CHICAGO — Recognizing that obesity remains a primary health concern impacting an increasing number of Americans, the American Medical Association (AMA) today adopted policy during its Annual Meeting that will equip more medical students and physicians to prevent, diagnose and manage obesity. The new policy aims to increase awareness of the numerous resources that have been developed by the health care education community to help guide health care professionals in the prevention and treatment of obesity.

From 2011 to 2012, more than 34 percent of U.S. adults and nearly 17 percent of adolescents age 2 to 19 were obese, according to a 2014 study published in JAMA. The condition also contributed an estimated $147 billion in U.S. medical costs, and the annual medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of non-obese people.

“Obesity continues to impact the health of a great number of people across the country, contributing to an increase in associated conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. We know that the health consequences and financial burden of obesity are devastating, yet many of our medical students and physicians are unaware of how to address obesity in their patients. We must ensure that all physicians and physicians-in-training have the tools and information they need to better understand obesity so they can provide their patients with the best care possible,” said AMA Board Member Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D.

Despite the number and quality of guidelines on obesity prevention and treatment, a recent study found that 53 percent of health professionals reported needing more training in obesity management, and 50 percent reported needing better tools to help patients recognize obesity risks. Recent studies have also shown that most medical schools do not provide nutrition education in the clinical portion of their curricula, leaving future physicians ill-prepared to effectively address obesity and understand how to recognize and treat the nutritional and roots causes of the condition.

Two medical schools that are part of the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium — NYU School of Medicine and University of Chicago School of Medicine — have incorporated nutrition education into their curricula. Through these new courses, both schools are working to ensure that their medical students gain the knowledge they will need to help their patients make healthy food and beverage choices when in the clinical setting.

The AMA launched its Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative in 2013 — providing $11 million in grants to fund major innovations at 11 of the nation’s medical schools. Together, these schools formed a Consortium that shares best practices with a goal of widely disseminating the new and innovative curricula being developed. The AMA expanded its Consortium in 2015 with grants to an additional 21 schools to develop new curricula that better align undergraduate medical education with the modern health care system.

Most recently, through its work with the 32-school Consortium, the AMA launched a new health systems science textbook that can be used by all medical schools to help future physicians navigate the changing landscape of modern health care, especially as the nation’s health care system moves toward value-based care. Another recent innovation to emerge through its initiative to create the medical school of the future is the Regenstrief EHR Clinical Learning Platform developed by Indiana University School of Medicine and the Regenstrief Institute. The AMA and Regenstrief are currently working together to disseminate the platform to medical schools throughout the country to ensure more medical students and medical trainees gain real-world experience using electronic health records during their training.

The AMA will continue its efforts to accelerate change in medical education to ensure future physicians learn about the newest technologies, health care reforms and scientific discoveries that continue to alter what physicians need to know to practice in modern health care systems.

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.