Background: In contrast to the well-documented high prevalence of overweight and obesity in the general population, the prevalence, recognition rates and management by primary care physicians--as the core gatekeeper in the health care system--remains poorly studied.
Purpose of the study: To examine (1) the point prevalence of overweight (BMI 25.0-29.9 kg/m(2)) and obesity (BMI> or =30 kg/m(2)) in primary care patients, (2) prevalence patterns in patients with high-risk constellations (diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, etc.), (3) doctors' recognition and interventions, as well as patients' use and perceived effectiveness of weight-loss interventions and (4) factors associated with non-treatment.
Methods: Cross-sectional point prevalence study of 45 125 unselected consecutive primary care attendees recruited from a representative nationwide sample of 1912 primary care practices.
Measures: (1) standardized clinical appraisal of each patient by the physician (diagnostic status and recognition, severity, comorbidity, current and past interventions). (2) Patient self-report questionnaire: height and weight, illness history, past and current treatments and their perceived effectiveness, health attitudes and behaviors.
Results: (1) In all, 37.9% of all primary care attendees were overweight, 19.4% obese. (2) Rates for overweight and obesity were highest in patients with diabetes (43.6 and 36.7%) and hypertension (46.1 and 31.3%), followed by patients with cardiovascular disorders. Rates of overweight/obesity increased steadily by the number of comorbid conditions. (3) Doctors' recognition of overweight (20-30%) and obesity (50-65%) was low, patients' actual use of weight control interventions even lower (past 12 months: 8-11%, lifetime: 32-39%). Patient success rates were quite limited. (4) Co- and multimorbidity in particular as well as other patient and illness variables were identified as predictors for recognition, but prediction of patients' actual use of weight loss interventions was limited.
Conclusions: Primary care management of overweight and obesity is largely deficient, predominantly due to four interrelated factors: doctors' poor recognition of patients' weight status, doctors' inefficient efforts at intervention, patients' poor acceptance of such interventions and dissatisfaction with existing life-style modification strategies.