Robert M Eley
Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for chronic disease.
Physical activity plays an important role in increasing wellbeing and
reducing weight. General practitioners’ advice and intervention can help
patients increase their physical activity. This pilot study is part of a larger
study investigating physical activity opportunities in rural Queensland.
A survey was sent to a random sample of 40 general practices in rural
Queensland. The survey asked GPs about strategies they use when
dealing with patients who would benefit from exercise, their use of
Lifescripts, the main perceived barriers to exercise in their location,
perceptions on change in exercise patterns over 5 years, and local
resources and referral networks available in their location. The data
was analysed using a five stage framework and coded into themes.
A total of 67.5% of practices responded. The primary strategy GP
respondents used to address overweight was discussion and advice.
Fifteen of the 27 respondents referred patients to allied health
professionals and local sport/recreation organisations. Lack of
physical and human resources to encourage and support weight loss
was the main perceived barrier to helping patients achieve physical
activity and weight loss goals.
Behavioural factors are globally acknowledged as the biggest barriers
to exercise. The GPs surveyed recognise that, for most people, external
support is essential for ongoing exercise compliance and motivation.
This can be in the form of discussion with, and advice from, the GP,
or referral to gyms or other services. Respondents identified limited
facilities and support in rural areas as barriers. Formalisation of referral
pathways and follow up is currently lacking and could assist rural GPs
in helping their patients to exercise and lose weight.
The increasing burden of chronic disease places greater demands on primary care to develop and implement strategies to manage lifestyle risk factors. Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for chronic disease. Physical activity, by reducing patients’ weight and increasing their wellbeing, has been identified as an important means to manage these factors. Studies show that intervention and advice through primary care is effective in increasing physical activity in patients;1–4 however little is known about weight management strategies used in rural primary care.
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