Well Being

Doctors Decreasingly Likely To Discuss Diet, Weight With Patients

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In some sort of inverse correlation with the amount of media coverage of obesity, doctors are decreasingly likely to discuss the issue with their patients — even when patients have diet and weight-related issues like high blood pressure or diabetes.

A new study from Penn State College of Medicine found there's been a 46% decrease in weight counseling offered by primary care doctors. In data from 2007 to 2008, just 6% of patient visits with primary care doctors included weight counseling, compared to 52% of visits in 1995-1996.

The likelihood of receiving weight counseling fell 46% for patients with high blood pressure and 59% for patients with diabetes.

“It is striking,” said Jennifer Kraschnewski, an assistant professor of medicine and lead study author. The large decrease in doctors offering weight loss advice comes at the same time as the percentage of adults who were overweight or obese increased from about 52% to about 63%.

The researchers suggested several possible reasons, key among them an increase in the number of things primary care physicians have to cover during patient visits over the past two decades as well as an insurance system that's reluctant to reimburse doctors for things like weight counseling. Other reasons might include doctors' beliefs that they can't change patients' behavior and doctors who feel unprepared to offer nutrition or lifestyle counseling.