Objective: A study was undertaken to examine the attitudes and practices of health care providers in the assessment and treatment of overweight and obese children and adolescents. This study describes the study design and the practice settings and person characteristics of the practitioners included in this study.
Methods: A needs assessment questionnaire was developed by a working group consisting of researchers, clinicians, educators, and representatives of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration (Department of Health and Human Services), National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health, International Life Sciences Institute, and Harris Interactive, Inc. The questionnaire consisted of 35 questions divided into 3 topic areas and was disseminated to a sample of pediatricians (n = 1088), pediatric nurse practitioners (n = 879), and registered dietitians (n = 1652).
Results: Despite a low response rate (33% for pediatric nurse practitioners, 27% for registered dieticians, and 19% for pediatricians), descriptive data were obtained about a variety of practitioner characteristics. Some significant differences were observed across practitioner groups and between genders in regard to years in practice, body mass index, and dietary and physical activity behaviors. Significant relationships were also observed in some practitioner groups between body mass index and compliance with dietary and physical activity guidelines.
Conclusions: Our data show there is a wide variance in practitioner characteristics, particularly in regard to gender, years of practice, body mass index, and obesity-related behaviors. It is hoped the analyses presented in this and in the subsequent articles will provide useful information on current attitudes and practices and will contribute to improvements in the treatment of overweight children and adolescents.