Primary Care Providers and Obesity

New guidelines have been issued by leading medical groups including the American Heart Association, with the goal of fighting the nation’s obesity epidemic, specifically by urging primary care doctors to be more aggressive about helping patients lose weight.

Many people have been on their own when it comes to slimming down, left to sift through the numerous diets and exercise schemes that are promoted for weight loss. On top of this, most doctors have little training in how to help their obese patients, other than telling them that their weight is a problem and they need to do something about it. This has long been a frustration of patients who often feel as though they lack appropriate guidance in the significant difficulty of losing weight. These new guidelines are designed to help providers address the prevalence of obesity that they see in their patients.

The guidelines recommend that at each patient’s next appointment, their primary care doctor should calculate their body mass index (BMI), a weight-to-height ratio. If a person needs to lose weight, the doctor should come up with a plan including potentially sending the patient for counseling or a referral to a specialist. If a patient is overweight, the doctor should create a weight loss plan that includes calorie cutting and exercise. Patients who are also at risk for heart problems should be referred to weight loss programs. The program ideally would include at least 14 face-to-face counseling sessions over six months with a registered dietitian, psychologist or other professional with training in weight management. What about obese patients? Doctors should recommend a consultation for bariatric surgery for patients with a BMI of 40, or for those with a BMI of 35 who have a weight-related problems such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.

At NYU Langone Weight Management Program, we recognize that providing individualized, safe and effective recommendations and surgical care is just the first part of the journey, and we’re happy to see these new guidelines encouraging physicians to treat obesity seriously. Surgery is not a magic elixir for weight loss, but rather a tool to be used in conjunction with diet and exercise to achieve a healthier and fuller life. Surgery is also not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle, but rather a tool that allows your diet and exercise changes to work. Many bariatric surgery patients lose a substantial amount of weight and are able to maintain that weightloss, instead of regaining it. You can learn more about weight loss surgery and if it may be a good option for you by attending one of our free information sessions. You can call us at 212-263-3166 to register for an info session.