Experts Gather at Inaugural Michigan Obesity Summit to Address the Obesity Public Health Crisis

By: Debbie Reinheimer

Surgeons wear gowns, masks in preparation for operation

The United States has an obesity problem, and it’s costing more than a trillion dollars in direct and indirect medical costs. In Michigan, which has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, 36% of adults and 17% of children are obese. If the trend continues, about half of the population will be obese by 2030.

On September 23, about 375 primary care physicians, bariatric surgeons and other allied health professionals from across Michigan gathered at the first Obesity Summit to discuss how to improve obesity care statewide.

Sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Care Network and led by the Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative (MBSC), participants spent the day learning about obesity as a chronic, complex disease; the economic burden of obesity; disparities in obesity; and the clinical causes and indications of obesity.

“Obesity is a public health crisis that impacts millions of patients across the country. Michiganders are not immune from the multitude of medical problems associated with obesity. Recognizing there are many options to combat this chronic disease, we were excited to convene medical professionals across the entire continuum of obesity care at the summit,” said Amir Ghaferi, M.D., director of the MBSC and the Moses Gunn, MD Professor of Surgery at the University of Michigan. “We addressed the urgency of the problem and provided a comprehensive toolkit of options to collectively and collaboratively improve the health and well-being of our patients.”

Presenters also shared best practices for better identifying risk and managing the disease.  For example, speakers addressed the need for a multidisciplinary system to manage obesity care – a system that includes social, educational and governmental resources in addition to a full spectrum of clinical support.

Presenters also discussed bariatric surgery as a management option, and specifically shared best practices learned from the MBSC for improving safety and preventing complications of bariatric surgery.

Over the 15+ years of the Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative (MBSC), more than 100,000 procedures have been captured in the clinical registry.  In addition to the average weight loss – one year post surgery – of 78 lbs, the consortium is seeing a 69% improvement in their patients’ diabetes quality metrics and over 50% improvements in hypertension, hyperlipidemia (cholesterol), and sleep apnea quality metrics.

“We have a bariatric-specific registry that is rich with outcomes data, so we can be more precise when reporting these outcomes to our patients.  We’ve also developed free patient-facing tools, so patients can educate themselves about the benefits of surgery and prioritize their goals of care. For bariatric surgery programs, this is a game changer when it comes to personalizing a treatment plan just for them,” said Oliver Varban, M.D., presenter, MBSC associate director and a bariatric surgeon with Henry Ford Health. “

Other successes within the Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative include:

  • A 60% reduction in mortality following bariatric surgery due to interventions initiated within the MBSC, such as the use of low molecular weight heparin to prevent blood clots and using peer video coaching to improve surgical skill.
  • A 66% reduction in post-surgery opioid prescribing, corresponding with a 48% reduction in new persistent opioid use 1 year after surgery.
  • Prevention of 1,400 patients readmitted to hospital after bariatric surgery.
  • A 38% decrease in the post-surgical death rate.

“The Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative has developed and pioneered creative quality improvement initiatives that have significantly reduced complications following bariatric surgery in the state of Michigan,” said Arthur Carlin, M.D., chair of the MBSC executive committee and bariatric surgeon at Henry Ford Health. “Bariatric surgery is now just as safe as having your gallbladder removed.”

“Many of the best practices discovered in Michigan have influenced practice trends nationwide,” said Amy McKenzie, associate chief medical officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “And together, we’ll continue our efforts to improve obesity care in Michigan and beyond, even better than before.”