Making a Diagnosis, Making a Difference in Obesity Treatment

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Diagnosing is often the first step in crafting a treatment plan. Your doctor checks your blood pressure to determine if you have hypertension or blood sugar to check for diabetes risk. When it comes to obesity, it is not uncommon to not see it diagnosed even though recent data show that obesity rates continue to rise in the USA, where the percentage of people living with obesity is 42.4%.

A new paper in Obesity by Elizabeth Ciemens and colleagues at the American Medical Group Association shares findings from an observational study of 688,878 participants in 15 health systems on the rate of diagnostic documentation and subsequent weight loss in people with obesity.

Multivariate analysis showed that making a diagnosis of obesity is an essential first step in conversing about weight loss and its associated health benefits. Other factors contributing to weight loss included being a Medicare/Medicaid recipient, having a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, being female, and the number of outpatient visits.

This paper shows a continued gap in documenting obesity, with more than 50% of those impacted not having a diagnosis. Would this be tolerated in any other clinical area? Diagnosing obesity is an independent predictor of 5% weight loss. Once a diagnosis is made, this increases the likelihood primary care providers will then discuss treatment options with their patients.

More doctors in the USA are becoming board certified in Obesity Medicine, enabling them to practice from the latest science base regarding obesity. There are increasing efforts to address and develop core competencies regarding obesity treatment, raising the standard of care. Given the prevalence of obesity in the USA and many other countries, these steps are necessary and welcome to improve all populations’ health, longevity, and quality of life.

Thanks for reading – Trina

(Opinions are my own)


Ciemins, E.L., Joshi, V., Cuddeback, J.K., Kushner, R.F., Horn, D.B. and Garvey, W.T. (2020), Diagnosing Obesity as a First Step to Weight Loss: An Observational Study. Obesity. doi:10.1002/oby.22954

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