Few of the more than 90 million Americans with obesity are seeking and receiving long-term obesity care

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Few of the more than 90 million Americans with obesity are seeking and receiving long-term obesity care, according to new data from the Awareness, Care and Treatment In Obesity Management (ACTION) Study published in Obesity, the official journal of The Obesity Society.

Among the notable findings is that of the 71% of people with obesity who say they have spoken with a healthcare professional (HCP) about their weight in the past 5 years, only 55% report having been given a diagnosis of obesity and less than a quarter (24%) were offered follow-up care for this disease. ACTION data will be presented through poster and symposia forums at ObesityWeek, currently in progress in Washington DC.

Designed to identify key barriers to care from the perspective of people with obesity, HCPs and employers, the results of the ACTION Study, according to multi-disciplinary steering committee members who led the initiative, can guide collaborative action to improve care, education and support for those who live with obesity.

“We in the healthcare community must ask why this epidemic is not being diagnosed and treated with the same urgency and focus as any other serious diseases?'” said Dr Lee Kaplan, director of the Obesity, Metabolism and Nutrition Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, ACTION steering committee member and lead author of the study.

“We need to fundamentally rethink obesity so that the public and healthcare community understand more about the biology, chronicity and overall health impact of this disease. Real progress can be achieved if we can overcome the entrenched mindsets that generate the barriers revealed by this study.”

Conducted with more than 3,500 participants spanning all three target groups, the ACTION Study reveals five key barriers to comprehensive care:

  • people with obesity engage in several serious weight loss attempts but only a few are able to maintain the achieved weight loss;
  • despite recognition of obesity as a disease, most people with obesity consider weight loss to be completely their own responsibility, which may prevent them from seeking help from their HCP;
  • nearly half of people with obesity have not been given a formal diagnosis of obesity;
  • the patient-provider dialogue about weight management is insufficient with limited follow-up; and
  • employer wellness programmes are not meeting the needs of people with obesity.

“The barriers identified in the study highlight opportunities to bridge gaps in understanding to facilitate true collaboration among all stakeholders,” said study co-author and ACTION steering committee member Dr. Angela Golden, owner of a specialty obesity practice in Arizona.

“Only by bridging these gaps will obesity care become integral to standard practice, whether in a healthcare or employment setting and will people with obesity have the care and support needed to effectively treat their obesity.”

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