Overcoming Obesity 2018: Offering New Sessions on Precision Medicine, Genetics, and Medication

| September 1, 2018

by Claudia Randall

Claudia Randall is the executive director of the Obesity Medicine Association.

FUNDING: No funding was provided for this article.

DISCLOSURES: The author is the executive director of the Obesity Medicine Association.

Bariatiric Times. 2018;15(9):9.

You would expect an obesity medicine conference to offer a variety of sessions focused on the latest nutrition plans and anti-obesity medications, innovative treatment approaches, new technologies, and the latest research. The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA)’s Overcoming Obesity 2018 conference in Washington, D.C., September 26 to 30, 2018, offers outstanding clinical and evidence-based education and much more.

The OMA, based in Denver, Colorado, is the largest organization of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other healthcare providers in the United States dedicated to the clinical treatment of the disease of obesity.

Healthcare providers from around the country will attend the OMA’s Overcoming Obesity 2018 conference and gain clinically applicable knowledge, tips, and tools to help them be more effective in treating patients with the chronic disease of obesity. The conference emphasizes that obesity is a chronic disease, not a lifestyle choice, that has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. New sessions on precision medicine, genetics, medication, and governmentally focused efforts will provide clinicians with a different perspective on treating obesity and reaffirm that obesity is a complex chronic disease that defies simple, one-time treatment solutions.

The OMA has long advocated for a better understanding of the patient experience to help clinicians provide more compassionate and robust comprehensive obesity care. The association’s Obesity Algorithm® offers recommendations for solid treatment plans, as well as medical equipment and office environments, to better accommodate patients with obesity, while also reducing the stigma surrounding the disease.

A session on storytelling during the conference takes that concept even further.
Tom Willner is a survivor of testicular cancer who coped with his disease through journaling, which led to a musical and a book. Willner joins Anne McSweeney onstage at Overcoming Obesity 2018 for a unique session intended to help medical audiences empathize with the confusing and fearful emotions patients might experience, from decrypting medical jargon to the interminable wait for test results.

Later in the conference, healthcare providers will get the chance to learn whether precision medicine has a place in obesity medicine. Precision medicine has shown promise in treating some diseases, but genetic researchers are a long way from developing a therapy that can crack the obesity code, according to Dr. Ruth Loos, Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and a speaker at Overcoming Obesity 2018. Researchers have identified only two rare conditions leading to obesity that will respond to precision medicine approaches.

“For many patients affected, obesity is a complex disorder,” Dr. Loos said. “Half of its root causes lie in environmental factors, and half can be found in genetic factors. Therefore, predictions or treatments that are solely based on genetic information will be inaccurate. Obesity, except in rare occasions, is too complex to benefit from a single genetic therapy approach. Typically, family history is a far better predictor of an offspring’s risk for obesity than a genetic test,” Dr. Loos continued.

The OMA conference does not shy away from tackling the overall problem of this complex disease. A panel discussion, “How Do We Address the Obesity Epidemic?” takes on the root causes and public health solutions to the disease. According to Dr. Anthony Auriemma, an OMA member and Medical Director of AMITA Health Weight Loss Solutions in Schaumburg, Illinois, solving the obesity public health crisis will require a true national effort.

“Schools, governments, and healthcare systems will all need to work together to solve this problem,” Dr. Auriemma said. “Perhaps we need to take the same approach that worked with tobacco products. Research, regulations, and increased awareness of the substance as a serious risk factor for cancer and cardiovascular disease all worked together over the long run,” he continued.

Auriemma is not naïve about the staggering amount of work needed to combat obesity, noting that even the government is conflicted about it.

“The United States Department of Agriculture, for instance, regulates and promotes farming, yet also recommends what Americans should consume as part of a healthy diet,” he said, adding that those two functions should be split up and housed under separate agencies.

Auriemma’s fellow panelist, Sandra Christensen, the owner of Integrative Weight Management in Seattle, Washington, said obesity medicine specialists are starting to unite and advocate to legislators about obesity. A good example is the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA), a bill that is in front of Congress now. The OMA is leading a congressional lobbying effort at the Overcoming Obesity 2018 conference to allow healthcare providers an opportunity to meet with their state legislators and advocate for passage of this bill. According to Christensen, the TROA allows coverage, under Medicare, of intensive behavioral therapy for obesity given by providers other than primary care physicians and practitioners. Additionally, it allows coverage of anti-obesity medications under Medicare’s prescription drug benefit.

Christensen, a nurse practitioner and OMA Fellow, said that no public health or advocacy effort will work until the stigma surrounding obesity is removed. It is up to her and her fellow obesity medicine clinicians to convince legislators and other healthcare providers to help remove this stigma.

Other noteworthy sessions at the conference include “What’s in the Pipeline for Anti-obesity Medications?” with Dr. Harold Bays; “The Ketogenic Diet,” with Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt; and “The Role of the Mediterranean Diet for Weight Control, Optimal Health, and Longevity,” with Dr. Michael Ozner.

To learn more or view the schedule, visit www.overcoming-obesity.org.

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