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Obesity docs must disregard 'hurt feelings', says specialist

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A leading leisure industry medical advisor has said doctors need to ditch concerns about hurting obese patients’ feelings and be more proactive in prescribing exercise and weight management programmes.

Dr Davina Deniszczyc, GP and medical director of wellbeing for Nuffield Health, was commenting on a new report that found as many as six million overweight UK citizens could be at risk of life-threatening illnesses as they’re unaware of the extent of their obesity.

The research from Nuffield Health – the UK’s largest healthcare charity – found nearly half of clinically obese patients (44 per cent) say they have no concerns that they are at risk of serious illness or premature death due to their weight.

The study of 3,126 UK adults found ignorance of the health risks surrounding obesity was the key reason for this laissez faire attitude. More than two thirds of respondents were unaware that being obese increases the risk of developing types of cancer, liver disease and conditions like osteoarthritis.

“As healthcare professionals, we need to prioritise the health of our patients over the risk of 'hurt feelings' caused by a frank and open conversation about their weight,” said Dr Deniszczyc.

“It’s vital that people have information to make informed decisions. While we need to increase access to clinically recognised weight management programmes, some people may simply benefit through structured information, goal setting, an exercise regime or through tackling the root cause of their obesity.

She concluded: “Currently, these conversations are not taking place.”

The study also uncovered misconceptions surrounding what constitutes obese. 50 per cent of the respondents said they considered themselves to be overweight, while just six per cent perceived themselves to be obese.

Following a Body Mass Index (BMI) test, the results revealed that a much larger group – 17 per cent – were measured as clinically obese (BMI 30+) while three per cent measured as morbidly obese (BMI 40+).

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A leading leisure industry medical advisor has said doctors need to ditch concerns about hurting obese patients’ feelings and be more proactive in prescribing exercise and weight management programmes.
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