Multiple Medical Fields Unite to Combat Obesity

Obesity is possibly the largest health concern facing the United States, and dozens of American health advocates recently met to discuss a plan to attack the issue. According to a recent Medscape article, representatives from 35 medical organizations, including nonprofit groups and insurance companies, gathered in Gainesville, Florida last month to talk about the topic of obesity. Among the initiatives proposed, industry experts discussed joint guidelines and symposia, a Healthy Hospital initiative, an obesity treatment app, and an educational curriculum. The meeting marked the second National Obesity Summit on the Provision of Care for the Obese Patient, and participants represented a number of fields, including endocrinologists, dieticians, cardiologists, psychiatrists, oncologists, and dentists.

“We represent many different specialties, backgrounds, and perspectives, but we’re all really treating the same disease,” said the summit moderator John M Morton, MD, MPH. “That’s why there is intense and growing interest in how we can work together to better help our patients with obesity and related diseases.”

As individual specialists shared how obesity has affected their fields, it became apparent that the best way to combat this national epidemic is from a multidisciplinary stance. William Herman, MD, MPH, who represented the American Diabetes Association, said that “treating obesity is central to the management of type 2 diabetes. Medical care is so siloed. We need to move from a piecemeal approach to one that is more comprehensive.” Jennifer Ligibel, MD, from the American Society of Clinical Oncology added that “over the next 20 years, obesity is likely to be the most preventable cause of cancer.” And Timothy I Morgenthaler, MD, of the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine acknowledged that “healthy sleep helps prevent obesity, and that helping our patients with obesity lose weight is an integral part of sleep apnea treatment.”

The dental industry also has an important role to play. Representing the American Dental Association, Lindsey Robinson, DDS, pointed out that the dental office is in a unique position for “assessing and monitoring chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, which are significantly linked to obesity.”

By classifying obesity as a disease in 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) brought greater attention to the prevention and treatment of obesity. Representing the AMA, Mary Anne McCaffree, MD, stated that her organization plans to focus on preventive measures, including pre-diabetes detection and treatment and early detection of hypertension. She emphasized the need for collaboration among the medical specialty areas, stating that none of this can be done alone.

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