Obese women's perceptions of their physicians' weight management attitudes and practices

Arch Fam Med. 2000 Sep-Oct;9(9):854-60. doi: 10.1001/archfami.9.9.854.


Background: Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Primary care physicians will see increasing numbers of patients with long-term weight management problems.

Objective: To examine obese women's perceptions of their physicians' weight management attitudes and practices.

Design and setting: Women who participated in obesity trials at a university clinic completed a questionnaire that assessed their views of weight control provided by their primary care physician.

Participants: The patients were 259 women whose age was 44.0 +/- 10.0 years; weight, 96.7 +/- 13.2 kg; and body mass index (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters), 35.2 +/- 4.5 (all data given as mean +/- SD).

Main outcome measures: Using 7-point scales (1 indicates low; and 7, high), patients rated their satisfaction with care provided for their general health and that for their obesity. They also identified methods their physician recommended for weight management and the frequency of negative interactions with their physician concerning weight control.

Results: Participants were generally satisfied with the care they received for their general health and with their physicians' medical expertise (mean scores, 6. 1 and 6.2, respectively). They were significantly (P<.001) less satisfied with care for their obesity and with their physicians' expertise in this area (mean scores, 4.1 and 4.3, respectively). Almost 50% reported that their physician had not recommended any of 10 common weight loss methods, and 75% indicated they looked to their physician a "slight amount" or "not at all" for help with weight control. Only a small minority of patients (0.4%-8.0%) reported frequent, negative interactions with physicians concerning their weight.

Conclusions: The last finding helps allay concerns that obese patients are routinely treated disrespectfully by physicians when discussing weight. The challenge, however, for primary care physicians appears to be providing patients better assistance with weight management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Philadelphia
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Social Perception
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Weight Loss