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Preventing childhood obesity in general practice: a qualitative study of GPs, practice nurses, and practice managers.

Family Practice 2024 March 16
BACKGROUND: General practitioners (GPs) in Australia have an important role to play in preventing childhood obesity. Activities such as growth monitoring and promotion of healthy behaviours can contribute to obesity prevention efforts; however, the practicalities of how this is done are poorly documented.

OBJECTIVES: Objectives were to understand current attitudes and practices regarding promoting healthy childhood growth and development and preventing childhood obesity in general practice, and identify practical barriers and enablers to routinely incorporating this into general practice based on the observations and personal experiences of general practice staff.

METHODS: A descriptive qualitative study was undertaken with Australian general practice staff. Barriers and enablers underwent thematic analysis and mapped to the ecological model.

RESULTS: Interviews were conducted with 9 GPs, 4 nurses, and 2 practice managers. Participants agreed that growth monitoring and healthy behaviour promotion should be done for children with a healthy weight. However, the thematic analysis indicated that obesity prevention in clinics is not supported well by the broader general practice system, there are complexities associated with obesity prevention discussions, and the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified challenges in general practice. Two themes for obesity prevention enablers were identified; these related to bridging the implementation gap and the need for changes outside the clinic to support behaviour within the clinic. Ecological model mapping implicated multiple ecological levels for each theme.

CONCLUSION: Childhood obesity prevention through growth monitoring and healthy behaviour promotion is relevant to general practice; however, more support is needed to enable implementation and embed these practices day-to-day.

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