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European GPs are not given enough training to support overweight patients: study

European GPs are not given enough training to support overweight patients: study
Copyright REUTERS
Copyright REUTERS
By Cristina Abellan MatamorosChris Harris
Published on
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In time for European Obesity Day, a study revealed that doctors don't feel they have enough training to give proper advice to overweight patients.


Doctors are not given enough training to deal with obesity and some admit they don’t pro-actively talk to patients about their weight, said a study by the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO).

Obesity and overweight are defined as an "abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health" by the World Health Organisation. The WHO's latest estimates in European Union countries indicate that overweight affects 30-70% and obesity affects 10-30% of adults.

A total of 712 general practitioners (GP) from seven European countries — France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK — took part in the survey, which was conducted between February 21 and March 18, 2018.

GPs blame a lack of training and information to properly deal with obesity

45% of all GPs interviewed said they received none, or less than four hours of training during the entire time-span of their studies. The Netherlands recorded the highest number of GPs who received no to little training (59%), France was second with 55%, followed by the UK with 54%.

Spain and Italy were the only countries where GPs said they received more than 48 hours of training, with 20% and 23% respectively.

Opinium Research for EASO Research for EASO

Overall, 83% of doctors said they should have more training on the causes, consequences, and treatment of obesity. But the greatest number of GPs who said they should receive more training came from the UK and Poland (86%). Of the doctors surveyed, 89% said they would like more training.

Some GPs admit they don’t pro-actively talk to their patients about their weight

The Netherlands and the UK had the highest number of GPs who admitted they don't proactively talk to their patients about weight problems. While Spain, Italy, and Poland have the most GPs who ask weight questions to their patients.

The study asked GPs why they don’t normally discuss weight with their patients and the top three reasons were that GPs didn’t feel like they had enough time, they had the impression that their patients would not like to discuss their weight, and they believed the patient was responsible for addressing weight concerns with their doctor.

Which country recorded the most overweight patients?

According to the GPs' records, the country with the highest level of obesity is Germany (29%). Overall, more than half (58%) of all patients fall into overweight and obesity categories.

Almost all GPs (95%) surveyed viewed obesity to be a "serious danger to health" in their country. About 38% said obesity was a "very serious" risk to health.

What causes obesity?

Lack of exercise was the most common cause of obesity according to most GPs interviewed. Other main causes include eating foods with high fat and high sugar quantities, and eating too much. According to the WHO, over one third of European adults don't exercise enough.

What can people do to prevent obesity?

Diet and exercise are the most recommended treatments suggested by GPs who were interviewed. Just over half of them (51%) initially suggest a diet regime. This is particularly recommended in Spain (67%), Poland (60%) and the UK (56%), whereas GPs in the Netherlands and France recommend increasing physical activity.

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