New Recommendation for Doctors: Screen Adults for Obesity

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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?


Author: Alice RD

Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention into action by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

One thought on “New Recommendation for Doctors: Screen Adults for Obesity”

  1. Studies show that dieting, even that considered “naturalistic”, among young people lead to weight cycling [Naturalistic weight reduction efforts predicted weight gain and onset of obesity in adolescent girls;

    There is an evidence-based compassionate alternative to conventional dieting: Health At Every Size®. Please consider this alternative prior to making a decision that may result in weight cycling.

    NAAFA, the oldest non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to ending size discrimination in all of its forms, advocates the use of HAES® tenets and has developed a brochure directed to healthcare providers that deal with fat patients. You can find NAAFA’s guidelines at:

    For more information on Health At Every Size, you can find a general explanation on Wikipedia ( or find in-depth research-based information in the book Health At Every Size – The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Dr. Linda Bacon (

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