The increasing rate of obesity in the United States require obstetrician/gynecologists to be prepared to care for patients who are obese in an ethical, nonjudgmental manner. At the same time, they must remain cognizant of the medical and social effects of obesity, according to new guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
According to the College, the prevalence of obesity has skyrocketed over the past several decades. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have an obesity rate of more than 20 percent, and more than a dozen states have an obesity rate of greater than 30 percent. With approximately 36 percent of adult women in the United States affected by obesity, physicians have been faced with the challenges of caring for these patients.
“As physicians, we must serve as advocates for our patients who are affected by obesity, while providing them with the resources necessary to deliver the best possible care,” said Sigal Klipstein, M.D., chair of the College’s Committee on Ethics, which developed the Committee Opinion. “We must be prepared to meet these challenges with compassion and to respect each patient’s autonomy.”
Among the ways to reduce bias is to classify obesity as a medical condition and include a focus on the specific medical, cultural, and social needs of obese women into physician training at all levels. The new recommendations also state that obstetrician/gynecologists must recognize that weight loss entails more than simply counseling a woman to eat less and exercise more by learning about the particular causes of a patient’s obesity.
“It is our responsibility…to recognize the medical risks associated with obesity and to counsel patients affected by obesity in an unbiased manner, while avoiding blame and maintaining their dignity,” said Dr. Klipstein. “We must recognize and remember that obesity is a medical condition, much like hypertension. This will allow us as physicians to objectively counsel and care for our patients in the manner that they deserve.”