Currently, two-thirds of Americans are overweight, yet patients feel like their physicians aren't spending enough time with them discussing their weight issues. A recent article by NPR talked with both patients and physicians to see where the communication gap might be. It appears that patients feel like they're seeking out information from their doctors but not being given enough, while doctors feel like they're providing sufficient information to start their patients down the road to weight loss and common sense should come into play.
"It's as unreasonable to say I didn't quit smoking because my doctor
didn't tell me to as it is to say I didn't lose weight because my doctor
didn't tell me to. Everybody knows you shouldn't smoke,
and everybody knows you should be at a healthy weight. It's not a
mystery." ~ Dr. Cynthia Ferrier, Internist (GreenField Health)
Time is also an issue. Physicians are already stretched for time when they have patient interactions. Office visits are usually only about 8 minutes per patient, and in that time the physician must deal with the acute symptoms that brought the patient in. It's hard to also tack on preventative health discussions and weight loss counseling. Additionally, reimbursement for such counseling is not always guaranteed.
It's possible physicians can run the risk of scaring away their patients or shaming them into not returning for follow-up because of their lack of success in weight loss. But with continuing health problems because of rising weight, perhaps the best approach is the direct one. Patients need to be aware how dramatically their weight has a negative impact on their health. Physicians should also be supportive of their patients as they embark on weight loss. Improvement in patient health can only come when patients and physicians involve themselves in a team effort. Together, patient outcomes can improve and weight loss can be a realistic goal.