This year, the U.S. government started a program for health-care innovators. One innovator, Diane Curly is treating obesity like any other disease or addiction and trains nurses to talk to patients about treatment.

MARCH 19, 2012

Performance Improvement Coordinator @ St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, Smithtown, New York

Condition: More than 100,000 people die from obesity each year, in part because the condition is too stigmatized to discuss during checkups.

Cure: Nurses are trained to address obesity like any other disease, and suggest treatments as soon as it’s detected.

“There are so many conditions associated with obesity. Cancer, diabetes, shortened life expectancy–these are all serious risks for patients at unhealthy weights. It’s a health issue, not a character flaw. I know we can’t make anyone do anything. But it’s been proven that brief intervention does work with suicide, smoking, and partner violence. And we think it can work with obesity, especially if it comes in the right way from the right people. That’s why I chose registered nurses as opposed to physicians. They’re trained in therapeutic communication. They’ll refer patients to support groups, provide them with sample questions to ask their health-care provider, and even offer up nutrition tips and a food log. My hope is that because we’re trusted medical professionals, our resources will be well received. Overcoming obesity is really all about empowering patients.”