Obesity Treatment: “Supply and Demand” or “Demand and Supply”

| February 1, 2021

by Christopher D. Still, DO, FACN, FACP

Co-clinical Editor of Bariatric Times; Medical Director for the Center for Nutrition and Weight Management, and Director for Geisinger Obesity Research Institute at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.

Dear Colleagues,

One thing we have learned from this last year with COVID-19 is that patients with obesity have worse outcomes when infected by the virus. Not surprisingly, weight loss in patients showed superior outcomes in a recent study from the Cleveland Clinic. Aminian et al1 reported that patients who tested positive for COVID-19, with a prior history of weight loss through bariatric surgery, had lower hospital admission rates as well as lower intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, requirement of mechanical ventilation and dialysis, and death compared to controls.

The general community and patients too have gotten the word. Many of my adult and pediatric primary care colleagues have reached out to me regarding patients’ weight gain over the last year and, in turn, patients requesting advice on weight management. Moreover, an increased number of continuing medical education (CME) conferences are including obesity treatment in their programs, and medical societies, such as the American College of Physicians (ACP), have made obesity treatment courses available on their website.

Now to supply and demand. The basic law of supply and demand is the interaction between the seller of the resource and the buyer’s demand for that resource. This might be opposite regarding patients and weight management. With the “supply” of patients and this “demand” for legitimate weight loss strategies, obesity medicine physicians and bariatric surgeons will continue to be in high demand. Providers are seeing this opportunity as well and are seeking obesity treatment expertise. Just last month, the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM) released a statement that “in the midst of the pandemic, more than 1,400 physicians aim for certification during the 2021 test window.”2 That is a 40-percent increase from last year. Additionally, obesity medicine fellowships have continued to steadily increase. The Obesity Medicine Fellowship Council recently reported 19 fellowship programs that can potentially graduate 22 fellowship trained obesity medicine physicians each year! The result is more patients will have access to appropriate care from physicians with knowledge of obesity and its treatment.

So, whether the patients are the “supply” or the “demand,” obesity medicine physicians and bariatric surgeons are well positioned to meet this increased need. Now, more than ever, is the time for us to “toot our own horn” and let our colleagues and patients know of our expertise in, commitment to, and passion for obesity care.

Be well,

Christopher D. Still, DO, FACN, FACP

References

  1. Aminian A, Fathalizadeh A, Tu C, et al. Association of prior metabolic and bariatric surgery with severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in patients with obesity. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2021;17(1):208–214.
  2. More Than 1,400 Apply For 2021 ABOM Certification Exam. American Board of Obesity Medicine. https://www.abom.org/2021-exam-applicant-growth/. Accessed January 18, 2021.  

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