Obesity is a serious and growing health problem in the United States, yet it is unsuccessfully dealt with a majority of the time. There are many factors that contribute to the unsuccessful treatment of obesity including patients not receiving the attention they deserve from primary care physicians and their own lack of involvement in self-care. Yet, because obesity is an epidemic in America, it must be addressed by the medical community in order to enhance the health of these patients.
More than one-third of adults in America are considered to be obese. Obesity-related conditions are among the leading causes of preventable death, making obesity an important factor when treating patients of multiple chronic conditions. Obesity is also associated with extremely high medical costs, making it a burdensome condition to millions of people in the United States. While obesity is a condition that affects a large percentage of the population, it is considered to be a heterogeneous disease that requires an individualized approach to treatment. This important factor must be understood and seen as significant in order for physicians to provide the attention and treatment that is vital to their health and life.
A multidisciplinary approach has proven to be the most successful approach in treating patients who are obese. Patients who visit their primary care physician, visit a nutritionist, visit a physical or exercise therapist, as well as visit any physicians related to other health conditions that they are also dealing with is essential in successful treatment of obesity. It must be understood that while a heavy burden will fall on the patient (i.e. managing multiple physicians), there is also a burden of responsibility that the primary care physician must undertake. Physicians who are in charge of patients with obesity must take on the responsibility of following up with the patient's other physicians, creating a multidisciplinary approach that will benefit the patient. It is unreasonable to expect any patient to truly grasp the interventions, treatments, and medications that s/he is on to the extent that a medical professional understands them. Therefore, without the continual involvement of a primary care physician in the complete treatment of obese patients, the condition will likely only get worse.
Obesity is a health condition that can be managed and reversed with appropriate treatment. Improvements in obesity have direct links to the improvement of other conditions such as glycemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Of course, it is essential to understand that there is no "perfect weight." Body size and shape are predicted largely by genetic factors that cannot be reversed or changed. Doctors must take into account that what works for one patient may not work for another. Understanding obesity as a complex, chronic disease is essential for providing effective health care for obese patients. There are strong physiologic mechanisms that resist weight loss and promote regain after weight loss. The pathway to successful weight loss and weight loss management is through long-term modifications to eating and physical activity behaviors.
Obesity is a chronic condition, and healthcare providers must be prepared to treat patients for many years. Multidisciplinary care can be an effective means of treatment for many patients dealing with obesity. The multidisciplinary approach can help patients feel comfortable in a medical setting, while their dietary and physical needs are met. This approach can also assist in the management of medical complications that affect their ability to lose weight and complicate other chronic conditions that they may be dealing with. Drastic weight loss goals with a narrow approach to the treatment of obesity are rarely effective. However, over the years it has become evident that a broader, multidisciplinary approach based on small, practical lifestyle changes is more achievable for patients and produces longer-lasting results.
Physicians must take an active approach to dealing with obese patients, they must encourage the patients to take an active approach to dealing with their own obesity, and they must also work to engage with other physicians in a multidisciplinary approach. By making the issue of obesity a significant issue with a patient's health and treatment, patients are better served to live a healthier life.