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This article has been peer reviewed. It was published in: Family Medicine.

Volume 45, Issue 9, October 2013, Pages 629-33.

The published version is available at PMID: 24136693. Copyright © Society of Teachers of Family Medicine


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Obesity is a common problem that increases risk of many other diseases, from heart disease to cancer. While counseling by a physician increases patient report of weight loss attempts and increased exercise, primary care physicians do not frequently address obesity. The objectives of this study were to determine how often obesity was included on the problem list and whether adding obesity to the problem list affected the rate at which it was addressed in future visits.

METHODS: We conducted an initial assessment, followed by a randomized controlled trial of patient records at a family medicine residency office. The intervention was the addition of obesity to the problem list. The measured outcome was whether or not obesity was listed as an encounter diagnosis in the following 5 months.

RESULTS: At baseline, 36.2% of obese patients had obesity on their problem list. A total of 55.5% of these patients had obesity addressed by a provider in the past year, compared with 5.1% of patients who did not have obesity on their problem list. In the 5 months following the intervention, 38 (14.7%) of the 258 patients in the intervention group had obesity addressed, compared with 11 (4.6%) of the 239 patients in the control group.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a significant relationship between the addition of obesity to the problem list and providers addressing obesity at future visits. This simple intervention could be accomplished automatically by the EMR and has the potential to change provider behavior.

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