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Authentic Patient-Centered Care for People with Obesity?

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Authentic Patient-Centered Care for People with Obesity?

— By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.

As the initial challenges associated with COVID-19 diminish, the medical community must consider what patient-centered care for people with obesity looks like in a continually changing health care environment.

Health care professionals were lauded — appropriately — for rising to previously unimagined challenges brought on by COVID-19, particularly during the early days. For thousands of hospitalized patients, doctors and nurses provided their sole interaction for the duration of their stay, acting not only as caregiver, but as confidant, friend, and surrogate family. Among the many who succumbed to the virus, medical staff facilitated final words and provided comfort for both patients and families.

With a decline in COVID rates, health care providers now must navigate a new, post-COVID normal that continues to emphasize patient-centered care that addresses the various needs and forms of contact patients prefer. For example, physical distancing continues to be a priority for many vulnerable patients and a preference for many populations, including those with obesity, for a variety of reasons. As such, it is imperative that patient-centered care for people with obesity continues in ways appropriate to the changing patient needs and health care environment.

Telemedicine Offers Options

While fewer restrictions have led to increased office visits, some changes, such as greater reliance on telehealth, are likely to stay. Similarly, other technological advances offer patients alternative diagnostic and treatment options through virtual remote patient monitoring. The ability to transmit data on patients’ health allows for more immediate identification or ongoing monitoring of hypertension, cardiac failure, and other conditions.

For people with obesity, telemedicine offers greater privacy, fewer issues with travel, and decreased stigma.1 While there are conveniences to this type of interaction, creating a bond can be challenging, particularly with new patients. Many patients lack knowledge on when or how to use telemedicine, so it is up to the medical community to identify options and alternatives that address their concerns. In addition to educating patients, more and different types of training for health care providers provide a wider range of approaches from which they can (re)build trust. These best practice models “humanize” the experience to provide a more holistic focus on patients.

A Cultural Shift is needed to Provide True Patient-centered Care for all Populations

Despite this shift, however, developing patient-centered strategies for people with obesity is lagging and must be more of a priority. This necessitates a major cultural shift in awareness and perceptions to separate preconceived assumptions relating to the causes of obesity, beginning with the medical community. Bias against people with obesity is pervasive,2 not only by an individual’s peers, but also health care providers, which can have medical consequences. It is incumbent on all who have a role in patient care — at any level — to learn to overcome attitudes and behaviors that might result in overt or unintentional bias. Only when this happens as part of the culture of all health systems can genuine, comprehensive patient-centered practice become an ingrained characteristic of health care for all.


  1. Management of Obesity Using Telemedicine during the COVID-19 Pandemic
  2. How and Why Weight Stigma Drives the Obesity “Epidemic” and Harms Health

About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.

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