Talking about weight talk: primary care practitioner knowledge, attitudes and practice

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Background: Primary care practitioners (PCPs) have a vital role in patient weight management. This study investigates knowledge, attitudes and practice of UK PCPs regarding patient weight management.

Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire assessed PCP perceived knowledge, self-reported practice, attitudes towards overweight/obesity and actual knowledge regarding overweight and obesity management. Practitioners from NE Scotland were invited to participate.

Results: Participants comprised 107 PCPs. Most participants viewed management of overweight and obesity as core to their roles and 75% reported discussing weight with overweight/obese patients. Management techniques included discussion and advice provision. Behavioural change techniques (BCTs) were reported infrequently, despite perceptions that patients lacked motivation to lose weight. A quarter of participants reported a lack of training and a third reported inadequate skills to manage overweight/obese patients. Mean percent correct for knowledge questions was approximately 53%. Barriers to patient weight management included lack of specialists for referral and limited time.

Conclusions: This study confirmed a primary care role in managing weight in overweight/obese patients. Our finding that most participants reported discussing weight with their overweight or obese patients is unsupported by previously published research, however, a more comprehensive sample of practitioners is required to scrutinize this disparity. Incongruence exists between practitioners’ perceptions of difficulties associated with patient weight loss and the tools they use to address them. Inclusion of training in BCT, the provision of weight care specialists, or referral on to commercial weight loss organizations may provide more effective pathways for PCPs to assist weight loss for overweight/obese patients in primary care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Communication in Healthcare
Issue number3-4
Early online date6 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Obesity
  • Primary health care
  • Attitudes
  • Communication
  • Behaviour change
  • Overweight
  • Practice
  • Cross-sectional


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