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Br J Gen Pract. 1991 Apr;41(345):147-50.

Management of weight problems and obesity: knowledge, attitudes and current practice of general practitioners.

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  • 1Department of Community Medicine, University of Leeds.


A postal questionnaire was used to assess general practitioners' knowledge, attitudes and current practice of treatment regarding obesity and weight problems. Overall, 299 responses (75%) were received from general practitioners randomly selected from family practitioner committee lists in Portsmouth and Norwich. Currently 27% of the doctors were overweight and a further 3% obese. Many doctors (69%) had tried to lose weight at some time and 40% had been overweight and a further 12% obese in the past. The most popular methods used to educate overweight and obese patients were one to one counselling and giving out diet sheets and leaflets on healthy eating. The treatment advice to patients from the majority of doctors was to eat less in general (78%) (specifically to eat fewer calories 75%); to exercise (77%); or to attend a slimmers group (54%). Doctors thought that they were less effective than the media or the family in persuading overweight patients to lose weight. Doctors said they were prepared to counsel on weight reduction but felt they had little success in achieving weight loss in patients. Experience was ranked as the most important contributor to knowledge about managing obesity, and medical school was rated as least important. Further study is needed to discover how different practices and attitudes affect patient management and which ones are associated with greatest success. Medical schools and postgraduate centres could play a more important role in educating doctors about nutrition.

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