Melanie Jay, MD: Advancing Equitable Approaches to Improve Obesity Care

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This interview segment featured a discussion on Jay’s ACP Internal Medicine Meeting presentation ‘Advancing Equitable Approaches to Improve Obesity Care.’

During recent years, it is evident that there has been a shift among health care providers towards understanding the value of equitable approaches in obesity care. This shift reflects a growing awareness of the various types of factors impacting weight management and the necessity for tailored strategies to address such a complex issue.

In this interview segment with Melanie Jay, MD, MS, the editorial team at HCPLive spoke with Jay regarding her presentation at the 2024 American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting titled ‘Advancing Equitable Approaches to Improve Obesity Care.’ Jay is a general internist and is board-certified in obesity medicine, serving as an associate professor for NYU Langone Health.

“This was a topic that's near and dear to my heart, addressing health equity and health disparities,” Jay explained. “At the intro, we discussed what happened at that session and then I introduced the concept of disparities in obesity care, disparities, health disparities around obesity. Then we also talked about different strategies to address health disparities and health equity and obesity, and really touched on four or five major areas, one of them being to really address obesity stigma.”

Jay noted that obesity is a stigmatized condition, adding that over 40% of people with class 2 and class 3 obesity say that they have experienced weight discrimination. Jay added that patients say that they have experienced obesity-related discrimination and bias even in health care settings.

“So we talk about how we can provide more compassionate care, not blame the patient, and recognize that obesity is a disease and that it is a chronic disease,” Jay said. “It's an interplay between our genes and our environment. Personal choices, while important, play a very small role. Things like our food environment, stress levels, our physical activity opportunities, and medications we give our patients can cause weight gain.”

Jay explained that when a patient enters the office and they feel blamed, this can impact feelings of stigma. She also noted the importance of advocacy.

“As physicians, we have a lot of opportunities to really advocate for our patients,” she said. “So we can advocate for policies such as Medicaid expansion of obesity care, such as Medicare expansion, as well. There are federal policies right now with the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act. We can locally make sure that our residents and our medical students get adequate training to be able to compassionately and proficiently address obesity. Then we can make sure that we provide interdisciplinary care and that we work with each other.

Jay explained that she believes it is important to engage with patients, adding that research in the space is also essential.

For any further information from this conference interview segment, view the video posted above.

The quotes contained in this discussion were edited for the purposes of clarity. Jay had no relevant disclosures.