Primary care physicians and staff face both opportunities and challenges in the treatment and prevention of obesity. The primary care office is typically the first point of contact for patients, serving as the frontline for preventive medicine. However, practices consistently report that they do not have the luxury of spending time counseling patients on weight loss and lifestyle change. There is hope, however, in the form of community resources dedicated to obesity and weight loss efforts. Such resources already exist, so physicians may work to raise awareness with patients, engage them in a manner that promotes action, and make a formal referral as part of routine clinical care. The key is to create a sustainable clinic-community linkage where the community partner becomes a trusted member of the care team.
Although it sounds simple, implementing any kind of change into a busy primary care practices takes intentional time and effort. This tool is intended to help the reader examine his or her practice, reach out to community resources, develop sustainable links, and exercise new strategies and tools to increase patent engagement. Although the YMCA, as a key partner in this project, played a critical role in developing the toolkit, the lessons and examples are intended to be translatable to any community resource and any practice willing to take the extra step to make it happen.