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ACP announces initiative to advance equitable access to obesity care

The American College of Physicians (ACP) have revealed a new initiative aimed at advancing equitable access to obesity care. ACP plans to utilise physician education, advocacy and partnerships to advance a stigma-free culture in which patients and clinicians collaborate to prevent and manage this increasingly common chronic condition, to ensure equitable access to care for patients and to help counter public misinformation about the causes of obesity, the stigma around it and the equity issues around how it's treated.

"This initiative is ambitious, but health equity provides an intentional lens to align our efforts to increase access to care and treatments, reduce stigma and bias for patients, and address health disparities in marginalized populations," said Dr Ryan Mire, president of ACP. "With focused efforts, we are confident we can ensure equitable access for patients and help counter public misinformation about the causes of obesity, the stigma around it and the equity issues around how it's treated."

ACP's new initiative will expand upon and complement existing organisational efforts and resources on obesity management. Internal medicine physicians regularly encounter challenges related to obesity in patient care, and ACP recognises that obesity and health equity are not simple issues with easy, clear solutions. Plans for the new initiative include developing new clinical guidelines and recommendations on obesity, and expanded physician education resources to help diffuse and dispel levels of misinformation and forms of bias which have centred around the topic.

Health equity is a central tenant of ACP's policy and advocacy efforts. ACP advocates for improving high-value and comprehensive health care for all members of society in ways that move us closer to health equity. This includes addressing disparities in health and health care and social determinants of health to improve patient care and promote health equity. Inadequate access to nutritious food negatively impacts the health of many Americans, which in turn can significantly exacerbate food and nutritional insecurity and other social factors impacting health. ACP advocates to address food and nutrition insecurity so that all persons have access to nutritious and healthful foods, to strengthen the federal food-insecurity response and empower physicians and other medical professionals to better address those social drivers of health occurring beyond the office doors.

ACP also plans to partner with like-minded organisations across specialties and subspecialties to amplify efforts and messages. Later this year ACP will convene a summit with the Council of Subspeciality Societies to address many aspects of obesity and health equity prioritized in this initiative.

ACP's obesity care initiative comes at an important time, as the prevalence of obesity continues to increase, now impacting more than 42 percent of the U.S. population. Obesity is associated with the leading causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancers. The mixed messaging around obesity and weight management causes, treatment, management, and stigmas, give need for more coordination and access to resources for physicians and their patients. Predictors of obesity are often influenced by healthcare access and other socioeconomic factors. Secular contributors to obesity disproportionately affect disadvantaged groups which results in a disproportionate rise in prevalence. The exclusive focus on individual behavioural change in treatment paradigms disadvantages the disadvantaged. Effective behavioural intervention/change requires discretionary time and financial resources.

ACP's educational efforts and resources includes the Obesity Management Learning Hub, comprising materials developed to increase physicians' confidence in initiating patient conversations and providing counselling on treatment options to patients with obesity.

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