes toward a person because he or she has obesity.

Marty Enokson is a patient advisor. Listen to his perspective on living with obesity, and the biases he has encountered. Watch the video – Living with obesity and biases  3 minute clip | full length.

The Initiative

The Bariatric Friendly Hospital Initiative   focuses on implementing standards and guidelines for a bariatric friendly care hospital environment within AHS facilities, in alignment with AHS Patient First and Our People Strategies.

This initiative will support health care providers to become more knowledgeable about the complexity of obesity, and to be aware of their own personable biases and how they may be impacting patient care. It supports them to develop competencies in safe patient handling, as well as the unique care needs of patients with obesity, and to work effectively and compassionately with this patient population. It focuses on timely access to proper equipment to safely manage lifting and transferring patients with bariatric care needs.

This quality improvement initiative is being led by the DON SCN, in collaboration with South Zone leadership, Dr. Mary Forhan, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, and Obesity Canada. It will take Dr. Forhan’s key research findings, and implement these into clinical practice. For more information about the University of Alberta bariatric care and rehabilitation research group (BCRRG), contact Dr. Mary Forhan,  or visit BCRRG.

The Goal

To improve and standardize how patients with obesity are cared for in Alberta’s hospitals. Medicine Hat Regional Hospital is the initial demonstration site.

Seven standards for a bariatric friendly hospital have identified and agreed upon by provincial working groups.

This initiative is not focused on treatment interventions for obesity, and therefore weight loss interventions are not included as a "bariatric care need".

hospital staff showing care for bariatric patient

Become a Bariatric Friendly Hospital

Learn how to Become a Bariatric Friendly Hospital. Find a variety of tools to assist your site in implementing 7 provincial standards.

Additional Learning

Weight Bias

Webinar: Weight Bias. What is it, and is it impacting your practice?

Complex Nature of Obesity and Weight Loss

TED talk: How to Lose 50 Pounds and Keep Them Off  (YouTube)


For more information email