Talking about overweight and obesity in rural Australian general practice
AuthorMalatzky, C; Glenister, K
Source TitleHealth and Social Care in the Community
AffiliationRural Clinical School
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsMalatzky, C. & Glenister, K. (2019). Talking about overweight and obesity in rural Australian general practice. HEALTH & SOCIAL CARE IN THE COMMUNITY, 27 (3), pp.599-608. https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.12672.
Access StatusOpen Access
As many patients' sole point of contact with the health care system, primary health care physicians (general practitioners [GPs] in Australia) are often positioned as key players in responding to rates of overweight and obesity in dominant public discourse. However, research from Western industrialised countries suggests that GPs may not be prepared for, or confident in, having conversations about overweight and obesity with patients. Little attention has been given to this topic in Australia, particularly in the context of rural health. The aim of this study was to understand how GPs in two rural settings in Victoria, Australia talk about overweight and obesity with patients. Working from a multidisciplinary perspective, a qualitative study design was adopted, and semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven GPs and seven GP patients living in two rural communities between January and April, 2016. Data was coded manually and thematic analysis was used to explore the data. The findings of this study support the argument that, in contrast to dominant messages within public health discourses, GPs may not be best placed to act as the primary actors in responding to overweight and obesity as they are constructed in epidemiological terms. In fact, the perspectives of GP study participants suggest that to do so would compromise important dimensions of general medical practice that make it simultaneously a human practice. Instead, more balanced, holistic approaches to discussing and responding to overweight and obesity with patients could be taken up in local, interdisciplinary collaborations between different health professionals and patients, which utilise broader social supports. Focussing on long-term, incremental programs that consider the whole person within their particular socio-cultural environment would be a productive means of working with the complexities of overweight and obesity. However, structural level changes are required to ensure such initiatives are sustainable in rural practice.
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