Dozens of Societies Seek Ways to Collaborate on Obesity

Marlene Busko

October 20, 2015

Representatives from 35 American medical societies, nonprofit groups, and insurance companies convened in Gainesville, Florida, last month to discuss ways to collaborate to tackle obesity.

The attendees discussed joint guidelines and symposia, a Healthy Hospital initiative, an obesity treatment app, and an educational curriculum, among other initiatives.

The second National Obesity Summit on the Provision of Care for the Obese Patient was hosted by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), and participants included endocrinologists, bariatric surgeons, dieticians, cardiologists, psychiatrists, oncologists, dentists, and other specialists from major US medical societies.

"We represent many different specialties, backgrounds, and perspectives, but we're all really treating the same disease," summit moderator and ASMBS president John M Morton, MD, MPH, said in a statement. "That’s why there is intense and growing interest in how we can work together to better help our patients with obesity and related diseases."

Collaboration Required

Attendees from diabetes, oncology, sleep medicine, and dentistry associations, among others, said that treating obese patients is part of their specialty and agreed that a multidisciplinary approach is required.

"Treating obesity is central to the management of type 2 diabetes," said William Herman, MD, MPH, who represented the American Diabetes Association. "Medical care is so siloed. We need to move from a piecemeal approach to one that is more comprehensive."

And Jennifer Ligibel, MD, from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, presented data showing a strong connection between obesity and cancer.

"Over the next 20 years, obesity is likely to be the most preventable cause of cancer," she told the meeting attendees.

And sleep specialist Timothy I Morgenthaler, MD, Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine, said: "The [American Academy of Sleep Medicine] AASM recognizes that healthy sleep helps prevent obesity, and that helping our patients with obesity lose weight is an integral part of sleep apnea treatment."

"This conference is a great step toward whole person healthcare," said Dr Morgenthaler, past president of the AASM.

Similarly, "the dental office can play an important role in assessing and monitoring chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, which are significantly linked to obesity," said Lindsey Robinson, DDS, who represented the American Dental Association.

According to many summit attendees, by classifying obesity as a disease in 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) brought greater attention and a sense of urgency to the prevention and treatment of obesity.

Mary Anne McCaffree, MD, a member of the AMA board of trustees, said that the AMA will focus on prediabetes detection and treatment and early detection of hypertension. "We do none of this alone, but in a collaborative effort," she stressed.

A list of organizations that participated is available here.

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