What is your role in overweight and obesity management? Should rehabilitation professionals (PT, PTA, OT, OTA, SLP, and AT) address a patient's or athlete's weight? Unfortunately, whether intentional or not, many healthcare providers stigmatize overweight and obese patients. This survey study explored how MSK practitioners in Australia engage in weight management topics with their patients. The survey gathered data on the frequency MSK practitioners treated overweight and obese patients (estimating how many patients required care due to their weight), their confidence in providing weight management treatment (if not, would education improve their confidence), and their perceived role in helping patients address weight issues. Health professionals in Australia are wide-ranging, including, physicians, physios, exercise physiologists, and chiropractors.
The final results yielded 204 completed surveys (56% response rate). Amongst the 43 physios who completed the survey, 65% of their patients were overweight, 25% obese, 10% sought care as a direct result of their weight, and 50% sought care as an indirect result. Despite these numbers, only 20% of physios focused on weight management during treatment. Although, 49% stated they were confident in providing weight management treatment and 70% stated they would be confident with additional lifestyle education. The most common reasons for lack of confidence were scope of practice limitations, lack of knowledge, and discomfort with the conversations. How would you have answered the questions? If the scope of practice or knowledge is a barrier, do you appropriately refer when needed? We have a plethora of data linking weight concerns with metabolic and cardiovascular pathology. I encourage you to increase your knowledge base to integrate education into your clinical practice (staying within your state practice act). At the least, find strong RDs in your area you can refer to when needed.