OBJECTIVE: To investigate general practitioners' (GPs') knowledge, role perception, confidence and practices of managing adult and childhood overweight and obesity, and to explore the association with GPs' attendance at Continuing Professional Development (CPD) on overweight and obesity.
METHODS: In 2007, all GPs in seven Divisions of general practice in New South Wales were sent a questionnaire on GPs perceptions and practices of weight counselling.
RESULTS: 646 GPs participated (40% response rate). About half of the GPs (47%) believed that only a small percentage of adults could reduce weight and maintain that loss, whereas 33% had a similar belief in relation to children. Most GPs believed that it was their role to manage weight and felt confident to do so with adults, but fewer GPs felt confident in managing children. Nevertheless, just over one-third of GPs reported they counselled more than 10 adult patients, and a similar proportion counselled more than 3 children per week. GPs who felt more confident were more likely to counsel adults (OR = 2.69, p = 0.001) and children (OR = 3.31, p < 0.001). Those who received CPD were more likely to feel confident in managing adults (OR = 1.56, p = 0.031) and children (OR = 2.19, p < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Although the majority of GPs believe that weight management is their role, only a small proportion regularly provided counselling. This may partly be the result of GPs confidence in managing patients, especially children. CPD on overweight and obesity may benefit GP confidence, but additional training is needed to improve GP's counselling behaviour, particularly for children.