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Family physician attitudes in managing obesity: a cross-sectional survey study

John W Epling1*, Christopher P Morley12 and Robert Ploutz-Snyder3

Author affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine and Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, USA

2 Department of Psychiatry, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, USA

3 Universities Space Research Association, Division of Space Life Sciences, Houston, TX, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:473  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-473

Published: 1 November 2011



Obesity is epidemic in primary care. While family physicians care for the consequences of obesity, they do not generally feel confident managing obesity itself. We examined the barriers to obesity management in a sample of family physicians in a primary care practice-based research network (PBRN).


204 family physicians were invited to respond to a survey on physician beliefs about obese patients and causes of obesity. A total of 75 physicians responded to the survey. Responses were factor analyzed using standard techniques. Comments were sorted into ranked themes by the investigators. The results show systemic barriers to obesity management. Seven general factors were identified, with some discrepancy seen in the role of "psychobehavioral causation" between rural and non-rural physicians. Themes derived from the comments reflected frustration with the resources and structure of current primary care systems to be able to deal with obesity.


Our pilot survey suggests that differences in beliefs regarding the causes of obesity may exist between rural and non-rural physicians. Further research in larger, more diverse samples is necessary to further illuminate practice differences. More comprehensive approaches to obesity management, like the Chronic Care Model, are suggested by these results.