Many Primary-Care Doctors Want Help Treating Obesity

FRIDAY Dec. 21, 2012 -- Only 44 percent of primary-care doctors say they've helped obese patients lose weight, and many believe that nutritionists and dietitians are the most qualified care providers for these patients, researchers have found.

For the new study, researchers surveyed 500 primary-care doctors across the United States in order to get their views about the causes of obesity, their ability to treat obese patients, ways to improve obesity care and which health professionals are most qualified to care for obese patients.

"In order to begin improving obesity care, medical education should focus on enhancing those obesity-related skills primary-care physicians feel most qualified to deliver, as well as changing the composition of health care teams and practice resources," study lead author Sara Bleich, an assistant professor in the health policy and management department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said in a school news release.

"With respect to training and practice-based changes [that] primary-care physicians would like to see implemented, 93 percent reported that including body-mass index (or BMI, a measurement based on height and weight) as a fifth vital sign would be helpful; 89 percent reported that including diet and exercise tips in patients' charts would be helpful; 85 percent reported that having scales that calculate BMI would be helpful; and 69 percent reported that adding BMI to patients' charts would be helpful," Bleich said.

The investigators also found that primary-care doctors who had been in practice for fewer than 20 years following completion of medical school were more likely to say two important causes of obesity were lack of information about good eating habits and lack of access to healthy food.

"There are few differences in primary-care physicians' perspectives about the causes of obesity or solutions to improve care, regardless of when they completed medical school, suggesting that obesity-related medical education has changed little over time," Bleich said.

"Physicians who completed medical school more recently reported feeling more successful helping obese patients lose weight," she added. "However, no matter when they completed medical school they overwhelmingly supported additional training and practice-based changes to help them improve their obesity care."

The study was published online Dec. 20 in the journal BMJ Open.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about treatment of overweight and obesity.

Posted: December 2012


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