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'Wake-up call' for GPs treating the obese

AAP logoAAP 26/10/2016 Sarah Wiedersehn

Australian GPs shouldn't be worried about confronting obese patients about the need to lose weight, experts say.

Some doctors report feeling concerned about offending patients by discussing their weight during a consultation, but new research, published in The Lancet, has shown there's no need for them to worry.

A trial, led by experts at the University of Oxford, involved more than 130 doctors in England, challenged almost 1900 patients about their weight during routine consultations.

Half were offered a free 12-week weight management program and if the referral was accepted, the GP ensured the first appointment was made for the participant and offered follow up.

The other half, were simply advised by their GP that losing weight would benefit their health.

Over three quarters, 77 per cent, of those offered the intervention agreed to take part in the weight management program and 40 per cent attended.

After 12 months, a quarter of participants in the referral group had lost at least five per cent of their body weight - double the rate of the control group.

Importantly for the doctors, the majority of people, 81 per cent, across both groups found the intervention appropriate and helpful.

The authors say the low cost intervention should be considered as the first point of call for GPs in treating obesity.

"On average, people consult their doctor five times a year meaning there is huge opportunity to deliver this low cost intervention on a large scale," said lead author, Professor Paul Aveyard.

Dr Tony Bartone, vice presented of the Australian Medical Association, agrees the research has given local doctors with a "wake-up call".

"We all need to look at the feedback we're giving to ensure that the advice we are giving is appropriate."

He says the best way to support an obese patient is to frequently give them advice, encouragement and direction without shaming them.

"Shaming is not good, regardless of whether you know or don't know the patient. We know that it's got negative consequences and its about giving full and frank information tailored to that patient," Dr Bartone said.

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