Public Health Nutrition


A systematic review of behavioural weight-loss interventions involving primary-care physicians in overweight and obese primary-care patients (1999–2011)

Sze Lin Yoonga1 c1, Mariko Careya1, Rob Sanson-Fishera1 and Alice Gradya1

a1 Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia and Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle, NSW, Australia


Objective The present review aimed to examine the effectiveness of behavioural weight-loss interventions involving primary-care physicians in producing weight loss in overweight and obese primary-care patients.

Design A systematic review was conducted by searching online databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, PsycINFO and SCOPUS) from January 1999 to December 2011. All abstracts were screened and coded for eligibility. The Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group quality criteria were used to assess the methodological adequacy of included studies. Information related to study design, population characteristics and intervention details was extracted.

Setting Primary care.

Subjects Overweight or obese (defined as having a BMI ≥ 25·0 kg/m2) primary-care patients.

Results Sixteen different studies were included. Of these, six assessed primary-care physicians’ delivery of weight-loss counselling; nine assessed weight-loss counselling delivered by non-physician personnel with monitoring by primary-care physicians; and one assessed a multi-component intervention. Overall, high-intensity weight-loss counselling by primary-care physicians resulted in moderate but not clinically significant weight loss. High-intensity weight-loss counselling delivered by non-physicians, meal replacements delivered in conjunction with dietitian counselling and referral to commercial weight-loss centre programmes accompanied by regular monitoring by a primary-care physician were effective in producing clinically significant weight loss. Dietitian-delivered care appeared effective in producing weight loss regardless of level of intervention intensity.

Conclusions Overall, there were few studies on this topic and the methodological rigour of some included studies was poor. Additional studies assessing the effectiveness and acceptability of potential interventions are needed to confirm these findings.

(Received June 13 2012)

(Revised August 23 2012)

(Accepted August 24 2012)

(Online publication October 26 2012)


  • Obesity;
  • Primary care;
  • Weight loss


c1 Corresponding author: Email