GPs Failing to Help Obese Patients Lose Weight

Obesity and Marketing

GPs Failing to Help Obese Patients Lose Weight

We wanted to share this article as featured by the ABC as one of the most common themes we hear is the fact that some GPs are unaware of the services provided by the range of allied health professionals found in Australia. Couple this with the Government’s lack of funding in prevention and education directed at obese patients can lead to dire consequences for the population.

Have a read of this article and let us know what you think. We specialise in producing marketing collateral that you can provide to GPs to effectively communicate how you can directly help their patients.


GPs are failing to help obese Australians lose weight because they are mistaking low levels of health literacy with a lack of motivation, according to new research.

The University of New South Wales researchers found that one in five Australians simply do not understand how to lose weight and GPs need to do more in the battle against Australia’s obesity epidemic.

But fitness experts argue it is unfair to target doctors who do not have the time to effectively treat many of the underlying problems of obesity.

The UNSW researchers examined how GPs and practice nurses managed overweight and obese patients with low health literacy in 20 practices in Sydney and Adelaide.

The study found only a few of the 61 health staff surveyed reported assessing a patient’s health literacy.

Australians have trouble understanding how to lose weight

Around 14 million Australians are overweight or obese, according to Monash University, and Emily Jackson from Perth is one such person who struggled with weight loss for years.

After following an intensive training program, she now has a healthy body mass index.

“It’s incredibly hard but after a few months of being really, really intensive with my eating and with my exercise, it’s just become second nature,” Ms Jackson said.

Ms Jackson sought the help of a full-time trainer for her weight problem, rather than a general practitioner.

“GPs tend to strike me, or the ones that I see, they tend to strike me as not necessarily fit people,” Ms Jackson said.

“Yes, they have an understanding about nutrition but that’s only a very small part of what goes into a weight loss journey.”

Academics say GPs have a responsibility to effectively communicate with people about how to lose weight.

“The real issue is in terms of effectively communicating what to do about it,” said Professor Mark Harris, the director of the Centre for Primary Health Care at the University of New South Wales.

He said many Australians who struggled with obesity often had trouble understanding how to effectively lose weight.

“It’s more how to deliver it to a patient who perhaps is from a low educational background or… they’re from another language group,” he said.

Professor Harris said that around three in five Australians were not as aware as they could be about how they could effectively lose weight, and one in five Australians actually had low health literacy.

GPs don’t have time to talk about weight loss

Fitness experts say tackling obesity is far too big a problem for GPs to fix.

Personal trainer Marnie Ross spends her days helping and educating people on how to be healthier.

“You’ve got your fast food restaurants all over the place, you’ve got chocolate bars at the counter when you’re checking out, it’s just in your face all the time,” Ms Ross said.

“So people that don’t have that self-control and they have that addiction to food, [they] can grab-and-go anytime.”

Professor Harris argues that it is a medical problem and that it needs to be discussed in the clinic.

“The GP needs to ask patients what they’ve understood but not as a test of the patient but a test of the GP’s ability to explain that,” Professor Harris said.

Ms Ross argues there is simply not enough time during a standard consultation with a GP to effectively discuss how to lose weight.

“If they only have a very short period of time to speak with a patient, you’re not going to get results from that,” she said.

Professor Harris is currently assessing how the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines can best incorporated into GP practices.


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