Physicians Unqualified to Treat Obesity

By Ryan Halvorson
Feb 18, 2013

Perhaps it’s time fitness professionals schooled physicians on how to solve the obesity problem. According to researchers from Johns Hopkins University, a significant percentage of polled primary-care physicians don’t feel qualified and educated enough to treat obesity.

The study, published in BMJ Open (2012; 2: e001871), included Internet survey data from 500 PCPs throughout the United States.

“We evaluated physician perspectives on the following topics: (1) causes of obesity, (2) competence in treating obese patients, (3) perspectives on the health professional most qualified to help obese patients lose or maintain weight and (4) solutions for improving obesity care,” the authors explained.

Here are a few takeaways from the study:

  • PCPs support getting additional training and education, such as nutrition counseling, as well as having scales that report BMI.
  • PCPs believe nutritionists and dietitians are the most qualified professionals to help obese patients.
  • Survey respondents who finished medical school within the last 20 years were more likely to identify lack of information about
    good eating habits and lack of access to health food as important causes of obesity.
  • This same group also felt more successful in helping obese patients lose weight.
  • More than 40% of respondents admitted being unsuccessful in helping obese patients lose weight.

“As most practicing PCPs report inadequate training in obesity care, these physicians may be particularly receptive to continuing medical education in this area,” the authors said. “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.”

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Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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