GP webinar series: The neurobiology of weight change

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

28/05/2020 3:23:50 PM

The upcoming Rethink Obesity webcast will give GPs insight into leveraging pharmacotherapy and behavioural therapy for weight management.

Mother playing with daughter.
Many patients living with obesity may want their GP to bring it up as a health issue.

‘A lot of GPs might think, “Oh they’re here about their cough” or “They’ve come to see me for their blood pressure script. They’ve got a weight problem but they don’t want me to mention it”. In fact, patients living with obesity want their GP to mention their obesity – to bring it up as a health issue.’
That is Associate Professor Samantha Hocking, an endocrinologist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and a clinical academic at the University of Sydney.
She is referring to the findings from the Action IO study, an international study investigating barriers to obesity care, which highlighted the significant role GPs play in weight management.
‘A lot of people are concerned about their weight and they’re trying to combat it on their own. We know that that’s not as effective as trying to combat your weight with the help of a healthcare professional,’ she said.
‘So we really do need GPs to be engaging with patients earlier in their weight management journey and offering pharmacotherapy.’
GPs will have the chance to better understand how pharmacotherapies work, and how to safely and effectively utilise them in their routine practice in the upcoming Rethink Obesity® webcast, ‘The neurobiology of weight change: Leveraging pharmacotherapy and behavioural therapy in weight management?’.
Set to be held on Wednesday 3 June, Associate Professor Hocking will be joined by fellow obesity experts Dr Sean Wharton, Dr Roger McIntyre and Dr Jessica Swinbourne.
When it comes to weight management in general practice, Associate Professor Hocking raised concern that it often gets parked in the ‘too hard basket’, which she said need not be the case given the options available.
‘With obesity management for a lot of patients and also, unfortunately, for a lot of clinicians, there is this kind of attitude of “This is a lifestyle the patient doesn’t really want to change and it’s a waste of my time giving them my advice because they’re not going to do it anyway”,’ she said.
‘I think the connection’s not quite made with the brain regulation of appetite, that many of these peripheral signals actually signal to the brain and then it’s the brain that really is the main driver here in terms of our intake of foods.
‘It’s quite a complex interplay between the brain, appetite and eating and feeding behaviour. That’s what this symposium is hoping to explore.’
GPs will gain insight into obesity as a brain disorder, and how weight loss using pharmacotherapy can have positive flow-on effects for overall health.
‘Even if you don’t accept this idea that obesity is a brain-related disease, the fact that most pharmacotherapies work on the brain that’s a really strong pointer that the brain is so important and such a vital part of this whole system,’ Associate Professor Hocking said.
‘With the pharmacotherapy we have available, we’re talking about a weight loss of between 5% and 10% of body weight. Even though that weight loss is moderate, it is still associated with a lot of metabolic benefit – reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol reduction, pain from osteoarthritis.
‘Focusing on the health benefits rather than the cosmetic side of the weight loss is really what we need to be doing, reframing that conversation.’
Further to behavioural modification such as exercise and healthy eating habits, pharmacotherapy is just one approach in tackling obesity. To assist GPs in taking a holistic approach, Dr Swinbourne, a clinical psychologist, will focus on psychological intervention that can assist with weight management.
Those who find the Rethink Obesity® webinar series (sponsored by Novo Nordisk) educationally valuable can self-record it on the RACGP CPD dashboard via the quick log.
Other upcoming webcast topics: 

  • Rethinking success in obesity management: What are we aiming for?
  • Early weight loss intervention: Why is it so important?
 Register online for the Rethink Obesity webinar series.
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behavioural therapy chronic disease obesity pharmacotherapy webinar weight management

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Dr Annette Hackett   29/05/2020 8:04:04 AM

Here we go again. Our fatphobic society has to have a 'cure' for body shape - in the form of a pill. There is so much written about a Health at Every Size approach to people and their wellbeing - please, go and have a look! Much better than a pill. There is so much more to life - what about racism and sexism to name but two. Why not tackle those, and their intersection with fatphobia? Yes, bigger people often have OA issues - ever tried physiotherapy? Blood pressure - ever tried exercise/stress management? What would you do for a 'thin' person with these things - prescribe weight loss? How about we get rid of the chronic stress that fatphobia causes our patients, and see if their BP improves?

Dr Bethany Reynolds   29/05/2020 12:13:58 PM

"In fact, patients living with obesity want their GP to mention their obesity – to bring it up as a health issue"

Have you ever spoken to an overweight / obese person?

Most of those working to fight weight stigma know and talk about how frustrating it is for an overweight person to constantly have their weight brought up as an issue, especially when they've come about something else.

Yes there are opportunities to promote healthy lifestyle at every consult, but it is ridiculous to think that every overweight person secretly wants to talk about it. They're sick of you talking about it. They know they're overweight. They know society is fatphobic and doesn't want to tolerate their current appearance and blames their weight for every problem they encounter.


Dr Nell De Graaf   29/05/2020 1:25:39 PM

If am suspicious of any informationsponsored by a drug company.
“Follow the Money”trail and you will see there is ALOT of money made from weight treatment with often little achievement