Overcoming Obesity

By Carla Frehn |

How independent pharmacists can encourage weight loss and promote healthier lifestyles in their communities. 

More than 35 percent of the adult population in the United States suffers from obesity1, a problem that is both pervasive and costly for the nation while at an individual level, detrimental to one’s overall health. However, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association, only 10 percent of the 22,000-plus independent pharmacies provide patients with weight loss counseling and management services.2 

The list of chronic conditions and diseases associated with obesity and being overweight is both long and frightening. Heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, gout, and even some cancers are just a few of the debilitating side effects associated with obesity. As community pharmacists’ are keenly focused on their patients’ health, obesity is a primary concern among pharmacists and pharmacy owners. In addition, with so few pharmacies offering programs to encourage weight loss or combat weight gain, it also serves as a great opportunity for community pharmacies to differentiate themselves.

Set realistic goals
Speaking with patients about setting realistic goals is one of the best ways to influence patients to enter a weight-loss regimen. Setting unrealistic expectations can leave patients feeling disappointed and disenchanted when they aren’t hitting their lofty benchmarks, and this can ultimately lead to them reverting to poor eating habits and little exercise. 

Instead, stress to patients that losing weight won’t happen overnight and takes a lot of patience and persistence. A pharmacist can also recommend patients use the Good Neighbor Pharmacy Weight Loss Calculator, which they can find on the mygnp.com website. This tool tells patients — based on their height, weight, age and physical activity — how many calories they should consume per day to lose one pound per week. 

While a single pound per week might not sound like much to many patients, it’s important to remind them there are 52 weeks in a year — that’s a lot of weight.

Have a scale and encourage patients to track their progress
After setting realistic goals, placing a scale in the front-end of a community pharmacy is a great way to encourage patients to lose weight. Every time a patient visits the pharmacy for a prescription or front-end product, urge them to step on the scale to share their progress. 

A pharmacist can also make a game of this by tracking the patient’s weight on a progress report. After 365 days of a patient beginning their weight loss program, a pharmacist can present them with their progress report and even award the patient with certificate of achievement. 

Simply printing out a certificate on an 8 ? x 11 piece of cardstock can go a long way to build a patient’s confidence and encourage them to continue their journey to a healthy lifestyle.

Carry nutritious, low-calorie foods and beverages, and weight-loss supplements in the front-end

A front end full of sugary drinks and potato chips is not going to encourage anyone to lose weight. While a community pharmacy doesn’t have to exclusively carry nutritious, low-fat foods and beverages — risking front-end profit from items that move — it’s a good idea to supplement some of these items with healthier choices.

Try carrying all-natural, organic fruit beverages and teas that are low on sugar, or low-fat breakfast bars. A pharmacy should also consider carrying natural weight loss supplements such as raspberry ketones or green coffee bean extract. 

Raise awareness about childhood obesity

Similar to adults, about one in three children are classified as obese in the U.S., with its prevalence more than tripping in the past 30 years.3 However, a 2015 study conducted by the NYU Langone Medical Center, showed that 95 percent of parents who have overweight children perceive their kids’ size as being “just right.”4

Stopping obesity at its onset is critical to stopping the obesity pandemic. Yet, if parents are unable to see childhood obesity as a problem, it’s the job of medical professionals to bring this to light. Community pharmacists should carefully address a potentially obese child’s weight with parents or guardians. Pharmacists can bring up potential effects of obesity, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Recommend they see a physician to discuss whether a weight loss program would be beneficial.

With obesity a growing problem in the U.S., community pharmacies have the opportunity to join the frontline in combating this epidemic. Helping patients achieve and maintain an ideal weight enables them to lead healthier, happier and more active lives.


1 Overweight & Obesity. (2018, March 05). Retrieved April 18, 2018 from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html 
 2 Schweers, K. (2015, November 2). Weight Loss Management a Successful Niche for Some Community Pharmacies. Retrieved December 11, 2017, from National Community Pharmacists Association, http://www.ncpanet.org/newsroom/ncpa's-blog---the-dose/2015/11/02/weight-loss-management-a-successful-niche-for-some-community-pharmacies 
3 American Heart Association. (2014, August). Overweight in Children. Retrieved December 11, 2017, from heart.org, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/ChildhoodObesity/Overweight-in-Children_UCM_304054_Article.jsp# 
4 Bernstein, L. (2015, May 12). 95 percent of parents think their overweight children look ‘just right’. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/05/12/95-percent-of-parents-think-their-overweight-children-look-just-right/?utm_term=.c974c1465cd5 

About the Author

Carla Frehn

Senior Director, Good Neighbor Pharmacy Marketing and Advertising
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