Attitudes of health care professionals towards bariatric surgery – identifying barriers to referral from primary care physicians and other relevant sectors (Prof. Dr. Steffi G. Riedel-Heller, completed)

The study examines the knowledge and attitudes of five different health care professionals’ groups (general practitioners, internists, orthopaedists, paediatricians, nutritionists) on loosing weight: by changing one’s life style and by bariatric surgery. Additionally, data about attitudes towards obese patients in general are collected. The results of the surveys will help to develop a brochure that supports HCPs in their work with obese patients.


Duration: 01.02.2014 - 30.04.2015


Description of research project

With rising obesity prevalence, it has become crucial to further involve actors of the health care system in weight counseling and referral to specialized care. Even a modest weight loss of 10% of total body weight leads to improved health outcomes in co-morbidities. Two lines of interventional strategies are existent in order to achieve that recommended weight loss: a) conservative measures (life-style based) and b) invasive measures (pharmaceutical and surgical). As most individuals faced with overweight and obesity would consult their general practitioner or a dietician/nutritionist, research needs to focus on attitudes and beliefs of these actors. Knowledge about and attitudes towards the described interventional strategies might determine counseling behavior of health care professionals. The assessment of stigma and attitudes towards obese individuals in general poses another very relevant field. So far, only few studies in the USA indicate that health care professionals overestimate the effects of life-style intervention and controversially discuss bariatric surgery. In regard to bariatric surgery, only 1% of eligible patients undergo surgery at the moment in the USA; concerns of involved health care professionals to refer patients to bariatric surgery might be one explanation for this low percentage. Barriers of referral need therefore to be identified. This is especially of importance since unsuccessful weight loss attempt that might be caused by superficial counseling and non-referral to specialists pose a risk for future failed weight loss. The same is true for bariatric surgery in adolescents that is applied only with strict indication guidelines.
This study assesses the knowledge and attitudes of five different groups of health care professionals (general practitioners, internists, orthopedics, pediatricians and dieticians/nutritionists) towards life-style intervention and bariatric surgery. Also, attitudes towards obese patients will be described. Questionnaires will be mailed to participating practices and in each group a sample size of n=200 is aimed for. Results of the study will be analyzed and used to develop a brochure that concentrates on the implementation of guideline-concordant treatment and referral options.

Head of project

Riedel-Heller, Steffi

Prof. Dr. Steffi Riedel-Heller

Member: board of directors
Director of the Institute of Social Medicine, Occupational Health and Public Health (ISAP)

+49 341 97-15406

steffi [dot] riedel-heller [at] medizin [dot] uni-leipzig [dot] de