Many Americans Unaware They’re Overweight

November 24, 2013
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Many Americans Unaware They're Overweight- Chiropractic NewsMore than two thirds of Americans have a high BMI, but only half are aware of it, according to a new survey from the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) and The Obesity Society (TOS). The survey showed that 44% of overweight or obese adults say they have never had a discussion about weight management with their doctors, despite that nearly all of the physicians surveyed said they do counsel their patients about weight. The findings reveal a wide disconnect between patients and medical doctors regarding weight management.

The study sought to enhance our understanding of patient-doctor conversations surrounding weight management by surveying 1,009 adults and 501 physicians.

While two thirds of adults had a high body mass index (BMI), but only half of them were aware of that. In fact, 83% of patients did not know their BMI at all.

Although almost all physicians (92% ) report discussing BMI with their patients, 67% of patients who had discussed weight with their doctors said BMI was rarely or never a part of the discussion. Additionally, only 37% of Americans believe their doctors can help them lose weight. Many patients (41%) felt hopeful and motivated (20%) after talking with their doctors about weight but 20% felt guilty and 18% were embarrassed.

“The survey results provide tangible evidence supporting what we’ve been hearing from patients and physicians for years,” said Joe Nadglowski, CEO and president of OAC. Nadglowski believes that improving patient-physician relationships is “critically important” in treating patients who are overweight or obese.

“We need to educate patients to have the conversation about their weight and ask the right questions so they leave the doctor’s office feeling empowered to take steps toward managing their weight. We also need to encourage physicians to facilitate the weight discussion with their patients – as it is often a difficult topic to discuss,” Nadglowski said.

Many chiropractors take a patient-centered approach to care with an emphasis on education and communication, as described in one recent study. This may lay the groundwork for more positive, productive conversations surrounding weight management and other healthy lifestyle decisions. Indeed, chiropractors are well aware of the connection between obesity/overweight, exercise, diet, and the risk of musculoskeletal conditions. For instance, recent research has shown that being obese can significantly limit the success of treatment for back pain and curtail the benefits of physical therapy. Now more and more chiropractors have started assisting their patients in weight loss in an effort to reduce spinal pain and joint problems.