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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Are medical educators following General Medical Council guidelines on obesity education: if not why not?

Anna Chisholm1*, Karen Mann23, Sarah Peters3 and Jo Hart3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Lancashire, UK

2 Division of Medical Education, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

3 Manchester Medical School, University of Manchester, Lancashire, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2013, 13:53  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-53

Published: 11 April 2013



Although the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) General Medical Council (GMC) recommends that graduating medical students are competent to discuss obesity and behaviour change with patients, it is difficult to integrate this education into existing curricula, and clinicians report being unprepared to support patients needing obesity management in practice. We therefore aimed to identify factors influencing the integration of obesity management education within medical schools.


Twenty-seven UK and Irish medical school educators participated in semi-structured interviews. Grounded theory principles informed data collection and analysis. Themes emerging directly from the dataset illustrated key challenges for educators and informed several suggested solutions.


Factors influencing obesity management education included: 1) Diverse and opportunistic learning and teaching, 2) Variable support for including obesity education within undergraduate medical programmes, and 3) Student engagement in obesity management education. Findings suggest several practical solutions to identified challenges including clarifying recommended educational agendas; improving access to content-specific guidelines; and implementing student engagement strategies.


Students’ educational experiences differ due to diverse interpretations of GMC guidelines, educators’ perceptions of available support for, and student interest in obesity management education. Findings inform the development of potential solutions to these challenges which may be tested further empirically.

Qualitative; Interviews; UK; Undergraduate education; Curriculum; Obesity