Resident physician attitudes and competence about obesity treatment: need for improved education

Med Educ Online. 2008 May 2;13:5. doi: 10.3885/meo.2008.Res00257.


Background: Obesity is a common problem in primary care, but little is known about Internal Medicine residents' attitudes towards obesity treatment.

Objective: To describe resident attitudes about obesity treatment.

Methods: Cross-sectional survey of 101 Internal Medicine residents in Philadelphia, PA, and Bronx, NY. Responses to 18 items on a Likert scale assessed resident attitudes. Weight loss goals were assessed with open-ended questions to a clinical scenario. ANOVA with trend analysis compared questionnaire responses to resident postgraduate year (PGY) level. Associations between clinic site, PGY level, and dichotomized Likert responses were tested with chi-square analysis.

Results: 19% of residents felt competent in prescribing weight loss programs. Few residents (18%) considered the current recommendations of a 5-10% reduction in body weight to be successful in an obese hypothetical patient. Third-year residents reported greater feelings of negativity towards obese patients than first- and second year residents (p<.05)

Conclusions: Resident physicians do not feel competent in treating obesity and have unrealistic weight loss goals; third-year residents had more negative attitudes about obese patients compared to residents in their 1(st) or 2(nd) year of training. These areas are targets for further resident education about obesity management.

Keywords: obesity; resident education; treatment.