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Invited Commentary
February 28, 2011

Telling Patients They Are Overweight or Obese: An Insult or an Effective Intervention?Comment on “The Influence of Physician Acknowledgment of Patients' Weight Status on Patient Perceptions of Overweight and Obesity in the United States”

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.

Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(4):321-322. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.5

One of the more remarkable observations from the literature on office-based smoking cessation is that patients who are identified as smokers and urged by their physician to quit smoking actually quit at a significantly higher rate than those who are not urged to do so.1 With these data, very brief office interventions of less than 3 minutes have been implemented that result in 5% to 10% quit rates. Office staff can help clinicians identify those patients who smoke, and the clinician can make an extremely time-efficient intervention. This approach can be complemented by more intensive, more effective interventions and by powerful population-based strategies, such as workplace restrictions on smoking, tobacco taxes, and social marketing campaigns. Could the same be true for overweight and obesity? If physicians merely told their patients that they were overweight or obese, would that lead to greater weight loss?

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