Give patients tape measures to help combat obesity, say GPs
OVERWEIGHT patients should be handed a tape measure and told to measure their own waistlines as part of the war on obesity, GPs have said.
Doctors believe people should be encouraged to take responsibility for their health, instead of being “passive” in efforts by medics to encourage them to lose weight.
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said patients were more likely to act on health problems if they were proactively involved in monitoring them. GPs are paid to keep a register of all obese patients, calculating their body mass index (BMI) as part of attempts to track obesity and encourage weight loss.
Family doctors say weighing and measuring patients makes them passive recipients of care, instead of “buying in” to the idea of making positive changes. The RCGP chairman said pa-
tients should be encouraged to measure their own waistline and weight, and track their own blood pressure in the doctor’s surgery.
“By getting patients to do this themselves, it is encouraging them to be more interested in their health – in selfcaring,” Prof Stokes-Lampard said. “And where weight is concerned – we know that obesity is a huge issue – this proactive approach brings it to the front of their consciousness; it isn’t just a passive thing that they have no control over.”
Two out of three adults are obese or overweight, official figures show.
Andrew Hardie, deputy chairman of Birmingham city council’s health scru- tiny committee, said handing responsibility back to patients showed a far deeper understanding of “the psychology of weight loss”.
“Taking the BMI is what I do to the patient,” he said. “If the receptionist gives them a tape measure to measure their abdominal circumference – which is actually a more accurate measure – they are doing it to themselves and they are buying into it.”
Prof Stokes-Lampard said GPs should ensure patients can track their health, while sparing their blushes.
“Some GP surgeries already do it really well. You do need a bit of space and a bit of privacy because most people don’t want to measure their waistline in the waiting room, they would rather do it in a quiet corner,” she said.
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: “It is a great idea. The Government has wasted millions nannying and hectoring the public. But the key people in the battle with obesity are GPs.”
‘You do need a bit of privacy because most people don’t want to measure their waist in the waiting room’
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