Creole Queen New Orleans

Half of Obesity Hidden from Medical Care

From two separate studies presented in New Orleans at ObesityWeek, researchers find roughly half of obesity hidden from medical care. Starting with that fact, perhaps we should not be surprised that so few people receive evidence-based obesity care.

On Wednesday, Barto Burguera and colleagues presented a study of more than 300,000 electronic health records at the Cleveland Clinic. Only 48% of patients with a BMI of 30 or greater actually had a diagnosis code for obesity in the electronic health records.

In the ACTION study presented today by Harvard’s Lee Kaplan, only 55% of more than 3,000 people with obesity reported ever receiving an obesity diagnosis from a healthcare professional. Commenting on these observations, Obesity Society spokesman Scott Kahan said:

It’s unclear why doctors aren’t providing a formal diagnosis for obesity. This could go hand-in-hand with coverage. If doctors aren’t being paid to treat obesity, they may not see any benefit in making a formal diagnosis. Regardless, there is a clear need to advance the understanding of medical diagnosis and treatment of obesity across the spectrum, from providers to policymakers.

Another noteworthy finding in the ACTION study was huge gap between people with obesity and their healthcare providers about discussing obesity. Two thirds of patients indicated that they want to discuss weight-related health issues with their providers. But providers rarely discuss the subject. They cite too little time, more important issues, and patients having too little interest or motivation.

It’s tough to solve a problem when no one’s talking about it.

For more on these findings, be sure to attend Kaplan’s presentation today and attend a symposium tonight to review findings from the ACTION study, which was funded by Novo Nordisk. ConscienHealth’s Ted Kyle will chair the symposium.

Creole Queen, New Orleans, photograph © Ted Kyle / flickr

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November 3, 2016

2 Responses to “Half of Obesity Hidden from Medical Care”

  1. November 03, 2016 at 10:01 am, Tanya said:

    Why don’t physicians document it? Perhaps they understand what a bunch of arbitary subjective garbage BMI is to start. It was not created to be used as a baseline for individuals weight. It is a byproduct of a research project.There are too many factors affecting weight that are ignored when calculating a BMI. Obesity is many times a side effect or symptom of other factors such as a woman just having gone through menopause and requiring surgery or some other life crisis. Why would a physician add yet one more stigma – label on a person already struggling with self-perception? Patient problem lists are already long – adding Obesity without considering circumstances surrounding the issue drives patient out the door. And you wonder why people avoid the doctor?

    • November 03, 2016 at 11:58 am, Ted said:

      All good points that you’re making, Tanya. Unfortunately, refraining from helping people with their weight concerns does not help with the bias, either. A much better approach would be genuinely patient-centered care which would include listening and helping with patient concerns about obesity and weight.