Arrival of Teachers

Obesity Medicine Education: Effective But Uncommon

A new systematic review in the International Journal of Obesity offers a global view on the state of obesity medicine education. It’s definitely a good news, bad news story. The good is that we have plenty of reason to believe that obesity medicine education helps. But the bad news is that the current extent of it is inadequate.

If 80 percent of life is showing up, then we are failing the many patients with obesity. Medical schools are simply not showing up to meet the need.

234 Articles, 27 Studies

Fortunately, this subject is receiving more attention. Marissa Mastrocola and colleagues reviewed 234 articles on the subject and found 27 that met the criteria for their systematic review. These studies were very diverse in focus. So were the findings. Most often, these programs taught basic knowledge about obesity. But the best outcomes came in counseling. More confidence.

Notably, they found evidence that obesity education could produce doctors with more empathy. With less bias toward patients with obesity, too. This is a growing focus – and it’s about time.

The Obesity Medicine Education Collaborative (OMEC)

OMEC is the work of multiple groups. It’s prompting some of the progress we’re beginning to see. Robert Kushner and others developed a set of 32 competencies in six domains. They provide benchmarks for education. A wide range of organizations participated in the effort and endorsed these competencies. To be sure, it represents commendable progress in the right direction.

Miles to Go

The good news is that this is an opportunity that people can see clearly. The challenge is that so much work remains to be done. Fatima Cody Stanford, senior author for this review, sums it up:

Unfortunately, the state of obesity education is inadequate. Efforts to teach obesity to medical students and trainees throughout the world are modest and few. In addition, many of these programs are brief. Thus, limited education does not often translate into clinical practice as physicians care for a growing population with obesity. We would not think of training doctors who cannot care for the diseases that obesity causes. But we don’t yet teach them to provide adequate care for obesity.

Click here for the paper and here for the OMEC report.

Arrival of Teachers, painting by Vasily Perov / WikiArt

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September 26, 2019