Obesity is a complex and prevalent condition with significant health and economic impact. In the tertiary hospital setting, discussing weight management with obese patients is often neglected. Brief interventions are potential strategies to address this.
We conducted a single-blinded randomised controlled trial at a metropolitan tertiary hospital. Junior doctors on the treating teams delivered the brief intervention, involving a short discussion on obesity, provision of information pamphlets, recommendation to speak further with their general practitioner (GP), and discharge communication from the hospital to the GP requesting weight management support. Follow-up with participants was conducted three months post-randomisation.
We recruited 173 participants, of which 87 were allocated to standard care and 86 to brief intervention. There was no statistically significant difference between groups in weight loss attempts and weight management discussions with their GP.
The majority of patients reported that brief interventions in hospitals are appropriate (80%) and helpful (71%), and 61% of patients felt encouraged to lose weight post discharge.
Despite 92% of junior medical staff reporting that managing weight problems is a relevant part of their job, only 12% routinely discussed weight management with their patients prior to the trial. Some main barriers were identified, including time and stigma, and 80% of junior medical staff would like to receive further training in this space.
Whilst our brief intervention showed no affect on weight loss action, the concept of a brief intervention in hospital is perceived to be acceptable and helpful by the majority of patients. Barriers to delivering a brief intervention need to be further explored and addressed. Further study and training may help to enable systematic implementation of an effective intervention across the health service.