Addressing the Obesity Epidemic with Progressive Education for any Licensed Healthcare Professional

| March 1, 2020

by Nicholas Pennings, DO, FOMA

Dr. Pennings is Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lillington, North Carolina. Dr. Pennings also serves as an Executive Director of Clinical Education for the Obesity Medical Association.

Funding: No funding was provided.

Disclosures: Nicholas Pennings, DO, FOMA, is Executive Director of Clinical Education for the Obesity Medicine Association.

Bariatric Times. 2020; 17(3):19-20.

America’s growing obesity crisis shows no signs of slowing. Seventy percent of the population now suffers from overweight or obesity — a 200-percent increase over the past 40 years.1 As healthcare providers, we can play a vital role in stemming the obesity epidemic’s momentum, but it requires us to continually advance our knowledge of the disease.

We know that obesity is a significant contributor2 to increased morbidity and mortality. A partial list of conditions for which obesity is a major risk factor include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases, such as osteoarthritis, liver and kidney disease, sleep apnea, and depression. However, we also know that many licensed healthcare professionals (HCPs) do not have the necessary tools to consistently evaluate, diagnose, and treat obesity.

The Need for Advanced Knowledge

Effective obesity treatment begins with the diagnosis, yet 45 percent of people affected by obesity have not been formally diagnosed.3 And many clinicians report they feel ill-equipped to properly treat patients with obesity.4 Unfortunately, at present, obesity education in medical schools, physician assistant (PA), and nurse practitioner programs is limited. Effective training on obesity management is also lacking in residency and fellowship programs, as well as in nutrition and pharmacy training programs.

Consider that more than 93 million adult Americans live with obesity,5 yet fewer than half of physicians recommend weight loss medications and surgical interventions6 to their patients impacted by the disease. Furthermore, only two percent of patients eligible for anti-obesity medications are receiving them, and only one percent of patients eligible for bariatric surgery undergo a surgical intervention.

The data certainly highlights an opportunity for clinicians to advance their knowledge of obesity medicine to more effectively treat patients with the disease. Professionals across the healthcare spectrum, from nurses and nutritionists to pharmacists and physicians, can benefit from additional training to better meet the unique needs of patients with obesity.7

Staying Ahead of Advancements in Obesity Medicine

Our knowledge of the causes and consequences of obesity has grown tremendously over the past two decades, but it is critically important for clinicians and other HCPs to continue to stay abreast of advancements in obesity medicine. The resources outlined below from the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) are relevant to not only practicing physicians, but all licensed HCPs seeking to increase their competency.

The Obesity Medicine Association Obesity Treatment Proficiency Badges™

Licensed healthcare providers (e.g., MD, DO, NP, PA, RN, RD, nutritionists, pharmacists) can now earn OMA Obesity Treatment Proficiency Badges™ upon completion of a comprehensive introduction to obesity medicine, coupled with an additional, more robust focus in at least one of four pillars of obesity treatment—nutrition, physical activity, behavior, and medication management.

The OMA Obesity Treatment Proficiency Badge™8 is the first and only program designed for all licensed HCPs—not just physicians—that provides an intermediate knowledge base in obesity treatment. The program offers an opportunity to recognize and advance providers’ competence in a specific area of obesity treatment.

To earn an OMA Obesity Treatment Proficiency Badge™, providers must complete 25 courses, for an average of 30 credits of accredited medical education, including case studies to test proficiency. Participants may obtain a badge in any or all of the four treatment pillars if the requirements are met.

Core educational content includes the etiology and pathophysiology of obesity, evaluation and assessment, the multifactorial components of obesity treatment, adiposity-related diseases, and the unique practice management requirements for obesity medicine. Specialized content for each pillar of obesity medicine treatment will include a deeper dive into:

  • Nutrition: dietary interventions, meal replacements and meal plans
  • Physical activity: exercise physiology, risk assessment and exercise prescription
  • Behavior: motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy and food addiction
  • Medication management: management of anti-obesity medications and medication-induced weight gain

The OMA Obesity Treatment Proficiency Badge Program vs. American Board of Obesity Medicine Diplomate Certification

While the OMA Obesity Treatment Proficiency Badge™ program is open to any licensed healthcare provider, you must be a physician to qualify for board certification in obesity medicine.

Certification as an American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM)9 Diplomate signifies even more extensive specialized knowledge in the practice of obesity medicine and distinguishes a physician as having achieved even more competency in obesity care. You must also have an active medical license and meet a series of specific requirements to qualify for the board certification exam.10

First earning each of the OMA Obesity Treatment Proficiency Badges™, along with reviewing other preparatory resources,11 can serve as an excellent strategy for learning the material that might be covered in the ABOM certification exam.

Certainly, there are few people who have a greater opportunity to impact the health of patients with obesity than HCPs. We need to turn that opportunity into effective patient care by advancing our knowledge and practice of obesity medicine. Our patients’ lives depend on it.

For more obesity medicine resources visit


  1. Obesity and Overweight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed February 4, 2020.
  2. Pi-Sunyer X. The medical risks of obesity. Postgrad Med. 2009;121(6):21–33.
  3. Barrier 3: Inadequate Diagnosis. Awareness & Treatment in Obesity Management. Accessed February 4, 2020.
  4. Ahmad NN, Kaplan LM. It is time for obesity medicine. Virtual Mentor. 12(4):272–277.
  5. Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2015–2016. National Center for Health Statistics. Accessed February 4, 2020.
  6. Ferrante JM, Piasecki AK, Ohman-Strickland PA, Crabtree BF. Family physicians’ practices and attitudes regarding care of extremely obese patients. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009;17(9):1710–1716.
  7. Dietz WH, Baur LA, Hall K, et al. Management of obesity: improvement of health-care training and systems for prevention and care. Lancet. 2015;385(9986):2521–2533.
  8. Obesity Treatment Proficiency Badges™. Accessed February 4, 2020.
  9. American Board of Obesity Medicine. Accessed February 4, 2020.
  10. Eligibility requirements. American Board of Obesity Medicine. Accessed February 4, 2020.
  11. Prep Materials for the ABOM Exam. Accessed February 4, 2020.


Category: Medical Methods in Obesity Treatment, Past Articles

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