Responding to the growing prevalence of obesity in the United States, an alliance of professional medical societies has developed the first competencies for training and evaluating medical students, residents and fellows on preventing, assessing and treating the condition. The new competencies were published June 24 in the journal Obesity and highlighted as an Editor’s Choice article.
“There is an obesity crisis today, and we need more and better training for specialists in obesity medicine as well as physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in general,” said Dr. Leon I. Igel, an assistant professor of clinical medicine and program director of the obesity medicine fellowship at Weill Cornell Medicine, who helped draft the new standards. “These new competencies address that gap.”
Dr. Igel led a work group that focused on the medical knowledge and skills needed to address obesity, which affects nearly 38 percent of adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents in the country. These include understanding the biology of obesity; the roles of nutrition, behavioral modification, pharmacotherapy and surgery in reducing obesity; and links between obesity and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and other serious medical conditions. Additional work groups developed competencies in such areas as communicating with patients with obesity respectfully, team-based care in treating the whole patient, and the role of information technology and data analysis in clinically managing obesity.
Dr. Igel has already begun introducing the new competencies and methods into Weill Cornell Medicine’s obesity fellowship program. He is also teaming with members and sponsors of the Obesity Medicine Education Collaborative, which produced the competencies, to disseminate the information to the broader medical community. “Our goal is to eventually have every medical, nurse practitioner and physician assistant student in the United States trained and assessed in these competencies,” he said. “We think it will make a real difference in improving the health of millions of people.”