Despite being a major health threat, obesity isn’t widely discussed in U.S. medical schools, a new study suggests.
Obesity is barely mentioned in U.S. medical students’ licensing exams, according to the researchers at Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago.
With so few test items about obesity prevention and treatment, medical schools have less incentive to educate students about obesity — and students have less incentive to learn about it, the researchers said.
“It’s a trickle-down effect. If it’s not being tested, it won’t be taught as robustly as it should be,” said study author Dr. Robert Kushner, a professor of medicine.
“Tackling this challenge will require major changes in medical education,” Kushner said in a university news release.
For the study, six obesity specialists examined the obesity-related content of the three United States Medical Licensing Examinations taken by all medical students and first-year residents.
The few exam items about obesity focused on assessment and management of obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and obstructive sleep disorder, rather than the diagnosis and management of obesity itself, the study found.
It also revealed that important concepts of obesity prevention and treatment were poorly represented.
Nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults and almost 20 percent of children aged 6 to 11 are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity can lead to serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.
The study was published recently in the journal Teaching and Learning in Medicine.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on obesity causes and consequences.