Doctors Urged to Screen Patients for Obesity

In an effort to improve the health of the nation’s population, federal health officials are urging doctors to screen adult patients for obesity.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force – an independent group of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine – issued the recommendation this week.

The Task Force also recommends counseling to promote healthy eating habits and exercise to reduce a person’s risk for heart disease. Patients who are obese should be referred to a weight loss and behavior management program with 12 to 26 sessions in the first year, according to the Task Force.

The recommendations come at a critical time. More than two-thirds of the adult population is overweight or obese. To be considered obese, a person has to have a body mass index of 30 or higher.

Obesity carries several health consequences. People who are obese are more likely to develop heart disease and many types of cancer, according to a news release from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

“Obesity is a very serious health problem in the United States, and in the past 30 years, obesity rates have dramatically increased,” said Task Force member Dr. David Grossman. “The good news is that even modest weight loss can reduce health risks for people who are obese. And, there is strong scientific evidence that shows that intensive programs with 12 to 26 sessions in the first year can help people manage their weight.”

Although obesity and healthy lifestyle choices are related health issues, Dr. Grossman said that the Task Force purposely issued two separate recommendations.

“The Task Force’s obesity screening recommendation focuses on offering or referring obese patients to comprehensive weight management programs,” he said. “This recommendation is intended to improve all health outcomes, and not only risks for cardiovascular disease. The healthy lifestyles recommendation focuses only on counseling to encourage healthy lifestyle choices to prevent cardiovascular disease.”

The Task Force is an independent group of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that works to improve the health of all Americans by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications.

Source: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force news release

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