Physicians certified through the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM) are likely to offer evidence-based treatment and services that are supported by clinical practice guidelines, a new study finds. Published in the journal Clinical Obesity, this is the first study of its kind to examine the clinical obesity services offered by physicians trained to treat obesity. The study examined survey responses from more than 490 physicians certified as ABOM diplomates. The study found that most responding ABOM diplomates endorsed use of evidence-based services in the treatment of obesity including nutrition, physical activity, behavioral services, perioperative bariatric surgical care, and FDA-approved anti-obesity medications. In addition, the majority of physicians offered services with moderate to high concordance with several clinical practice guidelines established by groups such as the American Heart Association (AHA), American College of Cardiology (ACC), American College of Endocrinology (ACE), The Obesity Society (TOS), American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), and Obesity Medicine Association (OMA).

“For an emerging field such as obesity medicine, these findings are a significant step forward showing that doctors certified through ABOM are using their knowledge to implement care based on best practices to treat obesity,” said ABOM board member and study co-author Edmond “Trey” Wickham, MD, Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Knowing this, we believe physicians referring patients to ABOM diplomates can have high confidence that those patients will get the evidence-based care and treatment they need to successfully treat their obesity.”

In examining three evidence-based obesity management guidelines – AHA/ACC/TOS, AACE/ACE and OMA, the study found that the majority of physicians had moderate or high adherence to recommendations in these guidelines. The study determined concordance by matching treatment services offered by the physicians with services recommended by each organization. Guideline-recommended treatments have been associated with clinically significant weight loss in clinical trials.

Prior studies of how doctors address obesity with patients mainly focused on primary care physicians and showed this population often does not counsel patients on obesity or the use of obesity treatments such as FDA-approved anti-obesity medications and bariatric surgery. These physicians often have gaps in knowledge and skills in obesity treatment strategies in combination with a lack time in each visit, which may contribute to the underuse. In contrast, the recent study focused on ABOM diplomates and their adoption of evidence-based treatment options, shows doctors with specialized training may help address the barriers that primary care physicians face treating obesity. Notably, ABOM diplomates offer a referral option for those primary care doctors who wish to send patients to physicians with specific training in obesity.

“Future research might consider comparing patient outcomes between those who receive care with ABOM diplomates as compared to those patients with obesity who do not,” said lead author and ABOM Diplomate Dr. Kimberly Gudzune, associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of both the Johns Hopkins Healthful Eating, Activity and Weight Program and the Johns Hopkins Obesity Medicine Fellowship. “This would help us understand how the receipt of evidence-based services from diplomates impacts outcomes in a real world setting.”


Authors: Kimberly A. Gudzune, MD, MPH (ABOM Diplomate); Dr. Edmond P. Wickham III, MD (ABOM Diplomate); Stacy L. Schmidt, PhD; Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA (ABOM Diplomate)

Title: Physicians certified by the American Board of Obesity
Medicine provide evidence-based care

Journal: Clinical Obesity

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