- MSWEIGHT seeks to address the muffled discussion about obesity in US health education and healthcare.
- Through a 5-year intensive study (3,311 participants at 9 of the most selective US medical schools), the program is testing a new model for teaching weight management counseling, called MS Weight.
- The results of the study are determined through the standard medical school method (OSC Exam) and self-reported assessments.
- MS Weight is the first curriculum designed to teach Weight Management Counseling (WMC) to future physicians and to compare the results to the current medical curricula.
- Once completed, results from this innovative program have the potential to change the way future doctors acknowledge and address weight management counseling.
Given that more than 2 in 3 adults in the United States are considered overweight and more than 1 in 3 U.S. adults are considered obese, there is significant need for healthcare professionals to know how to help their patients lose weight. However, most physicians report limited skills or training to provide weight management counseling. In response, Drs. Judith Ockene and Rashelle Brown Hayes designed the MSWEIGHT curriculum for Weight Management Counseling in Medical Schools. They are currently leading a randomized controlled trial across 3,311 students in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute and 9 highly selective US medical schools. The study “compares the efficacy of two approaches to learning weight management counseling 1) traditional education (TE) and; 2) MS Weight, a multi-modal educational (MME) intervention.”
MS Weight MME Curriculum
Whereas the study defines TE as the schools’ current curriculum, which “may include topics related to the treatment of weight management and obesity” as well as “sporadic stand-alone lectures or small group discussions conducted separately or as a part of a patient interviewing or behavioral course,” the innovative, multi-modal (MME) program consists of “a tested web-based curriculum, a series of interactive counseling practice opportunities with observation and feedback, video demonstrations, a formative web-based OSCE, and a school Weight Management Counseling (WMC) social media Facebook page.” This MSWeight curriculum offers a more in-depth, crafted approach to addressing patient weight.
Structure of the Study
Students in this randomized controlled trial learn through either TE or MME. The efficacy of each approach is measured after completion of the third year by an exam called the Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE), which is already in place as the standard evaluation of medical students’ skills. The secondary method of measuring efficacy is through self-report. The participating medical students assess their own skills in “the 5As:” Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist, and Arrange. This longitudinal assessment is replicated after the first and third year of school.
When speaking with Sandra Gray from UMass Medical School Communications, Dr. Hayes said, “Our goal is to not only enhance weight management counseling skills but also to increase obesity treatment knowledge and improve attitudes on the importance and potential ease of helping patients manage their weight.” This is taught through hands-on opportunities, applied educational theories, and addressing common biases.
Why It Stands Out
In conducting this study, Drs. Ockene and Hayes are actively working to address what they see to be a “weak spot” in the medical education system because current curricula are not properly equipped to face the challenges of weight management in our society. The MME curriculum applies evidence-based educational and psychological theories that challenge the standards currently in place, and in doing so focuses on determining what method provides the most effective counseling skills for addressing the increased prevalence of obesity.
While this study is still in progress, results from its model-program, MSQuit – designed for education on how medical students learn to address tobacco use – resulted in the creation of an innovative curriculum that significantly enhanced students’ confidence in the related skills. Dr. Ockene noted that both studies were designed based on research in counseling education that was conducted over 30 years. Through standardized assessment and self-assessment, the data regarding competence and confidence of new doctors will provide the field with invaluable information that has the potential to better equip future healthcare teams with skills to address the obesity epidemic.
- “Overweight & Obesity Statistics” (NIDDK, August 2017), https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity.
- Judith K. Ockene and Rachelle Brown Hayes, “Weight Management Counseling in Medical Schools: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” NIH Grantome, accessed August 1, 2017, http://grantome.com/grant/NIH/R01-CA194787-01A1.
- Sandra Gray, “Teaching Medical Students to Help Patients Manage Their Weight, Quit Smoking,” December 17, 2015, https://www.umassmed.edu/news/news-archives/2015/12/teaching-medical-students-to-help-patients-manage-their-weight-quit-smoking/.
- Judith K. Ockene et al., “Teaching Medical Students to Help Patients Quit Smoking: Outcomes of a 10-School Randomized Controlled Trial,” Journal of General Internal Medicine 31, no. 2 (February 1, 2016): 172–81, doi:10.1007/s11606-015-3508-y.