Inter-Professional Education in Bariatric Care

Even casual readers of these pages will by now have realised that obesity prevention and management is much more than “Eat-Less-Move-More” and can only be successfully tackled by an inter-disciplinary approach based on a complex chronic care model that appreciates the heterogeneity of this condition.

But bariatric competencies are not just required by health professionals involved in the prevention or treatment of this condition.

Because obesity now affects a quarter or the adult population, every health professional is likely to be called upon to deliver health care to people (both adults and kids) with excess weight.

This means, that all health professionals (from dentists to forensic pathologists) will need to have at least a minimal understanding of the complex socio-psycho-biology of this condition and how to respectfully and professionally deal with individuals presenting with excess weight.

This was the topic of a meeting that I attended yesterday co-organised by the Canadian Obesity Network and the Health Sciences Education and Research Council (HSERC) of the University of Alberta.

The meeting included representatives from both the University of Alberta as well other post-secondary institutions that train health professionals like Grant MacEwan University as well as representative across faculties and disciplines including public health, nursing, rehabilitation, nutrition, pharmacy, and medicine.

The workshop was also attended by representatives from Alberta Health Services, who expressed their dire need for more health professionals better trained in all aspects of bariatric care.

The focus of the meeting was to discuss how to integrate a minimum knowledge set and clinical competencies into the curricula across these various disciplines but also how to foster inter-professional learning and practice in a manner consistent with the complex and heterogeneous nature of bariatric care.

It was evident that all faculties recognise that there are significant gaps in current curricula and that few faculties have enough time or resources dedicated to educating their students on this issue.

It was also evident that for many faculties the key challenge may start with educating the faculty itself on obesity before we can expect them to begin teaching the essentials of obesity prevention and management to their students.

Based on the discussions at this workshop, it is evident that this may not be a problem unique to the universities at the table, and that similar initiatives may need to be launched and supported by the Canadian Obesity Network at universities across Canada.

Given the enthusiasm and the discussions at this workshop, I am hopeful that coming generations of health professionals across disciplines may well have a far better understanding of this complex condition and most importantly (if nothing else) be qualified and positioned to take a sensitive, professional and non-judgmental approach to dealing with obesity in their clients.

A full report on this workshop will be released shortly and made available through the Canadian Obesity Network.

Edmonton, Alberta