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Secret of weight loss may be primary care physician encouragement

It seems people are always struggling to lose weight, probably a result of the multitude of factors that can derail even the strongest of individuals’ willpower. And while there are multitudes of late-night infomercials claiming to hold the next breakthrough in weight loss supplements or aerobic machines, the most influential factor may not be found on TV or prescribed at the doctor’s office.Doctor writing on prescription pad

A recent study by Johns Hopkins researchers has found that the most important factor for weight loss may be the quality of the relationship between a physician and patient. Primary care physician Wendy Bennett analyzed the recently completed Practice-based Opportunities for Weight Reduction, or POWER, trial.

The trial investigated weight loss interventions in the primary care setting. During the trial, 347 obese patients were organized into two groups as they worked to lose weight. One group was supervised by health coaches, while the other had regular interactions and meetings with their primary care physicians.  At the completion of the trial, participants were asked to evaluate their relationships with their primary care physicians. Participants answered questions regarding their physician’s etiquette, whether their physician listened to their concerns, and how helpful they thought their physician was in supporting their weight loss goals.

Surprisingly, although all patients in the study reported the quality of relationship to their physicians to be high, it was the participants that rated their physicians highest in the category of “helpfulness” who lost the most weight, with an average of 11 pounds, versus an average of 5 pounds for those who gave their physicians the lowest ratings for helpfulness.

According to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more than one in three adults is considered to be obese. An even more startling statistic is that approximately 31 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are considered obese. With obesity a major concern for health care providers and patients alike, findings like the ones from Bennett’s analysis are key in understanding why weight loss strategies succeed or fail. It seems paramount that both patients and physicians work together.

Clearly, effective strategies to help obese patients lose weight are greatly needed. The findings reported by Bennett will help pave the way for developing weight loss programs that focus on primary care physician interactions. Encouraging primary care physicians to consult and aid patients in weight loss programs can help patients achieve greater weight loss success and overall satisfaction.