To reduce health inequalities and improve quality in health care, health policy initiatives in countries including New Zealand and the United Kingdom are expecting general practice to share responsibilities for a population approach to health care. This is giving increased emphasis to preventative care, including health promotion. Reasoned debate on this policy is overdue, not least in New Zealand, where clinicians within general practice appear to have been seduced by the lack of clarity in health policy into accepting this policy without question. They appear to disregard implications of the policy for redefining the nature and scope of their discipline (and of public health), including their own role as providers of personal care. This paper suggests that a population health approach is inappropriate in general practice when this approach weakens personal care and involves health promotion activity of unknown safety and effectiveness. The ex-ample of intentional weight loss to reduce overweight is used to illustrate these issues. We argue for a restricted range of general practice services.