Should your doctor tell you to lose weight?

  • The total costs in the U.S. for direct health care treatment for chronic health conditions totaled $1.1 trillion in 2016—equivalent to 5.8 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

    Chronic diseases also lead to indirect costs—defined as lost income and reduced economic productivity—for the individuals suffering from the conditions, their family caregivers, and the overall economy.

    In 2016, diseases caused by obesity and being overweight accounted for 47.1 percent of the total cost of chronic diseases in the U.S.— responsible for $480.7 billion in direct health care costs, plus $1.24 trillion in indirect costs related to lost economic productivity.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The total cost of chronic diseases due to obesity in 2016 was $1.72 trillion—equivalent to 9.3 percent of the U.S. in 2016[/inlinetweet].  But who is responsible for telling patients they are overweight and, in all likelihood, going to cost health care a lot of money?

There was a study that came out that looked at the attitudes of health care providers and physicians specifically towards overweight and obese patients. What they found was in about two-thirds of practitioners there was an unconscious, or even conscious, bias against taking care of obese patients.

The Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that many doctors are falling down on the job. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Only 45% of participants who qualified as overweight (with a BMI between 25 and 30) and 66% of those considered obese (with a BMI of 30 or higher) reported being told by their doctor that they had a weight problem.[/inlinetweet]

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]What’s more, 37% of the overweight patients and 19% of obese patients who didn’t have a talk with their doctor about weight didn’t know they were overweight.[/inlinetweet]

Fat shaming or helping patients

Many doctors are afraid to talk to patients about their weight and for certain people that may apply.  There are, for example, people who are overweight who get exercise and eat right, but their genes won’t allow them to lose weight.  However, there are others who are obese who are headed for serious medical problems, including diabetes, hypertension and heart problems.  These are the patients who need help. These are the patients that HCP’s need to see as people rather than just R’xs.

“It’s not a matter of fat shaming, it’s a matter of taking care of yourself before your health details you like” said a leading physician at Harvard Medical School.  “Frankly a doctor who doesn’t bring up a patient’s weight is bordering on malpractice” he went on to say.  “If a patient won’t come to see you because they are obese then frankly, that’s their problem, not the doctor’s”.