Ana Maria Lopez, MD, MPH: The Current State of Obesity Care is ‘Woefully Deficient’

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Lopez discusses the growing prevalence of obesity in the US and the need for improved, cross-specialty care based on patients’ metabolic health.

Obesity is on the rise, both in the US and on a global scale. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity in the US reached 41.9% during 2017 - March 2020, a notable increase from the 30.5% observed in 1999 - 2000 that underscores the importance of ensuring adequate care for the growing number of patients with obesity.1

Despite its growing prevalence, bias, stigma, and misinformation continue to hinder the care patients with obesity receive from health care providers, many of whom assess individuals based on their outward appearance rather than their metabolic health. The topic was discussed during a session at the 2024 American College of Physicians (ACP) Internal Medicine Meeting in Boston.

“Someone may look a certain way and we think ‘Oh, they have a problem,’ but when we look at the data, they are metabolically healthy,” Ana Maria Lopez, MD, MPH, professor of medical oncology at Thomas Jefferson University, said in an interview with HCPLive, also emphasizing the need for clinicians and healthcare teams to be informed about the health risks associated with obesity and how to properly make judgments for their patients with obesity.

Whereas obesity used to be a conversation patients were encouraged to have with their primary care physician or endocrinologist, Lopez noted the rising prevalence of obesity has transformed this mindset and put a greater emphasis on cross-specialty work.

“Addressing metabolic health is not something that's relegated to one specialty. As we commented on in the session, we're all obesity doctors,” she said.

However, Lopez described the current state of obesity care as “woefully deficient,” citing patients’ widespread inability to access care despite being identified as needing care for their weight. In order to address this issue, she suggested patients “work together” and “be supportive of each other,” mentioning the potential benefit of group visits to work with other patients, or working with a coach or community health worker.

“I think it's a real opportunity for us to bridge interprofessional interdisciplinary care and better collaboration with our patients,” she concluded.

Lopez has no relevant disclosures.

Reference:

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adult Obesity Facts. Overweight & Obesity. May 17, 2022. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

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