Weight management in primary care: how can it be made more effective?

Proc Nutr Soc. 2005 Feb;64(1):97-103. doi: 10.1079/pns2004414.


Obesity is often difficult to tackle in primary care. Pressure of time in the consultation, a lack of appropriately-trained primary care staff, a shortage of community dietitians or nutritionists, the potentially enormous caseload, language or cultural barriers and the sheer intractability of patients' eating habits, exercise behaviour and their clinical condition, all conspire to make general practitioners, other team members and often the patients themselves lose heart and stop even trying. However, there are ways of overcoming these difficulties. Examples of changes that evidence suggests are able to support and enhance basic one-to-one interventions in general practice include: improved clinical guidelines; better training of primary care staff; at-risk patient registers; smarter database search tools; new quality incentives; closer working with dietitians, counsellors and pharmacists; more hospital outreach clinics; designated general practitioner specialists and practice clustering; expanded exercise referral schemes and links with leisure providers; subsidised referral to commercial slimming groups; better use of patient groups and voluntary and community workers. The present paper describes a proposed 'triple-tier' pathway for weight management incorporating most of the elements mentioned earlier. With a more joined-up and creative approach to the development and organisation of primary care, more comprehensive training and workforce planning, and better integration with social care, voluntary groups and the commercial sector, weight management in general practice has the potential to be much more effective.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • United Kingdom