At a national pediatric meeting today I attended a lecture on obesity. Simultaneously in the next room was a lecture on crohn’s disease. The crohn’s lecture was standing room only with attendees spilling into the lobby. The room with the obesity lecture was nearly empty. The attendees were clustered to the rear of the room creating an embarrassing vacuous space between the speaker and the audience.
The situation offers an interesting contrast.
Was it an issue with the speakers? No, both were nationally recognized experts. Were there refreshments drawing attendees into the crohn’s lecture? No. Or is it that doctors just don’t care about obesity? I don’t think this was the case either.
I think the anemic attendance reflects a general attitude of physicians toward obese children: They’re difficult and frustrating. Many feel a lack of control with their overweight patients. Successful and sustained weight loss among kids is a rarity and fatalistic thinking among caregivers is as widespread as the problem itself. Physicians, like most of us, have a need to feel that what they’re doing is making a difference. And when we feel like we can’t make a difference there’s a natural tendency to pull back … or go to different lecture.