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Fewer U.S. Patients Getting Weight Counseling From Doctors

THURSDAY Jan. 10, 2013 -- Despite the fact that an increasing number of Americans are overweight and obese, there's been a decrease in weight counseling offered by primary care doctors, according to a new study.

Researchers examined national data and found that slightly more than 6 percent of patient visits with primary care providers in 2007 to 2008 included weight counseling, which is 46 percent lower than in 1995 to 1996.

This decrease in weight counseling occurred even though the percentage of adults who were overweight or obese increased from about 52 percent in 1995 to 63 percent in 2008, the Penn State College of Medicine researchers said.

"It is striking that the odds of weight loss counseling declined by 41 percent, with only 29.9 percent of obese patients receiving counseling in 2007-2008, given the substantial increases in the rates of overweight and obesity during that time," study author Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, an assistant professor of medicine, said in a Penn State news release.

The researchers also found that the likelihood of receiving weight counseling fell 46 percent for patients with high blood pressure and 59 percent for those with diabetes, according to the study in the journal Medical Care.

"People with these conditions stand the most to gain from the weight counseling," Kraschnewski said in the news release.

Possible reasons for the decrease in weight counseling include time limitations during medical appointments, and doctors' doubts that patients can change their habits or the belief that they don't have the proper training to provide lifestyle counseling, the researchers suggested.

"There are many additional competing demands in the outpatient care between study years, including an increase in chronic illnesses, a focus on quality improvement and use of electronic health records," Kraschnewski said. "Although visit duration has actually increased over the study time period, the number of items addressed during clinic visits has increased substantially more, suggesting less time is available to provide counseling."

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute outlines ways to treat obesity.

Posted: January 2013


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