Can Australian general practitioners tackle childhood overweight/obesity? Methods and processes from the LEAP (Live, Eat and Play) randomized controlled trial


Dr Zoë McCallum, Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children's Hospital, Flemington Road, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia. Fax: +61 3 9345 5900; email:


Background:  General practitioners (GPs) could make an important contribution to management of childhood overweight. However, there are no efficacy data to support this, and the feasibility of this approach is unknown.

Objectives:  To determine if GPs and families can be recruited to a randomized controlled trial (RCT), and if GPs can successfully deliver an intervention to families with overweight/obese 5- to 9-year-old children.

Methods:  A convenience sample of 34 GPs from 29 family medical practices attended training sessions on management of childhood overweight. Practice staff trained in child anthropometry conducted a cross-sectional body mass index (BMI) survey of 5- to 9-year-old children attending these practices. The intervention focused on achievable goals in nutrition, physical activity and sedentary behaviour, and was delivered in four solution-focused behaviour change consultations over 12 weeks.

Results:  General practitioners were recruited from across the sociodemographic spectrum. All attended at least two of the three education sessions and were retained throughout the trial. Practice staff weighed and measured 2112 children in the BMI survey, of whom 28% were overweight/obese (17.5% overweight, 10.5% obese), with children drawn from all sociodemographic quintiles. Of the eligible overweight/obese children, 163 (40%) were recruited and retained in the LEAP RCT; 96% of intervention families attended at least their first consultation.

Conclusions:  Many families are willing to tackle childhood overweight with their GP. In addition, GPs and families can participate successfully in the careful trials that are needed to determine whether an individualized, family-based primary care approach is beneficial, harmful or ineffective.