A report last year by the STOP Obesity Alliance—a collaboration of consumer, provider, government, labor, and business groups—suggested doctors and patients are frustrated with the conversations they are having about weight.
The patient survey found that only 39% of obese people are being told by a healthcare provider that they are obese. Most of those patients were also told by their doctors to lose weight. But one-third of those patients say their provider never discussed ways to achieve or maintain a healthier weight.
The survey itself revealed conflicts, says Christine Ferguson, JD, director of STOP Obesity Alliance, in Washington, DC. “A huge percentage [of physicians] had never had any [specific weight loss] training. “
“Yet at the same time, they know what people need to do, for the most part: help people eat less and exercise more, with patients needing to change their eating habits,” says Ferguson, a professor of the School of Public Health and Health Services at The George Washington University. “Then, you look at the patient, and they say not only do they not know what the physicians are telling them, but they don't pay attention to what the physicians are telling them.”
A major problem, as indicated in the survey, is that a vast majority of doctors say they have little or no training in weight management and nutrition, Ferguson says. Moreover, they say they’re not likely to have anyone else in their practice who can be of help, she adds. Most primary care physicians say having more time with patients would help them discuss weight issues, but many also cite a need for weight loss tools and other programs, the survey found.