Employers, health-care professionals and people living with obesity disagree on how the disease develops, how to manage it and who’s responsible for treatment, according to a new study by Obesity Canada.

The study, which was published in the journal Clinical Obesity this month, surveyed 150 employers, 395 physicians and 2,000 individuals living with obesity.

More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of employer respondents said they think their wellness programs are contributing to successful weight management, while only 32 per cent of individuals with obesity agreed. As well, about half (47 per cent) of employers said they believe weight is within employees’ control and 63 per cent said individuals can manage their weight if they set their mind to it.

Read: Employers must consider ‘every dimension’ in tackling obesity, weight management

Among health-care professionals, the vast majority (94 per cent) said they think obesity is a serious chronic disease on par with stroke, depression and others, yet many believe diet (63 per cent) and exercise (50 per cent) are effective treatments.

In addition, 72 per cent of health-care professionals said they discussed weight management in their interactions with people with obesity, but only half of those individuals said their health-care professional had done so.

The survey also found, even though 82 per cent of people with obesity said they’re actively trying to manage it, 72 per cent of health-care professionals and 65 per cent of employers said they believe individuals aren’t motivated to manage their disease.

“The current science tells us that obesity is a chronic disease just like diabetes, heart disease or cancer, and yet we are in effect still telling people who have it that they did this to themselves, and that they don’t deserve to be supported,” said Dr. Arya M. Sharma, scientific director for Obesity Canada and lead author on the study.

Read: Supporting employees with obesity starts with recognizing it’s a chronic disease

“We are talking about a chronic disease that affects 26 per cent of Canadian adults — more than cancer (2.5 per cent), diabetes (seven per cent), heart disease (8.5 per cent) and high blood pressure (20 per cent),” added Dr. Sharma. “The disparity between how well these conditions are supported compared with obesity should be a wake-up call to all three surveyed groups.”