Doctors Lack Skills to Treat Obesity

A national survey of primary care doctors found agreement that dietitians were most qualified to help patients with obesity. In the research, Sara Bleich and colleagues found overwhelming agreement that primary care physicians (PCPs) need more training and practice changes to better deliver obesity care.

The study, published in BMJ Open, was a national cross-sectional online survey of 500 PCPs to determine their perspectives on causes of obesity and needs for improved patient care for the condition. While all PCPs felt a need for improved training, those who completed medical school more recently reported being better prepared to help patients with obesity.

Despite national guidelines for primary care physicians to counsel their patients with obesity to lose weight, only one-third of such patients report receiving an obesity diagnosis or weight-related advice. This study provides insight into why this is so.

“In order to begin improving obesity care, medical education should focus on enhancing those obesity-related skills PCPs feel most qualified to deliver as well as changing the composition of healthcare teams and practice resources,” the authors conclude. Practice-based changes to improve care are also needed. Having scales report body mass index, which could become a listed vital sign in a patient’s record, is an example of one such needed change.

Click here to read the Medscape summary article, and here to read the original paper.

Doctor with Stethoscope image © Alex Proimos / Wikimedia Commons