Case study

A Problem based learning (PBL) scenario

Ashanti has been given a PBL case by her lecturer on an obese man in his late 20s who is considering stapling treatment. She has been asked what options she would suggest for safe and permanent weight loss.

Ashanti has some basic knowledge about the health dangers of obesity such as premature death and high blood pressure, and also has an idea of the possible treatments such as diet and exercise. But where does she begin to get more detailed information?

Wanting to get some introductory background to the case, and certain that the Internet must have plenty of information, Ashanti types ‘obesity treatment’ into the Google search box.

She’s used Google many times before, and found it easy to use. Unfortunately, on this occasion, her enquiry produces around 7 million hits, and though some of them look promising, she is not that confident about her ability to choose the best sites.

Perhaps she should check what’s available in the library? A search of the library catalogue finds several types of publications, including a book by Briony Thomas titled ‘Manual of dietetic practice’. It contains sections on obesity as well as information on cognitive behavioural strategies for treating obesity. She also finds another book edited by Thomas Wadden and Albert Stunkard titled ‘Handbook of obesity treatment’.

Ashanti has made a good start and is on the right track. But she needs to get more in-depth information if she’s going to be able to complete this PBL case.

She then remembers Intute:Medicine which has been recommended to her by her librarian. She has been told that it only contains resources that have been objectively evaluated.

Ashanti types ‘obesity treatment’ into the Intute:Medicine search box and finds that the number of hits is just over 20. Among the resources she finds is a report published by the US National Institutes of Health in 1998 titled Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults. This report highlights ways to treat obesity such as dietary therapy, physical activity, behaviour therapy, pharmacotherapy as well as surgery.

Ashanti also finds that the authors of the report have included a list of all the references they used to write it. She sees many titles that she thinks could be helpful. One is a paper from 1994 is called Weight cycling. National Task Force on the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity, and it’s published in something called JAMA. Ashanti isn’t sure what this is so she asks her librarian. He tells her this is a journal and its full title is the Journal of the American Medical Association . So Ashanti has found a journal article. And the library has a copy of it as well.

Possessing some useful reports, books and journal articles, Ashanti is very pleased with the material she’s found so far. Her librarian recommends she uses a database called PubMed to search for more recent journal articles on treating obesity.

She just types in the keywords ‘obesity treatment stapling’ in the PubMed search box, and finds many results including some very recent reviews , and journal articles . Journals and reviews are good – Ashanti’s lecturer said that the students should use this type of material in their research, so she’s pleased she’s found these. Many of them are available online as well, such as one published in a journal called International Journal of Obesity, so Ashanti can read them at home, rather than staying in the library all day.

The references Ashanti used:

Weight cycling. National Task Force on the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity. JAMA. 1994; 272 (15) pp. 1196-1202.

National Institutes of Health (1998). Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults. [Online]. Available from: Accessed: 19th April 2007.

Thomas, Briony (2001). Manual of dietetic practice. 3rd ed. Oxford, Blackwell Science.

Wadden, T. & Stunkard, A. (eds.) (2002). Handbook of obesity treatment. London, Guildford.


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