Obesity Board Sees Success, But Patient Treatment Remains a Challenge

In recent years, the number of doctors certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine has surged. But while the board is making progress, many physicians still lack a full understanding of obesity issues, leading to poor treatment of patients.

Culturally and medically, obesity is a hard problem to solve, one that requires thinking differently and moving away from the status quo. That’s a place where the American Board of Obesity Medicine fits in perfectly.

Since its launch in 2011, ABOM has focused on improving doctors’ knowledge and training in the treatment of obesity through standards and certification. Earlier this year, the board certified 429 doctors for obesity treatment in a single week—a massive jump for the group, which has certified a total of 1,590 doctors from a variety of disciplines.

The progress was applauded by experts in the field. “The ABOM represents a needed change in obesity treatment,” wrote Bruce Y. Lee, director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center, in a piece for Forbes. “There are so many people out there telling you how you can lose weight. But how many really know what they are talking about when it comes to obesity treatment?”

More Progress to Be Made

But in many ways, that progress is just a starting point. A recent New York Times story suggested that many doctors fail to properly diagnose obese adults for unrelated ailments, often limiting their recommendations to weight loss.

In one case, a woman suffering from hip pain went to a doctor and was told to lose weight—despite the fact that she had already lost a significant amount of weight prior to the visit. In the end, the hip ailment, which the doctor never examined her for, was determined to be unrelated to her weight.

Dr. Louis J. Aronne, a specialist on obesity issues at Weill Cornell Medicine and a cofounder of ABOM, suggested to the Times that such situations are far too common due to training issues. And studies have shown that many doctors believe it is often a waste of time to treat heavier patients.

“Physicians need better education, and they need a different attitude toward people who have obesity,” Aronne said. “They need to recognize that this is a disease like diabetes or any other disease they are treating people for.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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