The Obesity Disconnect Between Patients and Clinicians

A team of leading obesity experts and advocates for people with obesity are presenting qualitative research today at ObesityWeek that suggests a profound disconnect between people with obesity and their healthcare providers. While clinicians see obesity through a lens of health and disease, people with obesity see it more through a lens of lifestyle and social relationships.

Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) President and CEO Joe Nadglowski participated in the study and commented:

People with obesity often struggle to manage their weight successfully and obtain the help they need to maintain weight loss and improve their health. The findings from the ACTION study indicate that the challenges many people with obesity face may stem from their misperception that obesity is a lifestyle issue that can be overcome simply by eating less and exercising more, instead of a complex disease that requires a comprehensive care approach.

Nikhil Dhurandhar, President of the Obesity Society (TOS) and an author of the study remarked that understanding this disconnect presents an important opportunity:

These variances in perception of obesity and its causes may be one reason why patients and clinicians are not engaging in the necessary conversations that lead to solution-based strategies to address weight-related health problems and its long-term management. The aim of ACTION is to gain a better understanding of all the barriers that prevent effective obesity care and to devise successful approaches to overcome modifiable barriers.

The ACTION (Awareness, Care & Treatment In Obesity Management) study is part of a unique nationwide collaboration investigating barriers to obesity care. It was led by a steering committee of experts from TOS, OAC, the Integrated Benefits Institute (representing employers), as well as obesity experts in the fields of primary care, endocrinology, psychology, and nursing. The study is funded by Novo Nordisk, which is developing new treatments for obesity.

Notably, results highlight a general lack of understanding of obesity as a disease and its effect on the body, with the majority of people with obesity (75%) indicating that they perceive themselves as “healthy,” although nearly three-quarters had obesity-related comorbidities.

The initial qualitative findings of the ACTION study will be further investigated on a larger scale in the subsequent phase of quantitative research. Currently underway, the quantitative study draws from an online survey conducted with 3,000 people with obesity, 600 healthcare professionals, and 150 employers. The full results of the ACTION study will be released in 2016.

Click here to read the study abstract.

Disconnected, photograph © Grant Hutchinson / flickr

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November 6, 2015

2 Responses to “The Obesity Disconnect Between Patients and Clinicians”

  1. November 06, 2015 at 8:21 pm, Angela Golden said:

    The focus groups were all providers, not just physicians and the next section will include more than doctors/physicians as the title implies. Just for clarification this was a more inclusive study.

    • November 07, 2015 at 5:31 am, Ted said:

      Good point, Angela. Thank you. Correction made.