Doctors admit feeling underqualified to treat obesity

In study survey, most say nutritionists, dietitians offer better care

For those looking for insight on how to shed a few extra pounds, doctors may not be the best source of advice, according to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In a national survey of 500 physicians, 44 percent reported success in helping obese patients lose weight, and most identified nutritionists and dietitians as the most qualified providers of care for overweight patients. The results of the study were published in today's issue of BMJ Open.

"In order to begin improving obesity care, medical education should focus on enhancing those obesity-related skills primary care physicians feel most qualified to deliver, as well as changing the composition of health care teams and practice resources," said Sara Bleich, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the school's Department of Health Policy and Management.

The researchers evaluated physicians' perspectives on the causes of obesity, their competence in treating obese patients, which health professionals they believed were most qualified to treat obese patients, and their solutions for improving obesity care. They found that those surveyed overwhelmingly supported additional training, including nutrition counseling and practice-based changes such as having scales report body mass index.

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Tagged obesity