Healthcare professionals unaware of weight-loss efforts

An international study reveals a disconnect between the perceptions of healthcare providers and people with obesity.

The disconnect is revealed in a new international study (the Action IO study) presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow, UK, and published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

Among the study’s findings are that while 71 per cent of healthcare providers (HCPs) believe people with obesity (PwO) are not interested in losing weight, only seven per cent of PwO report they are not interested, showing a 10-fold difference.

ACTION IO is the largest study of its kind to investigate barriers to obesity management from the perspective of people with obesity and healthcare professionals.

The study surveyed more than 14,500 people with obesity and nearly 2,800 healthcare providers from Australia, Chile, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, the UAE and the UK.

The Action IO study supplements the existing insights gained from previous Action studies conducted in the US and Canada, published in 2017.

Other key findings from the study include:

  • Eighty-one per cent of surveyed PwO believe it is their sole responsibility to lose weight.
  • Fifty-one per cent of surveyed PwO discussed their weight with their healthcare providers in the past five years, but only after a significant delay of a mean of six years from when their weight struggles began.

Reporting on actual attempts to lose weight were also very different between the two groups, with 81 per cent of PwO saying they had made at least one serious weight-loss attempt, while HCPs reported that only 35 per cent of their patients had done so, possibly indicating that PwO are not necessarily comfortable discussing the subject with HCPs or that those HCPs were not aware of an attempt being made. The study also found that 68 per cent of surveyed PwO would like HCPs to start conversations around weight management during appointments.

The study’s lead author, Professor Ian Caterson of the Boden Institute, Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, said: “Our data suggest that PwO are motivated to lose weight and there is an opportunity for healthcare professionals to initiate earlier, effective weight loss conversations with minimal fear of offence.

“PwO may not recognise the need to reduce excess weight until it has an impact on their health, further supporting the requirement for healthcare professional to raise the topic of weight before such obesity-related complications occur. Our study also reveals a global need for greater education for both PwO and HCPs on the biological basis and clinical management of obesity, and for a more positive healthcare professional attitude towards initiating weight discussions and management.

“We hope that these findings can help remove the barriers between people living with obesity and their healthcare providers and drive more positive engagement in the treatment of obesity.”

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