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GPs should not be afraid to recommend weight loss programmes

A recent study published in The Lancet has described how many doctors do not address some patient’s weight due to lack of time, fear of causing offence, and doubting that interventions will be effective. This is in spite of official guidelines recommending that doctors screen for obesity and direct patients to appropriate weight loss programmes. This trial, led by Oxford University, included 137 GPs and 1,882 people attending consultations that were unrelated to weight loss. The patients were split into 2 groups; the first being offered a 12-week weight management programme and follow-up appointments, whilst the second group were told by their GP that weight loss would be beneficial to their health and offered further follow-up appointments.

After follow-up it was found that the group who were offered a full programme lost on average 1.43kg more than those who were just given advice at the original consultation. Overall, patients were enthusiastic about the suggestion for help, in fact 81% across both groups found the post-consultation intervention appropriate and useful. Individuals across both groups had taken action, but is was found that five times more people in the ‘programme’ group had taken effective action. On average, people consult their doctor five times per year; this study highlights an effective way to address weight concerns in patients on a large scale, and – due to the fact that many of the patients felt it was appropriate at the time – doctors should not feel intimidated by approaching the subject.

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