The American College of Physicians (ACP) at its Internal Medicine Meeting 2023 last week announced a new initiative to advance equitable access to obesity care in the US.
In its ongoing effort to promote a “stigma-free culture” for care of patients with overweight and obesity, ACP said it will use physician education, advocacy, and partnerships to counter public misinformation about the etiology of obesity, to campaign against ubiquitous stigma, and to reduce the disparities in access to effective obesity care.
“This initiative is ambitious, but health equity provides an intentional lens to align our efforts to increase access to care and treatments, reduce stigma and bias for patients, and address health disparities in marginalized populations,” ACP President Ryan Mire, MD, MACP, said in a news release. “With focused efforts, we are confident we can ensure equitable access for patients and help counter public misinformation about the causes of obesity, the stigma around it and the equity issues around how it’s treated.”
Internal medicine physicians face obesity-related challenges in patient care on a regular basis and ACP recognizes that obesity and health equity are “not simple issues with easy, clear solutions,” the announcement says.
The initiative will build on and complement current ACP resources on management of obesity and will include development and promotion of new clinical treatment guidelines and expanded educational programs focused on how physicians can diffuse and dispel misinformation and biases about obesity and weight management.
More than 42% of the US population have overweight or obesity, according to ACP, a fact that sets the stage for the College’s renewed efforts.
“Obesity is associated with the leading causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancers,” ACP said. Both physicians and their patients must navigate mixed messaging around the causes of the disease of obesity and strategies for weight management, the ACP emphasized. Greater coordination of information and access to resources are sorely needed.
Predictors of obesity are often influenced by health care access and other socioeconomic factors.
That includes what’s available in neighborhood markets, kitchens, and on dinner plates. Adequate access to nutritious food is not equal in the US, which negatively impacts the health of many Americans.
“ACP advocates to address food and nutrition insecurity…to strengthen the federal food-insecurity response, and to empower physicians and other medical professionals to better address those social drivers of health occurring beyond the office doors,” the organization’s announcement said.
Announcing the program, Mire was joined by Christina Wee, MD, MPH, ACP vice president and senior deputy editor of the group’s official journal the Annals of Internal Medicine; and Davoren Chick, MD, ACP chief learning officer and senior vice president for medical education.
Wee announced that Annals of Internal Medicine has compiled a collection of obesity- and overweight-related content and its published resources to help clinicians keep current with the latest science on obesity and its management.
ACP hosts an Obesity Management Learning Hub on its website, comprising materials to increase physicians’ confidence in initiating patient conversations and providing counseling on treatment options. Chick discussed those efforts and the hub states clearly, obesity is a public health issue and a health equity issue.