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Too few primary care doctors address obesity with their patients, highlighting need for weight loss tool

Written by | 28 May 2023 | Nutrition

Too Few Primary Care Doctors Address Obesity With Their Patients, Highlighting Need for Weight Loss Tool

After finding that few to no clinicians provided weight management care, researchers developed a weight loss tool called PATHWEIGH. This tool was designed to remove clinician barriers in providing patient care that addressed weight. Early success with the tool led to PATHWEIGH being implemented in the health system’s 57 primary care clinics.

Researchers describe the characteristics of patients to determine the current state of weight management efforts in 57 primary care clinics. Patients included in the analysis were 18 years and older; had a body mass index (BMI) of more than 25 kg/m2; and had had a weight-prioritized visit between March 17, 2020 and March 16, 2021. Twelve percent (n=20,383) of patients that matched these criteria during this baseline period had a weight-prioritized visit.

Overall, patients who had had a weight-prioritized visit had a mean age of 52 years (SD=16), 58% women, 76% non-Hispanic whites, 64% with commercial insurance, and a mean BMI of 37 kg/m2. Documented referral for weight-related concerns was low (<6%) and only 334 prescriptions for anti-obesity medications were noted. Even though most patients were privately insured, referral to any weight-related service or prescription of anti-obesity medication was uncommon.

What We Know: Obesity is a complex, multifactorial condition in which excess body fat may put a person at health risk. It is responsible for 4 million deaths and the loss of 120 million healthy life years due to disability each year. Primary care serves as a common setting for addressing prevention and treatment of disorders caused by obesity, such as diabetes and hypertension, and many patients note weight management as a top priority. However, evidence-based interventions shown to be effective for weight loss are not commonly delivered in the primary care context.

What This Study Adds:  These results fortify the rationale for strategies to improve weight management in primary care.

Baseline Characteristics of PATHWEIGH: A Stepped-Wedge Cluster Randomized Study for Weight Management in Primary Care

Leigh Perreault, MD, et al
Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and Department of Epidemiology, Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, Colorado

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