Obesity management is an important issue for the international primary care community. This scoping review examines the literature describing the role of the family doctor in managing adults with obesity. The methods were prospectively published and followed Joanna Briggs Institute methodology.
Peer-reviewed and grey literature with the keywords obesity, primary care and family doctors. All literature published up to September 2015. 3294 non-duplicate papers were identified and 225 articles included after full-text review.
Data were extracted on the family doctors’ involvement in different aspects of management, and whether whole person and person-centred care were explicitly mentioned.
110 papers described interventions in primary care and family doctors were always involved in diagnosing obesity and often in recruitment of participants. A clear description of the provider involved in an intervention was often lacking. It was difficult to determine if interventions took account of whole person and person-centredness. Most opinion papers and clinical overviews described an extensive role for the family doctor in management; in contrast, research on current practices depicted obesity as undermanaged by family doctors. International guidelines varied in their description of the role of the family doctor with a more extensive role suggested by guidelines from family medicine organisations.
There is a disconnect between how family doctors are involved in primary care interventions, the message in clinical overviews and opinion papers, and observed current practice of family doctors. The role of family doctors in international guidelines for obesity may reflect the strength of primary care in the originating health system. Reporting of primary care interventions could be improved by enhanced descriptions of the providers involved and explanation of how the pillars of primary care are used in intervention development.