Obesity communication among patients by health professionals: Findings from the Weight Care Project

Anne Moorhead, Vivien Coates, Alison Gallagher, Geraldine Nolan, Kathy Murphy, Diane Hazlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Obesity is on the increase worldwide and is a major global public health problem. In an in- creasingly obesogenic environment, it’s impor- tant that health professionals are equipped to identify and address obesity issues within their clinical practice. As part of the Weight Care Pro- ject, the aim of this study was to explore the obesity-related communication issues for pri- mary care and community-based health profes- sionals. The study design was a quantitative survey, which was completed by 382 primary care and community-based health professionals across Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland working with adults and children. Key findings included that the majority of the health profes- sionals (86%) recognized having a role in giving obesity advice, acknowledged that in clinical practice communication of obesity messages is both complex and challenging (81%), and re- ported difficulty in sensitively addressing obe- sity issues (27%). The health professionals sur- veyed stated that they communicate obesity messages to their patients using a range of dif- ferent methods, mainly verbally to individuals, leaflets and factsheets. Numerous benefits of communicating obesity messages were re- ported; the main one was interacting with pa- tients to build trust. Identified barriers to communication were: limited time in patient consul- tations, restricted access to appropriate infor- mation, and not sure where to access appropri- ate resources. Communication needed be re-ported by the health professionals included provision of greater resources, more information on obesity management and prevention, followed by health communication training, and clear and consistent messages. Significant dif-ferences were observed, including significantly much younger health professionals considered their role to provide obesity advice (P = 0.025). It is clear from this study that health professionals view as important the need to be given informa-tion on “what” and “how” to communicate with their patients on obesity. This study highlights that health professionals need continued sup- port to enable them to effectively address wei- ght-related issues in a sensitive manner that is acceptable to the patient.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-109
Issue number8A3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Aug 2013


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