UK healthcare professionals lag behind most other countries worldwide in acceptance of obesity as a disease, while patients with obesity wait an average of 9 years before seeking help, shows a large international study.
Results of the UK analysis of the ACTION-IO study were presented at the virtual European and International Conference on Obesity (ECOICO) 2020. Professor Jason Halford, PhD, head of the School of Psychology at the University of Liverpool, and co-investigator of the survey spoke to Medscape News UK about the UK findings.
“This delay means it’s 9 years of struggle before people with obesity even get to discuss their obesity in an appointment,” Prof Halford stressed, adding, “and then they face the problem that UK healthcare practitioners do not consider obesity a disease in the same way that their international colleagues do.”
He suggested that there was a clear need for education around obesity as a disease in primary care settings, and noted that if people with obesity do not find opportunity to discuss their weight in good time, they can go on to develop all sorts of other health problems. “These are not comorbidities but complexities because obesity led to them. Waiting 9 years will make it more difficult to intervene.”
Other reasons given for the delay in obtaining healthcare for their weight included that people with obesity felt that it was their own sole responsibility to manage their excess weight, and UK doctors incorrectly perceived their patients as unmotivated in their attempts at weight loss.
The study was an online survey conducted in 11 countries: Australia, Chile, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the UK. The survey found that people with obesity are motivated to lose weight but that they have little success. This is related to the biological basis of obesity, explained Prof Halford. “Sometimes a practitioner will see that they’re not losing weight once the patient has started a diet and mistakenly think they’re not that motivated.”
The UK analysis of the results involved the participation of 1500 people with obesity and 306 healthcare practitioners (156 primary care physicians, and 150 secondary care clinicians) who completed the survey. Response rate for people with obesity was 14%, and for healthcare practitioners was 28%
Dr Abd Tahrani, senior lecturer in metabolic endocrinology and obesity medicine, University of Birmingham, and honorary consultant in endocrinology at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust commented on the findings: “The results of this study should change the narrative regarding obesity and its management, which [is] desperately required to reduce the burden of this disease on patients.