Objective: To describe the current knowledge, attitudes, and practices of French general practitioners (GPs) in the field of adult overweight and obesity management.
Research methods and procedures: A cross-sectional telephone survey interviewed a sample of 600 GPs, representative of the private GPs in southeastern France. A four-part questionnaire assessed personal and professional characteristics, attitudes and opinions about overweight and obesity, relevant knowledge and training, and practices (diagnostic methods, clinical assessments, weight loss objectives, types of counseling).
Results: Most GPs knew that weight problems are health-threatening, and 79% agreed that managing these problems is part of their role. Nevertheless, 58% did not feel they perform this role effectively, and one-third did not find it professionally gratifying. Approximately 30% had negative attitudes toward overweight and obese patients; 57% were pessimistic about patients' ability to lose weight; 64% often set weight loss objectives more demanding than guidelines call for; and neither food diaries nor nutritional education were used systematically. GPs' feelings of effectiveness and attitudes toward obese patients were associated with some professional (training) and personal (BMI, personal diet experience) characteristics.
Discussion: GPs' feelings of ineffectiveness may stem from an underlying conflict between practitioners' and patients' representations of weight problems and the relationship problems this causes. Inadequate practices and health care system organization may also play a role.