Committee Spotlight:
Public Education

Published in January 2014 Issue             

An Interview with Dr. David Provost,
Chair of the ASMBS Public Education Committee

David Provost, MD, FACS, chair of the ASMBS Public Education Committee believes while progress has been made in educating the public and obesity and bariatric surgery, much work remains. The ASMBS Public Education Committee is charged with doing some of that work, which includes providing content for the new ASMBS website, creating patient education materials and increasing awareness of the safety and effectiveness of metabolic and bariatric surgery.

connect recently interviewed Dr. Provost, medical director of the Bariatric Surgery Center Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton, about how the ASMBS is trying to make a difference when it comes to understanding obesity and the pros and cons of metabolic and
bariatric surgery.

connect: What have been the major accomplishments of the ASMBS Public Education Committee in 2013?

The Public Education Committee updated, revised and expanded the materials available on the new ASMBS website to educate the public, patients and healthcare professionals about the problem of obesity and the role and benefits of bariatric surgery. Major sections now up on the website include:

connect: What are the main activities of the Public Education Committee?

The Public Education Committee is responsible for educating the public about bariatric surgery, to improve the medical care and treatment of people with obesity and
related diseases.

connect: What gaps in public education have you identified that the Public Education Committee is working to fill?

Current topics for the website that are being developed include nutritional and psychological aspects of surgery and a section on life after surgery.

connect: How does the Public Education Committee disseminate its information to the public? What has been the public response to material sent out by Committee? What was the Committee's involvement in the new ASMBS website?

These new materials are currently disseminated primarily through the ASMBS website. A goal of the Committee is to raise awareness of these valuable resources. We plan to add links to the website from surgeon practices, sites like the OAC, and state chapters and the ASMBS Facebook page will improve search engine optimization (SEO). We are also working on cartoon videos to accompany several of the topics.  Our Committee worked closely with the ASMBS Communications Committee on the layout of the patient information section of the new website.

connect: How does the Public Education Committee develop its materials? What is the process?

Topics that need to be addressed are identified, and initial drafts are created by Public Education Committee members with expertise in the area. The initial drafts are reviewed by our committee for any comments and modifications. Topics for the website are then reviewed by the ASMBS Communications Committee, which then go for final review and approval by the Executive Council. It is a thorough process. Dr. Keith Kim, the previous chair of the Public Education Committee deserves much of the credit for navigating much of the new content through this process.

connect: How would you characterize the "state of public education" when it comes to bariatric and metabolic surgery? How has it improved over the years? What can still be improved?  

The current state of public education is nowhere near what it should be. The A.M.A. classifying obesity as a disease is a big step, but there remains a strong public bias against patients with obesity and the treatment of obesity. Changing these attitudes will not
be easy.

connect: What are the most common misperceptions you think exist among the public about bariatric and metabolic surgery? How does this guide the development of materials for the public?

I believe the majority of the public continues to believe that patients need to eat less, exercise more and they can lose weight. Bariatric and metabolic surgery is often seen as “the easy way out.” Views of the risks of surgery remain influenced by press reports about complications from 10-15 years ago. Hopefully, through these materials we can begin to educate the public about the current efficacy and lower complication rates of surgery.

connect: How do you distinguish between public education and patient education?

Patient education is an important component of public education, but only one part. We need to educate physicians and other healthcare providers, the media, politicians, and the general public about the problem of obesity and the success of metabolic and
bariatric surgery.

connect: How can members access materials developed by the ASMBS Public Education Committee?

The materials are available on the ASMBS website at  Click on the “For Patients” heading for a dropdown list of topics and subtopics. Members are welcome to create links to these materials on their own website, and use them for public and patient education.

connect: What can we expect from the Public Education Committee in 2014?

We continue to work on the website materials, with the addition of new sections, and the addition of graphics and videos to make it more entertaining. Future goals include consolidating the information into a patient handbook. We want to create the preeminent source for patient and public education materials on obesity and metabolic surgery. I believe the current information available on the website is very good, but we need to make the public and medical providers aware of its presence. Thanks to connect for helping to raise that awareness.