Physicians weigh in on obesity diagnostics; admit feeling ill-equipped

The scale is an infinite conundrum, even for physicians, a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health survey has discovered.

Only 44 percent of the 500 general practitioners queried for the report claimed success in aiding obese patients with weight loss, with a majority of the primary care physicians insisting that nutritionists and dietitians were far better suited for the task.

"In order to begin improving obesity care, medical education should focus on enhancing those obesity-related skills primary care physicians feel most qualified to deliver, as well as changing the composition of healthcare teams and practice resources," said Sara Bleich, PhD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of Health Policy and Management, in a news release.

Bleich and the rest of her team interviewed family practitioners and general internists between Feb. 9, 2011 and March 1, 2011. Physician views on the causes of obesity, competence in treating obese patients, perspectives on the health professional most qualified to help obese patients lose or maintain weight and solutions for improving obesity care were extensively analyzed by the cohort. There was found to be overwhelming support amongst PCPs for additional training programs, nutritional counseling options for patients and improved scaling equipment so that any physician could gather patient weight vitals within the comfort of their own practice.   

More findings from the study resurfaced as follows:

All information and data from "National Survey of U.S. Primary Care Physicians' Perspectives About Causes of Obesity and Solutions to Improve Care.” Presentation by PhysBizTech.

"There are few differences in primary care physician perspectives about the causes of obesity or solutions to improve care, regardless of when they completed medical school, suggesting that obesity-related medical education has changed little over time,” Bleich concluded. “Physicians who completed medical school more recently reported feeling more successful in helping obese patients lose weight. However, no matter when they completed medical school they overwhelmingly supported additional training and practice-based changes to help them improve their obesity care."

The results were published in the December 20, 2012 issue of the journal BMJ Open.