The American Board of Obesity Medicine says annual first-time certificates now exceed those for cardiology, pulmonology, and medical oncology.
The American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM) announced today that the 1567 physicians who passed its board certification test in October bring the total number of physicians certified in obesity medicine to more than 8000 across the US and Canada, a 40% increase in the specialty from 2022 to 2023.
“The growth of obesity medicine board certification mirrors the rise in interest among physicians seeking a more evidence-based approach to treating patients with obesity,” ABOM Board of Directors Chair Judith Korner, MD, PhD, said in a statement.
The number of certified diplomates has risen every year since 2018, drawing clinicians from a range of subspecialties with primary care comprising the largest number. The most recent class of diplomates includes 561 internists, 462 family physicians, 106 pediatricians and pediatric specialists, 75 endocrinologists, 69 surgeons, 44 obstetrician/gynecologists, and 39 gastroenterologists, along with other specialists.
“The strong showing from the primary care community is promising because primary care physicians are often in the best position to treat obesity,” Korner said.
Annual first-time ABOM certificates now exceed those fields including cardiology, pulmonary disease, and medical oncology, according to the Board statement.
The American Medical Association officially recognized obesity as a disease state in 2013, "with multiple pathophysiological aspects requiring a range of interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention." Moreover, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that obesity affects more than 40% of US adults, greatly increasing the risk for a range of comorbid diseases. According to ABOM, however, counseling for individuals with overweight or obesity continues to be low, in part the result of the paucity of training on the disease in medical school and residency programs.
While the desire to help their patients improve health through weight management may be strong, clinicians are not widely familiar with current treatment guidelines and their confidence in treating the disease effectively is low, said the ABOM.
The rapid introduction of incretin-based antiobesity medications adds another layer of complexity to treatment for obesity, ABOM Medical Director Kimberly Gudzune, MD, MPH, said in the statement. Optimal use of the new agents can require greater levels of knowledge of the disease as well as additional training.
“In the past, many doctors prioritized treating the problems caused by obesity rather than the disease itself. This attitude may stem, in part, from pessimism toward the effectiveness of older treatment options,” Gudzune said. “Now with the advent of highly effective anti-obesity medications, doctors are seeking certification to understand how to use these new tools. Through the certification process, they also learn the complexity of the disease of obesity as well as comprehensive strategies for treatment.”
The next obesity medicine certification examination is scheduled for October 2024. Additional information can be found here.