Rena Sue Day, Ph.D., and doctoral candidate Michelle L. Wilkinson have focused their research on the health of firefighters across the country. (Credit: UThealth)
Rena Sue Day, Ph.D., and doctoral candidate Michelle L. Wilkinson have focused their research on the health of firefighters across the country. (Credit: UThealth)
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Obese Firefighters Report No Weight Advice from Health Providers

Obese Firefighters Report No Weight Advice from Health Providers

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Obese and overweight firefighters are not receiving weight management advice from their health care providers, according to new research from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

“There are a lot of firefighters who are in great shape, but many are not,” said Rena Sue Day, Ph.D., primary author of the study and associate professor of epidemiology at the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Health Living at the UTHealth School of Public Health. “Bigger doesn’t always mean stronger, there’s a difference between fitness and being big.”

National guidelines state that health care professionals (HCPs) should advise patients on the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. Firefighters have high rates of obesity, and cardiovascular events—often related to diet and weight—are the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths in firefighters. This study assessed the association of age and body mass index (BMI) with HCP weight recommendations among male firefighters.

Researchers used data on self-reported HCP weight recommendations and measured BMI from a 2011–2012 national sample of male firefighters. HCP recommendations were recorded as no advice, maintain, gain, or lose weight, and BMI was categorized as normal, overweight, class I obese, and class II or III obese. We used multinomial logistic regression to estimate the odds of receiving weight advice by age and BMI categories.

Ninety-six percent of firefighters reported visiting an HCP in the past year. Sixty-nine percent of firefighters and 48 percent of class I to III obese firefighters reported receiving no weight advice. Higher BMI predicted HCP advice to lose weight. Younger firefighters were less likely to receive weight loss advice than older firefighters, except among those who were class II or III obese.

“Firefighters have extremely tough and stressful jobs,” Day said. “But these are our first responders. They need to be cared for, and they need to be fit.”

Day said she hopes the study will encourage doctors to screen all patients for weight and talk about how to lose it without waiting for a person to develop diabetes or hypertension.

The study was published in the July 10 issue of the Center for Disease Control’s journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Hannah Rhodes, UTHealth 

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