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Equity up, weight down: ACP urges docs to help all patients manage obesity


New initiative is ‘ambitious’ but ‘intentional’ with educational resources to cut disparities, dissolve stigma, and improve health.

Health application form and stethoscope © frinz - stock.adobe.com

© frinz - stock.adobe.com

Internal medicine physicians are renewing their aim to help all patients control weight to enjoy greater health.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) has announced a new initiative to promote equitable access to obesity care. Physician education, advocacy, and partnerships will be part of a “stigma-free culture” in which doctors and patients work toward healthier body weights.

“This initiative is ambitious, but health equity provides an intentional lens to align our efforts to increase access to care and treatments, reduce stigma and bias for patients, and address health disparities in marginalized populations,” ACP President Ryan Mire, MD, MACP, said in a news release. “With focused efforts, we are confident we can ensure equitable access for patients and help counter public misinformation about the causes of obesity, the stigma around it and the equity issues around how it’s treated.”

The new initiative will focus on and complement current efforts to ensure health equity and counter the health effects of obesity, according to ACP.

Not easy issues

“Internal medicine physicians regularly encounter challenges related to obesity in patient care, and ACP recognizes that obesity and health equity are not simple issues with easy, clear solutions,” the organization’s announcement said. Plans include new clinical guidelines and recommendations on obesity, and expanded physician education resources to diffuse and dispel misinformation and biases about the issue.

ACP said the renewed efforts come at an important time, as obesity has increased to more than 42% of the U.S. population.

“Obesity is associated with the leading causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancers,” the ACP statement said. “The mixed messaging around obesity and weight management causes, treatment, management, and stigmas, give need for more coordination and access to resources for physicians and their patients.”

Aligned with health equity, predictors of obesity are often influenced by health care access and other socioeconomic factors.

That includes what’s available in markets, kitchens, and on dinner plates. Every patient does not have adequate access to nutritious food, which negatively impacts the health of many Americans.

“ACP advocates to address food and nutrition insecurity so that all persons have access to nutritious and healthful foods, to strengthen the federal food-insecurity response and empower physicians and other medical professionals to better address those social drivers of health occurring beyond the office doors,” the organization’s announcement said.

Learning more

Announcing the program, Mire was joined by Christina Wee, MD, MPH, ACP vice president and senior deputy editor of the group’s Annals of Internal Medicine journal; and Davoren Chick, MD, FACP, ACP chief learning officer and senior vice president for medical education.

Wee announced that Annals of Internal Medicine has compiled a collection of obesity- and overweight-related content and its published resources to help clinicians keep current with the latest science on obesity and its management.

ACP has assembled an Obesity Management Learning Hub, comprising materials to increase physicians’ confidence in initiating patient conversations and providing counseling on treatment options. Chick discussed those efforts and the hub states clearly, obesity is a public health issue and a health equity issue.

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