Canadian doctors are being encouraged to use “compassion, empathy and evidence-based interventions” to treat people with obesity.

The shift in attitude is being encouraged after radical new guidelines have shaken up the traditional approach to treating the condition.

The newly published document requests that healthcare professionals treat obesity as a complex chronic health condition rather than something that can be managed with diet and exercise alone.

A total of 62 healthcare professionals took part in drafting the guidance and were led by Dr Sean Wharton, a specialist in weight management from the McMaster University in Ontario.

He said: “People with obesity experience weight bias and stigma, which contribute to increased complications and mortality, independent of weight or BMI.

“The first step to obesity management is to recognise your own bias. If you see people living with obesity as lacking willpower, or as noncompliant, then you likely have weight bias.

“Obesity needs to be managed with a focus on giving unbiased care to patients, showing compassion and empathy and using evidence-based interventions with an emphasis on patient-centred outcomes.”

The guidelines took more than three years to draft and feature a series of recommendations such as seeking permission to discuss a patient’s weight, agreeing on goals together and trying to understand the root causes of the person’s obesity.

Dr David Lau, co-lead of the guideline and professor at the University of Calgary, said: “Working with people to understand their context and culture, integrating their root causes, which include biology, genetics, social determinants of health, trauma and mental health issues, are essential to developing personalised plans.

“These plans can become part of a long-term therapeutic relationship with follow-up of obesity-related chronic diseases.”

The guidelines have been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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