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Study shows weight counseling decreases despite increase in obesity rates

Past research has shown that primary care physicians feel under qualified and unprepared to provide weight-related counseling. The need to better educate doctors on how to advise patients about making healthy lifestyle changes could be a key factor in why few physicians offer weight counseling, despite an uptick in the number of overweight and obese Americans, according to findings recently published in Medical Care.

In the study (subscription required), Penn State researchers examined data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey for the years 1995-1996 and 2007-2008. The survey collects information about the provision and use of outpatient medical care services in the United States. The 2007-08 data was the most recent available at the time of the study. Researchers selected the two time periods because the survey structure was similar for better comparisons. Futurity reports:

More than 145 million adult Americans are overweight or obese. Despite the current obesity epidemic, patients seen in 2007-2008 had 46 percent lower odds of receiving weight counseling, with counseling occurring in only 6.2 percent of visits in that year. At the same time, the percentage of adults who were overweight or obese increased from 52.1 percent in 1995 to 63.3 percent in 2008.

“It is striking that the odds of weight loss counseling declined by 41 percent, with only 29.9 percent of obese patients receiving counseling in 2007-2008, given the substantial increases in the rates of overweight and obesity during that time,” says Jennifer Kraschnewski, assistant professor of medicine at Penn State.

Patients with high blood pressure were 46 percent less likely to receive counseling, and diabetes patients were 59 percent less likely. “People with these conditions stand the most to gain from the weight counseling,” Kraschnewski says.

Researchers say that beyond doctors' perceptions that their training for lifestyle counseling is inadequate the barriers for physicians to offer weight counseling also include pessimism that patients can change and time limitations during appointments.

Previously: Stanford forum on how food policies affect our nation’s obesity rates posted online, A call to support, not shame, obese people and Four states examine their cultural environment to reduce obesity rates
Photo by USACE Europe District

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