MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia is tied for the most obese state in the country with Mississippi, according to a West Virginia University doctor who wants to change that fact.
Dr. Laura Davisson is the Chief of Obesity Medicine at WVU, where she runs a weight management clinic and said there are whole host of associated conditions that come with obesity.
Conditions, she said, like high blood pressure, sleep apnea, diabetes, gout and a lot more. Davisson said they have established a program at WVU in Morgantown but that it’s not enough, because they still need to help primary care doctors statewide.
“Morgantown is a long drive for people and part of obesity treatment is really close follow-up, seeing patients back regularly, seeing what’s working and what’s not working,” Davisson said. “If you say you need to lose weight and come back to see me in six months, it’s not going to be useful, that isn’t helpful to the patients, they’re probably not going to have lost any weight by the time they come back. What we’re trying to find out is what does primary care around West Virginia need from us to help them make it easier to treat patients who are suffering from obesity.”
In order to find out what physicians need from WVU, she said they are going to do a needs assessment to figure out what is and isn’t working in terms of treatment. Davisson said they are going to send it out in 2020 so they can get results and get information compiled by the end of the year.
What they come up with when they have compiled the information could be anything from hosting a lecture series to an immersion course or printed materials. However, in the meantime Davisson said she hopes to work on something that they can get to doctors quicker.
“I don’t really want to wait because I’ve already had some primary care providers coming to me and asking for help and how they can best manage obesity in their practices,” Davisson said. “I am going ahead and start working on a pilot educational program that’s going to be online, that they can access, and we’re just going to see how that goes. It will cover introductory topics, basic things that are practical tools that they can use in their primary care offices.”
The pilot program, Davisson said, will feature videos that will present scenarios with patients and how to best go about talking to them. Davission said a lot of the times it’s hard to treat obesity because doctors don’t know how to go about talking about a patient’s weight.
“Sometimes patients are very sensitive about their weight and if a provider brings it up in a way that is not sensitive, the patients may just shut down and not want to talk about and not want to come back and see that doctor anymore and then that doesn’t help them ultimately,” Davisson said.”
Davisson said they hope the information will be practical and useful to physicians, so they can help combat the obesity problem in West Virginia.
At WVU they are teaching medical students how to properly address patients struggling with obesity so they are better prepared for the real world she said.
Third year medical students are taught about the concept of weight bias they may not have even realized that they had. To do so, Davisson said they are given direct exposure to patients in her wieght management clinic.
“We’re having some patients come to talk to them in small groups,” Davisoon said. “If they really get to know a person and see that someone who is suffering from a weight problem is just like everyone else, they have jobs, they have families, they have things that they’re trying to accomplish. And I think that getting to know patients like that one-on-one can help to dispell some of the bias that they may have.”