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Prev Med. 2004 Jun;38(6):819-27.

Speaking of weight: how patients and primary care clinicians initiate weight loss counseling.

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Department of Family Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA.



Obesity is epidemic in the US and other industrialized countries and contributes significantly to population morbidity and mortality. Primary care physicians see a substantial portion of the obese population, yet rarely counsel patients to lose weight.


Descriptive field notes of outpatient visits collected as part of a multimethod comparative case study were used to study patterns of physician-patient communication around weight control in 633 encounters in family practices in a Midwestern state.


Sixty-eight percent of adults and 35% of children were overweight. Excess weight was mentioned in 17% of encounters with overweight patients, while weight loss counseling occurred with 11% of overweight adults and 8% of overweight children. In weight loss counseling encounters, patients formulated weight as a problem by making it a reason for visit or explicitly or implicitly asking for help with weight loss. Clinicians did so by framing weight as a medical problem in itself or as an exacerbating factor for another medical problem.


Strategies that increase the likelihood of patients identifying weight as a problem, or that provide clinicians with a way to "medicalize" the patient's obesity, are likely to increase the frequency of weight loss counseling in primary care visits.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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