Skip to Content

Physicians Urged to Screen Adults for Obesity and Offer Intensive Nutrition and Fitness Counseling


Doctors in the U.S. are being urged to screen adults for obesity during regular check-ups by routinely calculating patients' BMI (body mass index).

A government panel recently renewed calls for more thorough monitoring of patients' weight, suggesting that checking a person's body mass index or BMI is in many cases as crucial to good health as recording blood pressure or keeping track of other vital signs.

Doctors appear reluctant to address BMI issue

A survey completed in 2010 by the American Academy of Family Physicians noted that only 40 percent of primary care physicians were monitoring their patients' BMI on a regular basis. Researchers at John Hopkins University have also determined that overweight doctors are less likely to offer guidance to obese patients than doctors who maintain a healthy weight themselves. In addition to this, only a small number of physicians have received training to treat obesity, so many are unsure how best to help patients who are severely overweight.

Intensive behavioral interventions needed for the severely obese

It was also recommended that doctors provide intensive nutrition and fitness counselling for those individuals who become obese. According to new guidelines released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, it is not good enough to mention the word "diet" in cases where a person's health is at risk due to excess weight.

Experts suggest referring obese patients to intensive nutrition and fitness counseling in order to address behavior that leads to poor eating habits and uncontrolled weight gain. This would include setting realistic weight-loss goals, adopting specific strategies to manage eating patterns and behavior, incorporating physical activity into a person's daily routine, and providing a number of face-to-face meetings with a health professional to discuss progress.

More research needed

Although Medicare has recently started paying for seniors to receive obesity screening and weight-loss counseling for one year, many insurance companies do not pay doctors to provide the intensive level of intervention necessary to help a person overcome obesity. Comprehensive weight-loss programs are also not available in all parts of the U.S. Experts agree that more research is required to study how best to assist individuals to lose excess weight.

Source: Associated Press