Many people with obesity consider themselves healthy despite obesity-related comorbidities


Many people with obesity consider themselves
healthy despite obesity-related comorbidities

LOS ANGELES: Initial data from the Awareness, Care & Treatment In Obesity Management (ACTION), the first nationwide U.S. study to investigate barriers to obesity management was presented recently at the 3rd annual combined congress of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and The Obesity Society. Notably, results highlight a general lack of understanding of obesity as a disease and its impact on the body, with the majority of people with obesity (75%) indicating that they perceive themselves as “healthy”, although nearly three-quarters had obesity-related comorbidities.

“People with obesity often struggle to successfully manage their weight and obtain the help they need to maintain weight loss and improve their health,” said Joseph Nadglowski, president of the Obesity Action Coalition, a non-profit coalition helping individuals affected by obesity. “The findings from the ACTION study indicate that the challenges many people with obesity face may stem from their misperception that obesity is a lifestyle issue that can be overcome simply by eating less and exercising more, instead of a complex disease that requires a comprehensive care approach.”

Other findings from this early qualitative phase of the ACTION study highlight differences in perception of obesity between people with obesity and healthcare professionals. While people with obesity and healthcare professionals considered obesity a combination of disease and lifestyle, their primary emphasis differed widely—the majority of people with obesity (65%) considered obesity primarily a lifestyle issue, while the majority of healthcare professionals (88%) considered obesity a disease.1 All results were drawn from focus groups and interviews conducted with people with obesity (n=43) and healthcare professionals (n=24).

“These variances in perception of obesity and its causes may be one reason why people with obesity and clinicians are not engaging in the necessary conversations that could lead to solution-based strategies to address the long-term management of obesity as a chronic disease and weight-related health problems. The aim of ACTION is to gain a better understanding of all the barriers that prevent effective obesity care and to devise successful approaches to overcome modifiable barriers,” said Dr Nikhil Dhurandhar, president of The Obesity Society and member of the Steering Committee for the ACTION study. 

Additional disparities between people with obesity and healthcare professionals related to perceptions of key barriers to weight management were identified in this initial qualitative phase of the ACTION study. The disparities relate to food habits, social relationships, and limited understanding of how to lose weight. 

The initial qualitative findings of the ACTION study indicate that multiple barriers prevent effective obesity care; this will be further investigated on a larger scale in the subsequent phase of quantitative research. Currently underway, the quantitative study draws from an online survey conducted with 3,000 people with obesity, 600 healthcare professionals, and 150 employers. The full results of the ACTION study will be released in 2016. 

The ACTION study was conducted in the United States and led by a multidisciplinary Steering Committee consisting of representatives from The Obesity Society (TOS), the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI)—representing employers, as well as obesity experts in the fields of primary care, endocrinology, psychology and nursing. The study was sponsored by Novo Nordisk.  

Obesity is a disease that requires long-term management. It is associated with many serious health consequences and decreased life-expectancy. It is a complex and multi-factorial disease that is influenced by genetic, physiological, environmental and psychological factors. 5      

The global increase in the prevalence of obesity is a public health issue that has severe cost implications to healthcare systems.In the United States, approximately 35% of adults, or nearly 79 million adults, live with obesity. Despite the high prevalence of obesity, many people with obesity lack support in their efforts to lose weight and the disease remains substantially under-diagnosed and under-reported.In the EU, approximately 10–30% of the adult population lives with obesity.(PR)