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Obesity Diagnosis May Depend on Medical Professionals Weight

The study findings indicate that medical professionals with normal BMI more frequently reported discussing weight loss with patients than overweight or obese medical professionals….

A new study conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that when a doctor had a normal body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height) they are more likely to talk to their patients who are obese about weight loss (30 percent of normal-weight doctors, compared with 18 percent of obese or overweight doctors). In addition, 93 percent of normal-weight doctors are likely to diagnose a patient with obesity if the patient’s BMI is the same or greater as their own, while just 7 percent of overweight and obese doctors were likely to do this, researchers said.

Study researcher Sara Bleich, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins, said in a statement, “The findings indicate that physicians with normal BMI more frequently reported discussing weight loss with patients than overweight or obese physicians.” “Physicians with normal BMI also have greater confidence in their ability to provide diet and exercise counseling and perceive their weight loss advice as trustworthy when compared to overweight or obese physicians.”

On the other hand, researchers found that obese doctors were more likely to prescribe and report success with prescribing medications for obesity to their patients.

According to the CDC, obesity affects more than one-third of the U.S. adult population and is estimated to cost $147 billion annually in related health care costs. Obesity increases the risk of many adverse health conditions including type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Despite guidelines for physicians to counsel and treat obese patients, previous studies have found only one-third of these patients report receiving an obesity diagnosis or weight-related counseling from their physicians.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 53 percent of normal-weight doctors gave diet advice, compared with 37 percent of overweight or obese doctors. And 56 percent of normal-weight doctors gave exercise advice, versus 38 percent of overweight or obese doctors.

The study is based on results from a survey of 500 primary care doctors; doctors were asked to self-report their weight.

Recently, a study in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that many doctors aren’t talking to overweight kids about their weight.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina, showed that less than a quarter of parents said that their child’s overweight was addressed by the doctor.

Obesity, 2012 Jan 19. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.402. [Epub ahead of print]