The research, conducted by The George Washington University, demonstrated the need to reduce barriers to managing obesity by increasing the education on how to properly advise patients on weight loss, eliminating stigma about weight issues and maintaining focus on weight as a health issue.
"We have a unique opportunity to help more patients as they gain access to care," said Alliance Director Christine Ferguson, J.D. "And there are lessons we can learn from the innovative initiatives being taken locally to more effectively manage and prevent obesity."
The Alliance's research team found that some CHCs have targeted, innovative programs that address obesity and chronic disease in place - and identified key areas that can increase the effectiveness of obesity management including:
- Increasing Integration and Care Coordination - using a team-based approach to obesity management including combinations of physicians, nurse practitioners, psychologists, or other mental health professionals, dietitians, and physical therapists.
- Creating Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Programming - creating materials that translate to different populations and are under stable helps the success of prevention and treatment.
- Partnering with Community Organizations - developing an environment that encourages the patient to continue to not only seek medical care but allows for healthier choices including physical activity and better nutrition, increases the probability of achieving successful weight loss.
While there were translatable programs found, the research team was quick to note that while innovative, these programs were more the exception than the standard. Expanding them more broadly has its own set of challenges. For example, despite the promising role that community health workers (CHWs) can provide in assisting CHC patients with obtaining obesity-related services, funding to support CHWs is limited, leaving CHCs to forego the use of CHWs or rely on volunteers.
"The good news is that we're able to identify ways to positively progress when addressing obesity, but we need to be able to sustain and broaden the innovation already underway with some programs," continued Ferguson. "While it's up to the individual to be personally responsible, it will take all of us working together to create a sustainable, healthier environment in which good choices are possible for that individual to be successful with their weight-related health issues."