Basic Education

Obesity Care Education? Low Priority for Many Medical Schools

When medical students become doctors, at least four out of ten patients they see will suffer the effects of obesity. And yet, for many medical schools, obesity care education is a low priority. For some schools, not even the basics are a big priority. This finding comes from an important new study published in BMC Medical Education last week.

Sixty percent of medical schools surveyed do not cover any core competencies of obesity care to a great extent. And 15 percent cover them very little or not at all.


We pretty much knew that doctors emerge from medical school ill-prepared to provide adequate care for patients with obesity. Numerous other studies have documented this gap for years. But if you thought rising obesity rates would get the attention of medical schools, you were wrong. Lead author Scott Butsch sums it up:

Our manuscript shows very specific areas in which medical schools are deficient, which is no surprise. However the fact that medical schools aren’t prioritizing obesity education and are creating an unprepared future physician generation is astonishing.

The Symbiosis of Bias and Ignorance

Obesity researchers have known for decades that obesity is a highly heritable condition. And yet the you-can-do-it bias of our culture is overwhelming. So we convince ourselves that this inherited metabolic condition is a matter of personal choice. Faced with the fact that the heritability of obesity is 70 percent, many physicians respond that “genes are not destiny.”

Try telling that to someone with breast cancer.

But stigma leads people with obesity to accept shoddy care. It leads many to internalize the stigma that healthcare providers direct at them. And thus, medical schools have implicit permission to neglect obesity care education. That permission comes from implicit bias.

Bias and ignorance work in synergy – especially in creating barriers to adequate obesity care. So medical schools have an obligation to step up and address both of these problems. Some of them are doing so. Those that don’t will find that their reputations will suffer.

Click here for the study and here for more on the core competencies for obesity care education.

Basic Education, UN Photo by Tobin Jones / flickr

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February 3, 2020

One Response to “Obesity Care Education? Low Priority for Many Medical Schools”

  1. February 05, 2020 at 11:46 am, Dr. Vivek Mantri said:

    ‘Obesity care education’ is at very low priority at medical colleges.
    According to me there are several causes of this fact that medical students are deprived from this education. There are several number of diseases for which doctors have got tools to diagnose the diseases like clinical conditions, pathology, radiology and Pharmaceutical medicines. On the other hand obesity is an idiopathic disease. In earlier days it was considered that it is mere function of diet and exercises but, in recent decades it has been proven by the US researchers that obesity is more controlled by hormones such as thyroxine, adrenaline and cortisol etc. than diet and exercises. Weight loss means utilisation of deposited fats to synthesise ATP but at the same time it is very difficult to maintain BMR also. Both are very contradictory actions of the obese body. I am following the obesity Society of America(TOS) since 22 years. I have been taught that obesity is recurrent chronic disease and it is fake that it is controlled by only diets because now it is proven that it depends upon heredity, race, hormonal conditions, sex, age, climatic conditions, various types of physical conditions, drug interactions like steroids, quantity and quality of macro and micro nutrients from the diet and so many other unknown factors. Only one disease called obesity itself is a very huge and vast chapter at the same time it is very difficult to treat individually. Hence doctors prefer to treat related diseases and not obesity.