Recognition and management of overweight and obese children: A questionnaire survey of general practitioners and parents in England


Dr Heather Gage, Department of Economics, University of Surrey, Guildford, GU2 7XH, UK. Fax: +44 01483 689548; email:


Aims:  To (i) compare the views of general practitioners (GPs) and parents about the causes, consequences and management of childhood overweight/obesity; and (ii) explore the extent to which they can identify overweight/obesity in children.

Methods:  A questionnaire was mailed to all GPs in one Primary Care Trust and all parents in one primary school in southern England, 2008. Information was gathered on socio-demographic background, views about causes, consequences and management of childhood overweight/obesity; judgements about the weight status of 14 images of children (seven boys, seven girls) in the Children's Body Image Scale (CBIS). Comparisons were made between GP and parents' responses using unpaired bivariate tests.

Results:  The response rate was 33%. Differences exist between the views of GPs and parents about childhood weight management: 86.4% of parents felt GPs should be involved, compared to 73.3% of GPs (P < 0.001). Parents thought GPs should be more proactive than the GPs stated they would be. GPs were significantly more likely than parents to see a role for school nurses and dieticians. One third of respondents thought GPs lacked expertise in child weight management. Most GPs and parents correctly identified obese children from the images, but inaccuracies occurred at category margins.

Conclusions:  Childhood overweight/obesity is a serious public health concern, and primary care has a role to play in tackling it. GPs in England need more training in childhood overweight/obesity management. Their role needs to be clarified in the context of multiagency approaches.