Objectives: To determine the level of knowledge of primary health care physicians and the barriers perceived in the management of overweight and obesity in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.
Setting: Primary health care centers in Dammam and Al-Khobar cities, Saudi Arabia.
Design: A cross-sectional study.
Materials and methods: One hundred and forty-nine physicians were surveyed. Data were collected with a specially made anonymous, self-administrated, structured questionnaire with a Cronbach alpha reliability of 0.85, and content validity by five experts was used to measure the knowledge and barriers from several different aspects of care provided by primary health care centers to the overweight and obese.
Results: One hundred and thirty (87%) physicians responded. More than two-thirds of the respondents considered themselves as key players in the management of obesity. However, only one-third believed that they were well prepared to treat obesity. Eighty-three per cent of the respondents had a negative attitude toward the concept of overweight and obesity. It was noted that 76.9% of physicians advised patients to control their weight with sport and exercise together with low calorie diet. Sixty percent of the respondents used body mass index to diagnose obesity. Seventy-two percent of respondents did not use weight reduction medications to treat obesity. Lack of training, poor administrative support, and time constraints were identified as barriers in managing overweight and obesity.
Conclusion: Respondents were aware of the magnitude of overweight and obesity as a major public health problem in Saudi Arabia, and they were also aware of the correct definition of overweight and obesity, as well as its effect in increasing mortality. Better training is required to improve some areas of awareness and management of the conditions.
Keywords: Barriers; Saudi Arabia; knowledge; obesity; overweight; primary health care physicians.