Background: Obesity is an increasing epidemic in both the US and veteran populations, yet it remains largely understudied in the Veteran's Health Administration (VHA) setting. The purpose of our study was to identify barriers to the effective management of obesity in VHA primary care settings.
Methods: Three focus groups of clinicians from a Veteran's Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) and an affiliated Community Based Outpatient Center (CBOC) were conducted to identify potential barriers to obesity management. The focus groups and previously published studies then informed the creation of a 47-item survey that was then disseminated and completed by 55 primary care clinicians.
Results: The focus groups identified provider, system, and patient barriers to obesity care. Lack of obesity training during medical school and residency was associated with lower rates of discussing diet and exercise with obese patients (p < 0.05). Clinicians who watched their own diets vigorously were more likely to calculate BMI for obese patients than other clinicians (42% vs. 13%, p < 0.05). Many barriers identified in previous studies (e.g., attitudes toward obese patients, lack of insurance payments for obesity care) were not prevalent barriers in the current study.
Conclusion: Many VHA clinicians do not routinely provide weight management services for obese patients. The most prevalent barriers to obesity care were poor education during medical school and residency and the lack of information provided by the VHA to both clinicians and patients about available weight management services.