A qualitative study of GPs' views of treating obesity

Epstein, Laura; Ogden, Jane
October 2005
British Journal of General Practice;Oct2005, Vol. 55 Issue 519, p750
Academic Journal
Background Due to the increased prevalence of obesity GPs now have a key role in managing obese patients. Aim To explore GPs' views about treating patients with obesity. Setting An inner London primary care trust Design of study A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews. Method Twenty-one GPs working in an inner London primary care trust were interviewed about recent obese patients and obesity in general. An interpretative phenomenological approach was used for data analysis. Results GPs primarily believed that obesity was the responsibility of the patient, rather than a medical problem requiring a medical solution. They also believed that in contrast to this, obese patients wanted to hand responsibility over to their doctor. This contradiction created conflict for the GPs. which was exacerbated by a sense that existing treatment options were ineffective. Further, this conflict was perceived as potentially detrimental to the doctor-patient relationship. GPs described a range of strategies that they used to maintain a good relationship including offering anti-obesity drugs, in which they had little faith, as a means of meeting patients' expectations; listening to the patients' problems, despite not having a solution to them; and offering an understanding of the problems associated with being overweight. Conclusion GPs believe that although patients want them to take responsibility for their weight problems, obesity is not within the GP's professional domain. Until more effective interventions have been developed GPs may remain unconvinced that obesity is a problem requiring their clinical expertise and may continue to resist any government pressure to accept obesity as part of their workload.


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