Family physicians’ perception on environmental influences in promoting physical activity in their obese patients


Although many obese patients do not engage in adequate physical activity (PA), little is known about whether physicians discuss environmental barriers in promoting PA. We conducted this study to describe physicians’ views about discussing environmental barriers in promoting PA with obese patients and determine whether counseling varies by years of practice. We conducted an online survey of family physicians practicing in 17 clinics in Central Texas. We performed descriptive analysis on barriers to PA, counseling on meeting PA recommendation, and written prescription for exercise and bivariate analysis by years of practice. Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05. Of 96 physicians invited, 57 (59.4%) completed the survey. Majority reported their obese patients brought up the environment as a barrier to walking (89.3%) or PA (91.2%). Majority (80.7%) also reported asking about environmental barriers to walking, with 84.2% giving specific examples to overcome these barriers. While 96.5% reported advising their obese patients about meeting the PA recommendation, only 26.3% reported giving them a written prescription for exercise. These did not vary significantly by years of practice. Physicians felt having more time with their patients and knowing specific strategies to overcome environmental barriers, safe places in patients’ neighborhoods, and what environmental factors influence PA may help discuss environmental issues with their obese patients. Physicians want and counsel their obese patients to be physically active, but do not generally give prescriptions for exercise irrespective of years of practice. They also want tools to enhance their abilities to better assist these patients.

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Forjuoh, S. , Lee, C. , Wang, S. , Hong, Y. and Ory, M. (2012) Family physicians’ perception on environmental influences in promoting physical activity in their obese patients. Open Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2, 423-428. doi: 10.4236/ojpm.2012.24060.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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