An exploration of the diagnosis and treatment of obesity among integrative medicine health care providers

Sara Diaz*, Ashley Hite, Beth A. Plunkett, Rita Elue, David Victorson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Little is known about how Integrative Medicine (IM) providers diagnose and treat obesity. The study objectives were to explore the diagnosis and treatment of obesity, to evaluate the accuracy of visual inspection of body mass index (BMI) category, and to assess barriers to weight loss counseling among providers. Methods: A survey was administered to providers through the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health, Bravewell Clinical Network, and Pan Osher sites. Participants were asked to select the BMI category of 19 individuals based on a full-length photograph. Provider behaviors and barriers regarding the management of obesity were assessed. Results: Surveys were sent to approximately 200 providers. A total of 67 people responded, 60 of whom met the inclusion criteria for an approximate response rate of 34 %. Respondents represented 14 different professions; 47 %, physicians (MD), 13 %, licensed acupuncturists (LAc), 8%, registered dieticians (RD). The accuracy of visual assessment of BMI was 45 %, and providers were more likely to underestimate BMI category (44 %) than overestimate (12 %, p < .001). Few providers (<13 %) strongly agreed or agreed with common barriers to weight loss counseling. All (100 %) MDs, RDs, LAcs, and nurses agreed that it is their profession's role to address obesity. Some IM physicians strongly agreed or agreed they felt comfortable prescribing weight loss medications (29 %) or discussing surgical interventions (36 %). Conclusions: IM providers in our study felt it was their role to address obesity. However, the accuracy of visual inspection was low, and some IM physicians felt comfortable discussing medical or surgical interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101108
JournalEuropean Journal of Integrative Medicine
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Attitudes
  • Body mass index
  • Counseling
  • Health knowledge
  • Integrative medicine
  • Obesity management
  • Physicians'
  • Practice
  • Practice patterns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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