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Barriers to better obesity care

A recent study published in Obesity, Science and Practice found that only a few patients who are eligible for obesity medication are actually utilising them. Those who do receive medication are more likely to be young females, who are insured and use antidepressants and NSAIDS. In another recent investigation, found in the Pink Sheet, industry analysts have described how this is leading to a ‘slow goodbye’ for obesity medication, as the market declines. The researchers suggest that this could be a contributing factor to the rise in severe obesity, as obesity is being allowed to develop in the people that aren’t being effectively treated. It is also suggested that there are 3 main factors that interfere with the delivery of obesity care: the widespread bias and lack of understanding of obesity, the relatively few healthcare professionals who can treat it, and health plans that aren’t comprehensive.

The bias is thought to be the most influential factor, and this describes the idea that healthcare professionals think obese people to be non-compliant and weak-willed, often overlooking the complexities of the disease. In addition to this, there is a lack of healthcare professionals specialising in obesity care, meaning that much primary care is unequipped to treat and effectively manage it. Furthermore, health plans do not routinely cover obesity care; employers are commonly viewing obesity as a lifestyle condition, and not a real disease.

Most of this research was conducted in the United States, and reveals the sluggishness of progress within the country. There seems to be too much of a blame culture, which is having a negative effect on any progress that is being made. A greater utilisation of obesity services is required, as well as an increase in healthcare professionals entering the field, and the acceptance of obesity as a disease.

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