Although attitudes about bariatric surgery are getting better, there are still a number of concerns.
Twenty years ago researchers found that 80% of bariatric surgery patients were disrespected by medical professionals because of their obesity, known as weight bias. A study that was done ten years later showed that the number of people who reported being treated with a lack of respect had decreased to 13%. Although the improvement was substantial, the overall percentage was still high. Attitudes about weight-loss surgery are now much better, but more can be done.
Doctors Do Not Have the Resources to Address Obesity
A majority of primary care physicians believe it is their responsibility to counsel patients about obesity. Despite this belief, 72% of the 290 primary care physicians who were surveyed admitted that no one in their practice was trained to address the issue of obesity. Although physicians often recommend that patients lose weight, they do not usually make suggestions about how to do it.
In addition, researchers have found that 70% of clinically obese people do not receive a diagnosis of obesity from their primary care doctors unless there is an obesity-related medical condition such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Sixty-three percent of obese patients do not receive any counseling at all from their doctors.
Further studies have shown that half of all practicing physicians do not think they are qualified to treat obesity.
Poor Communication Between Doctors and the Bariatric Surgery Community
Although bariatric surgery is the most successful treatment for morbid obesity, only one in ten patients who have weight-loss surgery do so because their doctor recommends it. Physicians often withhold recommendations for bariatric surgery because they falsely believe that patients who are morbidly obese are embarrassed to make conversation about their condition.
In a recent survey, 7 out of 10 gastric bypass patients stated that they they initiated the conversation with their doctors about obesity and bariatric surgery.
Another reason doctors limit recommendations for bariatric surgery are unfounded fears about complications from the surgery. The risks of bariatric surgery are about the same as many common surgical procedures.
The Need to Educate Doctors About Bariatric Surgery
The weight-loss community wants to establish a dialogue with primary care physicians to better serve those patients who need bariatric surgery. This partnership would permit personal care physicians to better advocate for bariatric surgery candidates, as well as provide enhanced pre- and post-surgery care.
Doctors need to understand that conversation with patients about bariatric surgery might be welcomed by the patient and not as a topic of embarrassment.
Doctors also should be aware that bariatric surgery is a life saving procedure and that the risk of such surgery is no greater than that of gall bladder surgery.
A more meaningful interaction between primary care physicians and the weight-loss community will benefit the patient, the doctor, and the bariatric surgeon.
What about you? Has your doctor discussed your obesity with you? Did your doctor recommend weight-loss surgery? My physician did not approach the topic of bariatric surgery with me. When I finally brought it up to him, he said many of his patients had had it and lost a lot of weight. This left me wondering why he had never suggested bariatric surgery as a treatment for me. In any event, I am glad that I had gastric bypass surgery. It literally saved my life.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life
Photo Witthaya Phonsawat FreeDigitalPhotos.net