ACT News

Canberra GPs find major weakness in obesity treatment

Despite two-thirds of Australia’s population being either overweight or obese, GPs don’t have a treatment option of their own.

The first step for a general practitioner is a referral to specialists.

But two Canberra GPs want to change that.

They believe they have found an obvious gap in treatment options for one of the nation’s most publicised health problems and they’re offering a remedy.

Professor Kirsty Douglas and Dr Elizabeth Sturgiss are about to present their findings to the Canberra Health Annual Research Meeting this week.

“Currently gold standard is to refer people to a dietitian, exercise physiologist or a specialised weight clinic,’’ Dr Sturgiss said.

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“I’d offer that to people and they’d go away and come back and say, ‘look, I don’t want to go to those other people can you just help me?’,’’ she said.

Seeing the specialists was still considered the best approach.

But for those who couldn’t afford it, were uncomfortable with that treatment plan or were living in rural or remote areas who didn’t have access to specialists, there were few alternatives.

“What stunned us was that there was almost no research in this area at all – even internationally,’’ Professor Douglas said.

“We so didn’t believe the results that I insisted Elizabeth go and talk to someone else and do different searches.’’

The lack of research for GP treatment of obesity was startling.

They said evidence existed but it often took the form of 300-page medical documents – not something that a GP could easily distil to treat a patient.

So far the doctors have synthesised the evidence in patient fact sheets and worksheets for GPs.

The next step is to pilot the program to test its effectiveness.

“It is a very long process from identification of the gap to getting a tool that you can trial, to testing the trial, to getting the evidence,’’ Professor Douglas said.

The GPs have applied for funding to do the pilot with 10 general practices in the ACT.

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