Medical schools need to provide more education on obesity


Medical schools need to provide more education on obesity


Although there is an increasing number of people struggling with obesity, there are only a few medical schools in the United States providing sufficient, beneficial instructions on how to address weight problems in obese patients.

The finding came from a team of experts at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and was published in the journal Teaching and Learning in Medicine.

Obesity is a serious issue in America, with over one-third of adults and one-sixth of kids who are obese. It is one of of the most common causes of preventable deaths, while $99 million is spent in health care costs annually, similar to the financial toll of cigarette smoking. However, a previous study indicated that obese patients visit the doctor more often than regular smokers who have a healthy weight.

Mara Vitolins, Dr.P.H., R.D., professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study, explained:

"Medical students are surrounded by the same environment that everyone is in this country, a culture of idealized images of physical attractiveness in which thin is good and fat is bad. We just aren't doing a good enough job of teaching our students evidence-based methods of intervention and care for our obese patients."

The researchers wanted to provide an analysis of previous studies on obesity-related educational programs. In order to measure the amount and usefulness of medical school training on obesity, the team examined literature from the National Institutes of Health's PubMed database from 1997 through 2010.

After reviewing 208 reports, the scientists discovered that only 5 acknowledged ways to increase medical student's awareness, attitudes, and skills relating to treatment of overweight and obese patients. Of those 5, just 2 discussed the bias toward obese patients, while only one was concerned with changing that bias.

The team noted that since there are not many published studies on this subject, it helps explain doctors' reports of insufficient training on helping their patients control their weight.

Vitolins said:

"Our study shows clear gaps in medical education regarding obesity. Providing medical students with skills to address obesity is necessary to impact the national epidemic of obesity to decrease mortality and morbidity from chronic diseases related to excess weight.

Our findings also highlight the need for medical school curricula to mitigate negative attitudes toward these patients, attitudes that may affect the care delivered."

There was not one study that included education on obesity over all four years of medical school. Although there are certain schools which order their students to teach prevention, such as weight management and nutrition in community clinics, this strategy is still not providing them the full range of obesity counseling knowledge available.

According to Vitolins, in order to improve medical school training, the curriculum needs to frequently use different types of intervention approaches, including:

  • lectures
  • standardized patient encounters
  • hands-on training
"Such training should be based on tried and true educational approaches and include education in bias and stereotyping, as well as specifically addressing obesity bias." Vitolins added.

The authors recently published a teaching and learning program for exercise, nutrition, and weight management in MedEdPortal that discusses the need for more obesity-related education in medical schools.


Obesity: Facts and Fictions (Video Medical And Professional 2018).

Section Issues On Medicine: Other