Overcoming Obesity

Building Critical Mass for Real Obesity Care

At the fall meeting of the Obesity Medicine Association, it’s plain to see. A critical mass is building for delivering real obesity care. More than 1,100 clinicians are gathering in Boston to learn more about the science and clinical practice of obesity care. In fact, many of them have come to prepare for the board exam in obesity medicine.

A Growing Specialty

The numbers are impressive. Hundreds of physicians participated in two full days of intensive preparation for the board exam. Last year, nearly 900 took the exam. Of those, 726 passed. As a result, nearly 3,400 physicians are now diplomates of the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM). This 27 percent growth rate means obesity medicine is perhaps the fastest growing medical specialty in the U.S.

The OMA is a big beneficiary of the booming interest in delivering real obesity care. In recent years, membership has doubled. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are taking an active role. In total, the organization now has more than 2,800 members. And if anything, the growth rate is accelerating.

What’s more, it’s not just OMA that’s feeling the growth in this specialty. The Harvard Blackburn Course on Obesity Medicine has become a sellout event. This year, the Cleveland Clinic joined forces with LSU’s Pennington Center to meet the demand for its obesity summit. On top of all that, registrations for the Obesity Society board review at ObesityWeek are growing briskly.

Thus, it’s entirely possible that a thousand physicians will sit for the ABOM board exam in early 2020.

Progress on Pediatric and Adolescent Care

We’ve said it before. The situation for obesity care in childhood and adolescence is lagging. Only 175 pediatricians are board certified in obesity medicine. But we see the foundation for progress at the OMA meeting. For the first time, this clinical conference has a whole separate track for pediatric care. OMA has published a pediatric edition of its Obesity Algorithm. In fact, it’s selling briskly at this conference.

Are we building a critical mass in pediatric obesity care? Maybe. Certainly, the signs are good. But these are early days still. Adult care is definitely on its way, and we hope that pediatrics will follow a similar path.

Click here for a discussion of core principles of obesity medicine with Angela Fitch, Vice President of the Obesity Medicine Association.

Overcoming Obesity, photograph © Ted Kyle / flickr

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October 4, 2019