Obesity is a globally spreading health problem. Behavioural interventions aimed at modifying dietary habits and physical activity patterns are essential in prevention and management of obesity. General practitioners (GP) have a unique opportunity to counsel overweight patients on weight control. The purpose of the study was to assess the level of giving advice on diet and physical activity by GPs using the data of Lithuanian health behaviour monitoring among adult population.
Data from cross-sectional postal surveys of 2000, 2002 and 2004 were analysed. Nationally representative random samples were drawn from the population register. Each sample consisted of 3000 persons aged 20–64 years. The response rates were 74.4% in 2000, 63.4% in 2002 and 61.7% in 2004. Self-reported body weight and height were used to calculate body mass index (BMI). Information on advising in primary health care was obtained asking whether GP advised overweight patients to change dietary habits and to increase physical activity. The odds of receiving advice on diet and physical activity were calculated using multiple logistic regression analyses according to a range of sociodemographic variables, perceived health, number of visits to GPs and body-weight status.
Almost a half of respondents were overweight or obese. Only one fourth of respondents reported that they were advised to change diet. The proportion of persons who received advice on physical activity was even lower. The odds of receiving advice increased with age. A strong association was found between perceived health and receiving advice. The likelihood of receiving advice was related to BMI. GPs were more likely to give advice when BMI was high. More than a half of obese respondents (63.3%) reported that they had tried to lose weight. The association between receiving advice and self-reported attempt to lose weight was found.
The low rate of dietary and physical activity advice reported by overweight patients implies that more lifestyle counselling should be provided in primary health care. There is an obvious need for improved training and education of GPs in counselling of overweight patients focusing on methods of giving dietary and physical activity advice.