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What Do Health Professionals Need To Know About Obesity?



Achieving and maintaining competencies is an ongoing challenge for all health professionals. But in an area like obesity, where most will have received rather rudimentary training (if any), most health professionals will likely be starting from scratch.

So what exactly must you expect of a health professional involved in the care of individuals living with obesity.

This is the subject of a white paper on “Provider Competencies for the Prevention and Management of Obesity“, developed with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The panel of authors led by Don Bradley (Duke) and William Dietz (George Washington) included representatives from over 20 national (US) professional organisations.

The competencies expected cover the following 10 topics:

Competencies for Core Obesity Knowledge
1.0 Demonstrate a working knowledge of obesity as a disease

2.0 Demonstrate a working knowledge of the epidemiology of the obesity epidemic

3.0 Describe the disparate burden of obesity and approaches to mitigate it

Competencies for Interprofessional Obesity Care
4.0 Describe the benefits of working interprofessionally to address obesity to achieve results that cannot be achieved by a single health professional

5.0 Apply the skills necessary for effective interprofessional collaboration and integration of clinical and community care for obesity

Competencies for Patient Interactions Related to Obesity
6.0 Use patient-centered communication when working with individuals with obesity and others

7.0 Employ strategies to minimize bias towards and discrimination against people with obesity, including weight, body habitus, and the causes of obesity

8.0 Implement a range of accommodations and safety measures specific to people with obesity

9.0 Utilize evidence-based care/services for people with obesity or at risk for obesity

10.0 Provide evidence-based care/services for people with obesity comorbidities

Some of the topics include further subtopics that are deemed especially relevant.

Thus, for e.g., topic 6.o, regarding communication, includes the following sub-competencies:

6.1 Discuss obesity in a non-judgmental manner using person-first language in all communications

6.2 Incorporate the environmental, social, emotional, and cultural context of obesity into conversations with people with obesity

6.3 Use person- and family-centered communication (e.g., using active listening, empathy, autonomy support/shared decision making) to engage the patient and others

Similarly, topic 7.0, regarding the issue of weight bias and discrimination, includes the following sub-competencies:

7.1 Describe the ways in which weight bias and stigma impact health and wellbeing

7.2 Recognize and mitigate personal biases

7.3 Recognize and mitigate the weight biases of others

This is clearly a forward-thinking outline of competencies that we will hopefully come to expect of most health professionals, given that virtually every health professional, no matter their specialty or scope of practice, will likely be called upon to care for people living with obesity.

The full document can be downloaded here.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

1 Comment

  1. Where does this document ‘fit’ in terms of healthcare guidance? I am UK-based and we have NICE guidelines (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) which are supposed to provide a framework for best practice. Would these be the equivalent in Canada/US?

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