Calgary

New obesity guidelines focus on root causes, bias against overweight patients

The guide published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal recommends a holistic approach in which doctors consult patients on goals they consider important, and then collaborate on a plan that is personalized, realistic and sustainable.

U of C prof co-authored guide that stresses compassion and empathy in treatment

Experts say Canada has seen a threefold increase in obesity over the past 30 years. Severe obesity has increased even more, with more than 1.9 million Canadian adults affected. (Kate Letterick/CBC News )

New guidelines published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal stress the need to focus on root causes when treating obesity rather than weight loss alone.

That means working with patients to understand the "context and culture" that underlie the issue, which could include genetics, trauma and mental-health issues.

The advice by Obesity Canada and the Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons also pushes clinicians to recognize any bias they may have against overweight patients — such as assuming they lack willpower or are non-compliant.

One of the lead authors is Dr. Sean Wharton of Hamilton's McMaster University.

He says treatment depends on "showing compassion and empathy" and using evidence-based interventions that focus on patient goals.

Understanding context essential, says U of C prof

The guide recommends a holistic approach in which doctors consult patients on goals they consider important, and then collaborate on a plan that is personalized, realistic and sustainable.

Dr. David Lau, co-lead of the guideline and professor at the University of Calgary, says working with people to understand their context and culture, and integrating root causes, are essential to developing personalized plans.

Root causes include biology, genetics, social determinants of health, trauma and mental health issues.

The advice is an update to the 2006 guideline and targets primary health-care professionals, policy-makers, people living with obesity and their families.

The experts say Canada has seen a threefold increase in obesity over the past 30 years.

Severe obesity has increased even more, with more than 1.9 million Canadian adults affected.

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