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Fam Pract. 2011 Aug;28(4):422-9. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmq110. Epub 2011 Jan 27.

Attitudes towards obesity treatment in GP training practices: a focus group study.

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  • 1Department of General Practice/Family Medicine, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Both patients and government expect the GP to treat obesity. Previous studies reported a negative attitude of GPs towards this task. Little is known about the attitude of GP trainees.


To assess the attitude and other factors that influence the willingness and ability of GP trainees to provide lifestyle interventions for overweight patients.


A qualitative study was performed using focus groups, consisting of first- and third-year trainees, GP trainers and teachers. Two researchers analysed the data independently.


First-year trainees lack knowledge and a positive attitude. Third-year trainees, although trained in motivational interviewing techniques, lack specific knowledge and feel cheated when discussing eating habits. Trainers are despondent as they rarely observe long-lasting results. Teachers warn the trainees not to have high hopes. The trainers and trainees fear ruining the relationship with their patient, and all make a request for evidence-based multidisciplinary treatment programmes, joint responsibility and an image change in society to stop the epidemic.


Trainees do not feel more competent in treating overweight patients successfully over the course of their GP specialty training and GP trainers are not convinced of the success of the treatment of overweight patients. Therefore, it could be equally important to reflect on the GP trainer as a role model as to concentrate on the education of the trainee. Both need a revived attitude and evidence-based treatment programmes, help from policy makers and an attitude change in society are desired.

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