Using an algorithm to treat obesity

October 21, 2016
As our nation’s obesity epidemic grows, board-certified obesity clinicians are taking on more responsibility for treating this condition. Obesity is a complex disease and, as many primary care providers have discovered, effective care goes far beyond telling a patient to eat less and exercise more.

For many people who are obese, treatment means curbing high cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and lowering the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Obesity also can cause psychological problems that need to be addressed. Think of how obese people are perceived by society and how being overweight might limit their social lives and opportunities at work. 

The disease also can be complicated by the eating patterns of family and friends, who can deeply influence the weight of others.

The Obesity Algorithm

Faced with such complexities, many health care providers are turning to bariatric specialists for help. One excellent resource is the Obesity Medicine Association, a leader in research and treatment of obesity. The OMA created the Obesity Algorithm® to help care givers diagnose and treat obesity.

The obesity algorithm is a step-by-step guide to diagnosing obesity and then personalizing treatment for a patient by taking into account factors such as social and economic background, culture, age, family situation, risk of other health problems and more.

This process includes what the algorithm calls the 5 A’s of Obesity Management:

Ask a patient for permission to discuss body weight. Explore the patient’s readiness for change.

Assess BMI, waist circumference and obesity stage. Explore the drivers and complications of the patient’s excess weight.

Advise the patient about the health risks of obesity, the benefits of modest weight loss (i.e., 5 to 10 percent), the need for long-term strategy and treatment options.

Agree on realistic weight-loss expectations, targets, behavioral changes and specific details of the treatment plan. 

Arrange/Assist in identifying and addressing barriers; providing resources; assisting in finding and consulting with appropriate providers; arranging regular follow-up.

Personalizing a treatment plan for better success

Within all of these steps, the algorithm lists the many considerations that will play a role in treatment.

For instance, reducing calories is the primary goal of a nutrition plan for an obese person, but what works for one person may not work for another. Providers need to determine what kind of diet a patient can actually stick with. A person’s finances, cultural background, cooking skills and many other factors should be considered.

Obesity treatment at Swedish

The Swedish Bariatric, Metabolic, Endocrine Center has clinicians and surgeons who use the OMA Algorithm to treat patients. To learn more or schedule a consultation, call Swedish Weight Loss Services at 206-215-2090.

Swedish Weight Loss Services also holds regular seminars to help people learn about surgical and non-surgical treatments. Sign up for a seminar online.