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Saturday, June 12, 2021
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ANU develops nationwide obesity program

A new program developed by the Australian National University (ANU), will be rolled out across the country to help GPs in treating patients with obesity.

‘The Change Program’, developed by the ANU Medical School, will see patients work with their local GP on ‘long-term lifestyle changes’.

Dr Liz Sturgiss from the ANU College of Health and Medicine said the program provides a bridge for GPs from current guidelines to actually working with patients in a daily practice.

“This is the first program of its kind in Australia that GPs can use with patients,” Dr Sturgiss said.

“GPs know the whole picture of a patient and their family and can look at obesity holistically.

“For patients that want the option of working with their GP, this program provides the resources to do it.”

Dr Sturgiss said patients have established trusting relationships with their GP, and that viewpoint could be a missing link in obesity management.

“We have purposely put this program within general practice because it is where people go in an ongoing way for their healthcare.

“More than 85% of people see a GP at least once a year.

“Now doctors and patients will be able to work together towards sustainable changes to help patients reduce weight and improve their health generally.”

Developed over five years, the Change Program incorporates psychology techniques, collaborative goal setting, with a how-to workbook that covers practical steps on nutrition, exercise, goal setting, wellbeing and meal plans. It also includes setting realistic exercise goals, a regular pantry stocktake, relapse trouble shooting and a nutrition diary.

“The NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) have fantastic guidelines for GPs that describe what to do but this program shows doctors and patients how to do it,” Dr Sturgiss said.

“It is not a fad diet; it is about serious lifestyle change and things you can do on an ongoing basis.”

Canberra General Practitioner from YourGP, Dr Melian Deery, trialled the program with patients and said it is “a really great tool for us to use with patients”.

“Through the project we helped a number of patients lose between five to eight kilos, which is a significant amount of weight and we’ve continued to use the skills we’ve learned to support our patients to lose weight.

“GPs are very accessible and well placed to help patients with obesity and this program is a way for us to do that well.”

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