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Wednesday, 07 August 2013 14:42

Weight Loss Specialist, or Primary Care Physician?

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A recent study (September 2012) by Dr. Adam Tsai, a medical weight loss specialist with the University of Colorado, examined the effectiveness of weight loss counseling by medical assistants (MAs) versus primary care physicians (PCPs).

After six months, the control group (counseling by PCPs) lost just 0.9 kg +/- 0.6 kg (less than a pound). The MA counseling group lost 4.4 kg +/- 0.6 kg (about 10 lbs). According to Dr. Tsai's study, "Most primary care providers (PCPs), constrained by time and resources, cannot provide intensive behavioral counseling for obesity."

In the control group, patients met quarterly with their PCP. Control group patients received 1-2 page handouts, a calorie counter, pedometer and simple meal plan. The study notes that because of time constraints, and because obesity is not usually covered by insurance, the weight management component of the doctor visits lasted just 2-3 minutes.

In the counseling group, patients had the same schedule and materials, but also received a set of bi-monthly, 15-20 minute meetings with an MA or other trained assistant. These patients lost 5.1% of initial weight, whereas the control group lost just 1%. Dr. Tsai's study concludes that "Brief Counseling by MAs induced significant weight loss during 6 months. Office-based obesity treatment ... should include weight loss maintenance counseling."

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