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MedGenMed. 2005 Oct 12;7(4):10.

Are healthcare professionals advising obese patients to lose weight? A trend analysis.

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  • 1Chronic Disease Nutrition Branch, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.



During the past 20 years, adult obesity rates have doubled in the United States. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued guidelines in 1998 recommending that healthcare professionals advise obese patients to lose weight. We examined trends in physician counseling for weight loss during 1994-2000, characteristics of obese adults receiving advice to lose weight in 2000, and the association in 2000 between receiving advice and attempting to lose weight.


We analyzed 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2000 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based telephone survey of noninstitutionalized adults from 48 states and the District of Columbia. We limited the analysis to obese respondents who had visited physicians for a routine medical checkup during the previous 12 months (n = 61,968).


Among obese patients, the proportion who received advice to lose weight decreased from 42.3% (se = 0.79) in 1994 to 40.3% (se = 0.55) in 2000. We observed declines in receipt of advice for almost all subgroups. Respondents in the youngest and oldest age groups and those without health insurance had the largest significant declines. Patients who reported receiving advice to lose weight had 2.8 the odds of trying to lose weight as those who did not receive advice (95% confidence interval, 2.5, 3.2).


Despite the 1998 NIH guidelines and increases in morbid obesity, the proportion of obese persons who reported being counseled by a healthcare professional has declined slightly. Because counseling might be associated with weight loss attempts, barriers to counseling need to be identified and addressed.

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