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Assessment of patients’ attitudes towards weight loss in an Irish general practice setting

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Ireland is on course to become the most obese country in Europe by 2025. A recently published action plan for obesity in Ireland identifies primary care as one of the best places to tackle this issue.


This study aims to assess patients’ attitudes towards weight loss management in general practice in Ireland.

Design and setting

A descriptive study was conducted at one urban single-handed and one rural group practice in the south west of Ireland.


The study is a quantitative cross-sectional survey.


The response rate was 18.72% in the rural and 22.8% in the urban practice. Thirty-three percent of patients underestimated their BMI. Sixty-four percent of overweight and 39% of obese patients said their general practitioner (GP) had never discussed their weight with them. Eighty-five percent of overweight and 68% of obese patients were never told their weight might be affecting their health. Only 19% of obese patients had been referred to a weight loss service. Eighty-seven percent of respondents felt their GP would be a good person to advise them. The main reasons patients felt that their weight was not addressed include patients themselves only wanting to discuss the issue they came with and they also felt that time pressure was stopping GPs.


Overweight or obese patients are more likely to underestimate their BMI. GPs are not discussing weight management with patients who would benefit the most. There is a poor referral rate to weight loss services. Patients are happy to discuss their weight with their GP but are aware that time management is an issue in their consultations.

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We would like to thank Dr. Aishwarya Coffey, Dr. Ann Horgan and Dr. Audrey Russell for their help with this project. We would also like to thank all the staff members and patients of both Dingle Medical Centre and Brandon Medical Centre.


The South West GP Training scheme provided funding for a data analyst for statistical interpretation.

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Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to T.-I. Curran.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest. There was no external funding for this project.

Informed consent

All participants gave their verbal consent in accordance with the directions of the ethics committee as this was an anonymous survey.

Additional information

How this fits in

There is concern about the response of the health services to patients who are obese. Little research has been conducted in Ireland to form a basis to the recent national plan to tackle obesity which singles out primary health care as an ideal setting to begin addressing this issue. This study demonstrates a lack of awareness on the part of patients regarding their weight. Patients have confidence in their general practitioner but there is a lack of open discourse about the issue in primary care.

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Coffey, F., Curran, TI., Kenny, C. et al. Assessment of patients’ attitudes towards weight loss in an Irish general practice setting. Ir J Med Sci 187, 669–674 (2018).

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