An article has appeared in today’s Conversation suggesting that doctors need training to feel confident in bringing up their patients’ “excess weight”, so they can broach the topic more, including with patients who have come to see them for something that has nothing to do with the issue.
A link to the Conversation is sent daily by email to a large subscription list of academics and interested professionals, and the subject line of today’s email was “Why doctors need to talk more about weight”. I am used to reading articles from patients who desperately want doctors they go to see about an unrelated issue to stop feeling it is appropriate to initiate a conversation about their weight, so I was immediately shocked.
I note that the two authors work in obstetrics and neonatal care, not fields directly related to metabolism, nutrition or fitness. It is disturbing how the highly subjective diagnosis of “excess weight” – the term is used repeatedly throughout the article to emphasise that the authors are not referring exclusively to obesity (not that that would be ok either, but it shows how broadly they are applying the principle) – is pathologised in and of itself. A goal of behaviour change is assumed to necessary and desirable. The whole piece is framed around the assumption that anyone a doctor feels, on sight, is overweight A) has a problem B) is not aware of it and needs the doctor to tell them C) will be ‘fixed’ by behaviour change and therefore, by extension D) is currently engaging in unhealthy behaviours. The doctor’s job, the authors suggest, is to “help the patient begin to believe change is possible”.
The Conversation has open comments, and is receptive to refutation pieces by professionals in related fields. I do hope someone qualified is positioned to thoroughly take down this simplistic, irresponsible mess.