Counseling overweight patients: analysis of preventive encounters in primary care

Int J Qual Health Care. 2010 Dec;22(6):486-92. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzq060. Epub 2010 Oct 17.


Objective: The increasing prevalence of obesity requires particularly primary care providers to take action. The aim of this study was to analyze general practitioners (GPs) encounters with overweight and obese patients in primary care to test the hypothesis that patients with a BMI ≥ 30 kg/m² would have longer consultations focusing on lifestyle-related issues like nutrition and physical activity than those with a BMI < 30 kg/m².

Design: Cross sectional comparison of audiotaped encounters of patients with a BMI ≥ 30 kg/m² and those with a BMI < 30 kg/m².

Setting: Twelve GP surgeries in Berlin, Germany.

Participants: Fifty patients who agreed to have preventive check-up encounters audiotaped.

Main outcome measures: Based on the Roter Interaction

Analysis: System (RIAS) we assessed duration of encounter and the prevalence of GP statements regarding cardiovascular risks, nutrition and physical activity.

Results: An increased BMI was found to be a predictor for the length of encounters (P = 0.01), whereas the content of talks was mainly determined by the individual of GP and sex of the GP. Statements regarding cardiovascular risks were most frequent, followed by those regarding nutrition and physical activity. In this study the assessed physiological parameters were not associated with the specific contents of preventive encounters like nutrition or physical activity (P > 0.05).

Conclusions: Our results indicate that GPs rarely use the check-up program to conduct lifestyle consultations with obese patients. Barriers to lifestyle counseling and possible solutions are discussed with a view to promoting individualized and target management of overweight patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Berlin
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Counseling / methods
  • Counseling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Nutritional Sciences / education
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / prevention & control
  • Overweight / therapy*
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Primary Health Care / standards
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors