Encouraging change – broaching obesity with patients

24 January 2018 | Healthy living

Julia is World Cancer Research Fund’s Public Health Engagement Manager. She is a registered nutritionist with a special interest in children’s health and behaviour change. Follow her on Twitter @JW_nutrition.

A recent Obesity Health Alliance survey of over 500 UK health professionals found that, when asked if they felt comfortable bringing up the issue of weight management with patients, or parents of patients, less than a third of respondents were always happy to do so.

Thought-provoking workshop

We addressed this issue at a recent study day with Bowel Cancer UK, where specialist screening practitioners enjoyed an engaging and thought-provoking workshop from obesity management and behaviour change specialist Karan Thomas.

Karan led discussions about frustrations in practice, what influences patient motivation and how to develop a ‘language of change’ including raising the issue of weight.

“I find that almost every professional struggles in some way with raising the issue of a patient’s weight,” she says. “This can be for a variety of reasons – uncertainty about obesity, concerns about alienating patients, practitioners’ concerns about their own body image or feeling unable to raise the topic within the constraints of a ten-minute consultation.”

Karan’s tips for broaching obesity with patients and clients

Ensure the patient is settled, then build rapport

Provide a rationale for raising the issue of weight

Ask for permission to speak about weight

Reflect back what the patient has said

Explore readiness to make some lifestyle changes

Behaviour change training

Karan feels that even short sessions of behaviour change training are useful to give practitioners time and space to reflect on how they are currently trying to raise the obesity issue, as well as their own worries and concerns. Training also helps develop client-appropriate language, which in turn raises confidence in practice.

After attending the study day, screening practitioner Nicole Forbes said: ”I never mentioned weight before, but seeing that there are windows of opportunity and additional skills to be mindful of makes it a subject I would now have more confidence in discussing.”

Are you a health professional who would welcome training on this issue? Email us to register your interest.

Julia Wolman | 24 January 2018

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