GPs can spark patients' change in activity and diet.
New Zealand’s obesity epidemic highlights the importance of health professionals starting ‘courageous conversations’ with patients about their weight, diet and sedentary lifestyles.
“Obesity can be a touchy subject to discuss as it often accompanies low self-esteem, guilt and poor self-image. But there are ways of approaching this topic with sensitivity,” says Medical Officer of Health Michael Hale at Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS).
An intervention might be as simple as weighing and measuring each patient and starting a conversation by asking “do you think your weight is ok?” as stated in ‘Tackling the growing obesity epidemic: A general practice perspective’ by The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.
The article reveals there is a strong association between health professionals giving weight loss advice and people attempting to lose weight. This creates an opportunity for doctors to intervene as a trusted source.
“Just as with smoking and alcohol use, a brief discussion with a trusted health professional can be a powerful tool to stimulate changes in diet and activity,” says Dr Hale.
“We have a crisis with two thirds of adults and one third of children in Auckland overweight or obese. Almost half of the Auckland population are not physically active enough to be healthy. As part of a holistic approach we should be initiating these courageous conversations about weight, offering advice for healthy living and directing people to exercise and nutrition programmes. Taking action on childhood obesity is a priority,” says Dr Hale.
The Ministry of Health has launched a new resource for health professionals called Weight Management in 2-5 year olds. It contains the most up-to-date advice to monitor, assess and manage children who are overweight and obese. To view click here.