Despite significant medical advances in the U.S. on numerous fronts, obesity management seems stalled by many clinicians’ reliance on a regimen of “diet and exercise” alone to treat as well as prevent. Obesity medicine specialists cite the increasing availability of safe and effective anti-obesity medications on the market — with dozens more in the pipeline — to allow for a multipronged treatment approach, but they point out that physicians seldom prescribe such drugs, and insurers often balk at paying for them.

This is partly because individuals with obesity, an increasingly prevalent, serious and costly disease, continue to confront the societal bias that “lifestyle choices” are to blame, experts say. It is also because obesity is a complex disease to treat, not merely a matter of gauging body mass index (BMI), they explain, and unless treated effectively, it may become the pathway to a wide array of chronic conditions including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, asthma and some types of cancer, as well as disability and premature death.