What Can be Done to Help Primary Care Physicians More Effectively Help Patients with Obesity Manage Their Weight?
— By Dawn M. Sweet, Ph.D
Certifying through the American Board of Obesity Medicine helps Primary Care Physicians Better Serve their Patients with Obesity.
In the current medical landscape, primary care physicians (PCPs) and family practitioners are being asked to shoulder increasingly more responsibility for managing a patient’s overall care. While primary care physicians have a wide breadth of medical knowledge, there are knowledge gaps and structural clinical constraints that may limit their ability to optimally support weight loss in patients with obesity.1 In response to increasing demand for PCPs to help patients with obesity manage their weight, PCPs are becoming certified through the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM)2 so that they can shore up their knowledge and work with their patients with obesity to provide optimal treatment options for weight loss.
The American Board of Obesity Medicine
Evidence-based treatment for patients with obesity, such as surgery and lifestyle changes, has mitigated some of the attendant human and economic costs associated with weight.3 Current clinical practice guidelines now suggest that PCPs should play a key role in weight management treatments for patients with obesity.1 Despite these guidelines, patients with obesity may not always receive optimal care from PCPs in the general practice setting. This is due, in part, to PCPs not receiving the specialized training they need as well as structural aspects of care such as short office visits, limited clinic resources, or competing clinical demands.1 Recommendations in the general practice context typically include general instructions to change one’s diet and increase physical activity,4 thus not providing patients with obesity with the specific clinical guidelines or evidence-based options they need.
An option for PCPs, particularly those who specialize in Internal Medicine and Family Medicine, is certification through the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM).2,5 Established in 2011, the ABOM’s mission is to advance evidence-based care for patients with obesity, and the number of credential ABOM Diplomates has increased from 587 in 20125 to 5,242 in 20216, a 793 percent increase, suggesting not only an interest in but also a need for clinicians to deepen their understanding of the clinical options for optimizing care for patients with obesity.
To become boarded, physicians must complete specific educational requirements and pass a standardized exam. As of 2020, 65 percent of ABOM Diplomates were from the fields of Internal Medicine or Family Medicine.1 A 20217 study reports that ABOM Diplomates are educated on current evidence-based approaches to weight management such as nutrition, which includes physician-supervised meal replacements, exercise, and behavioral services.
With the additional training and certification offered by the ABOM, PCPs with ABOM Diplomate status can more confidently and effectively play a central role and be a valuable resource for not only their patients with obesity but also for their colleagues who have not yet gone through the certification process.
Increasing Positive Clinical Outcomes for Patients with Obesity
An ABOM Diplomate can be a value-added resource to the health care team for patients with obesity. ABOM Diplomates bring expertise that can enhance delivery of evidence-based treatment in the general practice context. Additionally, because the ABOM Diplomate training focuses on nutrition, ABOM Diplomates’ expertise extends beyond general practice and functions as a bridge between their patients with obesity and dietician and nutritionist colleagues who are also part of the healthcare team.
For primary care physicians who treat patients with obesity, further professional training through the ABOM will enable them to talk more confidently and in more detail with their patients about supervised weight loss interventions, such as Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCD) or Low-Calorie Diets, meal replacement options, and lifestyle changes that can mitigate the effects of unhealthy weight.
- Developing weight navigation program to support personalized and effective obesity management in primary care settings: protocol for a quality improvement program with an embedded single-arm pilot study
- American Board of Obesity Medicine
- Obesity as a disease: current policies and implications for the future
- Weight management practices and evidence for weight loss through primary care: a brief review
- The American Board of Obesity Medicine: five‐year report
- Number of ABOM Diplomates tops 5,200 in US and Canada
- Physicians certified by the American board of obesity medicine provide evidence-based care