Current attitudes and practices of obesity counselling by health care providers

Christine Petrin, Scott Kahan, Monique Turner, Christine Gallagher, William H. Dietz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Introduction Relatively few patients receive obesity counselling consistent with the USPSTF guidelines, and many health care professionals (HCPs) are biased in their attitudes towards obesity management. Methods A national sample of family physicians, internists, OB/GYN physicians, and nurse practitioners (NPs) completed a web-based survey of beliefs, practice, and knowledge regarding obesity management. Results A majority of HCPs believe that it is both the patient's and the provider's responsibility to ensure that the patient is counselled about obesity. Obesity (77%), obesity-related diseases (79%), or obesity-related risk factors (71%) prompt HCPs to offer obesity counselling; 59% of HCPs wait for the patient to broach the subject of their weight. Increased blood pressure (89%) and heart disease risks (90%) are the most common themes in counselling. Across all HCPs except NPs “exercise” is discussed more frequently than “physical activity” (85% vs 81%), “diet” more frequently than “eating habits” (77% vs 75%), and “obesity” more frequently than “unhealthy weight” (60% vs 45%). NPs are more likely to discuss physical activity, eating habits, and unhealthy weight instead. To improve counselling for obesity, HCPs reported needing more time (70%), training in obesity management (53%), improved reimbursement (53%), and better tools to help patients recognise obesity risks (50%). Obesity-related diseases, risk factors, or obesity alone predict obesity counselling amongst HCPs. Conclusion Better training in weight management and tools to help patients recognise risks appear to be key elements in helping patients compare the risks of what they may consider invasive therapy against the risks of continued obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-359
Number of pages8
JournalObesity Research and Clinical Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Obesity counselling
  • Obesity education
  • Obesity training
  • Weight management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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