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West Virginia University doctor aims to fight obesity crisis

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia University’s chief of obesity medicine is investigating how to best help the state’s primary care providers treat their obese patients.
“Weight loss used to be designated to commercial programs, like stores selling diet products,” Dr. Laura Davisson told The Herald-Dispatch. “Now, providers are realizing the health care field needs to get involved.”
To that end, Davisson is developing a survey to assess the needs of those providers. Davisson estimates the assessment will be ready for distribution by spring. She hopes to have results analyzed by the fall. After that, she’ll be working to develop an educational outreach program for the state.
“We know that access to care is an issue in a lot of places, especially in West Virginia and especially in rural areas,” she said. “We wanted to develop a great program here in Morgantown, but that won’t solve the problems in the state if we can’t take our methods and scale them to be disseminated to providers.”
Ideas include sharing information at annual Continuing Medical Education meetings, offering immersion courses in Morgantown, or providing help online through e-consultations or webinars.
For many people, losing weight is more complicated than diet and exercise alone, Davisson said. She aims to raise awareness of how complicated it can be.
“We have some patients who have underlying psychological issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety or emotional eating issues,” she said. “For each individual patient, the causes are really, really different.”
In her practice, Davisson focuses on four main pillars of treatment: food, movement, behavior and medical issues.
Suitable diet and increased physical activity are two important first steps. Then the focus shifts to behavior tracking. As someone writes down what they eat, or as they track it on an app, they’re more conscious of their actions. Finally medical issues are examined — everything from sleep to medications.
“Sometimes there are easy fixes on a medicine list, like one can be substituted for another,” Davisson explained. “The effects might be small, but we don’t need anything to make it harder. It’s already hard enough to lose weight.”