Managing obesity in primary care practice: a narrative review

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Abstract

This narrative review examines randomized controlled trials of the management of obesity in primary care practice, in light of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ decision to support intensive behavioral weight loss counseling provided by physicians and related health professionals. Mean weight losses of 0.1–2.3 kg were observed with brief (10- to 15-min) behavioral counseling delivered by primary care providers (PCPs) at monthly to quarterly visits. Losses increased to 1.7–7.5 kg when brief PCP counseling was combined with weight loss medication. Collaborative treatment, in which medical assistants delivered brief monthly behavioral counseling in conjunction with PCPs, produced losses of 1.6–4.6 kg in periods up to two years. Remotely delivered, intensive (>monthly contact) behavioral counseling, as offered by telephone, yielded losses of 0.4–5.1 kg over the same period. Further study is needed of the frequency and duration of visits required to produce clinically meaningful weight loss (>5%) in primary care patients. In addition, trials are needed that examine the cost-effectiveness of PCP-delivered counseling, compared with that potentially provided by registered dietitians or well-studied commercial programs.

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