New Recommendation for Doctors: Screen Adults for Obesity

Doctors should screen their adult patients for obesity and refer those who are obese to an intensive behavioral program. That’s the recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of health experts that reviews published research and makes recommendations about preventive health care.

Over 60% of American adults are overweight or obese, which puts them at higher risk for many cancers, diabetes and heart disease. Yet a recent study found that only 30% of doctors reported discussing weight with obese patients. This task force recommendation explains the evidence and provides specific guidance for how doctors can help patients on the path to healthier weight.

Here’s what the task force recommends:

  1. Doctors should screen their adult patients for obesity by calculating their body mass index (BMI) after measuring weight and height at preventive care visits.
  2. For patients with a BMI 30 kg/mor above doctors should offer an intensive program that can be in the doctor’s office or a referral to an outside provider or community program.

The task force found that programs that show the best results for weight loss are comprehensive. They include 12-26 sessions in a year – both group and individual – for physical activity and diet improvement, self-monitoring techniques and strategies to maintain changes. In these type of programs participants lose an average of 6% of their body weight. When obese patients with pre-diabetes followed programs like this, they were half as likely to get diabetes as those who did not follow a program. And many participants show improvement in blood pressure and waist circumference compared to control groups.

What this means for you:

You may learn your BMI at your next doctor visit. But you don’t need to wait for a doctor’s visit to take steps to lose weight. If you want a comprehensive weight loss program, ask at your local hospital education departments or health department for their weight loss program.

If you want to get started on your own, AICR has information and resources to help. Know your BMI and waist circumference, learn about specific steps you can take to lose weight and take our New American Plate Challenge.

Have you participated in a weight loss program similar to those comprehensive examples?