Sexual Health

June 2009


Barriers to the management of obesity in children

A cross sectional survey of GPs

Volume 38, No.6, June 2009 Pages 460-464

Helen Dettori

Helen Elliott

Janette Horn

Gary Leong


General practitioners have been identified as having a key role in promoting healthy weight. In 2006, the South East Alliance of General Practice – Brisbane (Ltd) was approached by the Mater Children’s Hospital to participate in the KOALA (Kinder Overweight Activity Lifestyle Actions) at Mater Healthy Lifestyle study. Between June 2007 and January 2008, only 14 eligible children were identified and referred to the KOALA study by participating GPs – a much lower referral rate than the study required. The aim of this study was to investigate barriers among GPs to the assessment of overweight and obesity in children aged 6–10 years.


A survey was administered to 49 GPs. The main outcome measures were: perceptions about child overweight and obesity as a medical problem, the GP’s role in management, and the use of body mass index for age percentile charts to identify overweight and obesity.


Of the 33 (67%) respondents, 93% agreed child overweight and obesity was a medical problem, that GPs had a role in management, and that the KOALA study had made them more aware of identifying overweight children. Only 57% however, reported changing their practice.


Although most GPs agreed they had a role in management and felt confident to assess overweight and obesity in children, only a minority were putting this into practice, suggesting there are other barriers. Practice systems that facilitate implementation of National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines may need to be put in place.

General practitioners have been identified as having a key role in promoting healthy weight.1 The family general practice is a potential setting for weight management in children and adolescents, as it provides both the opportunity and the potential for ongoing contact.2 Both routine assessment of children’s relative weight on a body mass index (BMI) for age percentile chart and early intervention in childhood overweight have been recommended.2

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