About 33 percent of study participants were black, 52 percent were white and the rest were other ethnicities.
Factors that could influence whether or not people discuss their weight with their doctors may include whether they have a primary care doctor or a regular source of care, something which researchers didn't ask. It's also possible that people are ashamed of having been told to lose weight and failing to do so, and so lied and said their doctor had never mentioned it, or simply that it "fell on deaf ears," Gans said.
Ryan recommends that patients leave the ER with referrals to dieticians and other weight-loss specialists, and that primary care doctors make sure to take the time to broach the issue with patients.
Gans agreed. Though emergency room physicians are pressed for time, when patients are sick and worried about their health may be an opportune moment to encourage changes.
"Unfortunately nothing happens until a patient becomes fearful," Gans said. "I see that all too often. I'll ask them, 'Do you need to wait until you have diabetes until you start to lose weight? Do you need to suffer a heart attack? And some people will actually say 'Yes.'"
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on overweight and obesity.
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