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January 5, 2015

Discussing Weight with Patients: Obesity Algorithm Helps Doctors Diagnose and Treat Obesity

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Obesity is the underlying cause of many adverse health issues in patients, but discussing weight with patients is not necessarily an easy topic to bring up.

A patient’s weight can be a sensitive issue, which makes it difficult for doctors to address. Studies show that health care settings are among the top places patients feel stigmatized for their weight.

The Obesity Algorithm®, presented by the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA), can help health care providers navigate this difficult conversation.

The Obesity Algorithm is a free resource developed by experts in the field of obesity medicine. It explains the different medical approaches to treating patients affected by obesity, including one key behavioral technique called motivational interviewing.

“To help patients feel comfortable discussing weight, it’s important to let them know that they’re not to blame and they’re not alone,” said Dr. Deborah Bade Horn, medical director of the University of Texas Center for Obesity Medicine and Metabolic Performance.

Motivational interviewing helps patients and their providers work together to identify barriers to weight loss and develop solutions to reach attainable goals. Providers get to know the patient on a personal level and can develop individualized treatment plans that may include dietary and exercise recommendations, behavior modification techniques, and prescription weight-management medications.

“For physicians who have patients affected by obesity but don’t necessarily know what to recommend, the algorithm is a great resource covering all phases of treatment, from the initial conversation to life-long maintenance,” said Dr. Jennifer Seger, an obesity medicine physician at the Bariatric Medical Institute of Texas.

The algorithm, originally released by OMA in 2013, has undergone significant revisions for 2015 to include more evidence-based information about medical obesity treatment. Both Horn and Seger serve on the OMA Obesity Algorithm Committee and are co-authors of the algorithm.

“Physicians can benefit from this updated version of the algorithm, which compiles the expertise of researchers and clinicians who engage in obesity treatment on a day-to-day basis,” Horn said.

Other revisions from the 2013 version include the expanded definition of obesity, the relationship between stress and obesity, an in-depth review of each of the weight-management medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the effect of non-obesity-related medications on obesity.

“The algorithm is a tool that provides physicians a broader understanding of how to more effectively manage their patients affected by obesity using a comprehensive, compassionate, and scientifically supported approach,” Seger said.

In addition to weight loss, the algorithm emphasizes optimizing health, decreasing disease risk, and improving overall quality of life.

The Obesity Algorithm is available for free online at