4 ways physicians can tackle obesity

Physicians have mixed opinions about their role in reducing obesity rates in the United States, according to a recent discussion from Medscape. At one end of the spectrum, some doctors claimed they can't be responsible for what their patients eat, watch on TV or pursue as activities. In contrast, other physicians argued that they do have a duty to address obesity now or "drown in diabetes treatment" later.

To help prevent the latter consequence, here are some ideas posed by physicians:

1. Make health trendy.
"What kids will do is determined not by preaching, but by trends," one doctor wrote. "We need our equivalent of the pet rock, except [we need] a new concept every year; maybe we just need a good ad/marketing firm." Some creative programs already in existence, such as Walk with a Doc, help physicians get patients to be more active and market themselves at the same time.

2. Set a better example.
"We need to start by not having 70 percent to 80 percent of us (physicians) being overweight and obese," noted another physician. "Lead by example, or your voice can't be taken seriously." In fact, researchers from Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center recently found that healthcare workers did report healthier behaviors than the general population in exercising more and not drinking heavily.

3. Bridge knowledge gaps.
"Nutrition training among physicians is pathetic," commented a dermatologist. "Rote memorization of vitamin deficiency is no different now than it was 30 years ago." Consider improving your own knowledge of nutrition that will translate to patient education.

4. Check up on exercise.
Kaiser Permanente and some other medical systems now urge physicians to ask patients at every visit how much time they devote to exercise and record the number as a vital sign, according to an article from the Associated Press. With that number being one of the first items in the chart the physician sees, he or she can point out to patients the connection between health issues, such as high blood pressure, and inadequate exercise.

To learn more:
- read the article from Medscape (registration required)
- see the AP story