Docs Urged to Screen Patients for Obesity

Doctor obesity_teaser

The next time you visit your doctor, you might finally be in for a fat check.

New government guidelines urge physicians to screen all adult patients for obesity, and offer health and lifestyle counseling for those with a high body mass index (BMI).

Obesity in America is a hot topic. With two-thirds of adults overweight or obese, doctors are in a unique position to help tackle the epidemic that is linked to increases in diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

A 2010 survey of members of the American Academy of Family Physicians, though, found that only 40 percent of primary care doctors calculate the BMI of their patients.

BMI, while not as reliable as calculating body fat percentage, is used to estimate body fat, and is determined using height and weight. A normal BMI is below 25. Obesity is 30 or more, with overweight in between the two.

The new guidelines by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, call on doctors to offer intensive behavioral intervention for obese patients.

Previous evidence has shown that this type of healthy lifestyle program can result in a modest weight loss of 8.8 to 15.4 pounds. While that does not seem like much, even a five percent reduction in weight can improve the health of obese patients, and reduce the risk of other serious conditions.

Unlike in the past, many health insurance companies—and Medicare—cover weight loss programs, making it easier for doctors to refer patients for treatment.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, however, is still mainly the responsibility of patients. People “should be asking what their BMI is, and tracking that over time,” USPSTF member Dr. David Grossman told CBS.

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