Health care provider views on the magnitude of overweight/obesity in spinal cord injury and awareness of evidence-based guidance for weight management

Sherri L. LaVela*, Elizabeth Burkhart, Kayla Jones, Christine Pellegrini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Literature shows that large proportions of people with a spinal cord injury (SCI) continue to experience challenges and limitations in weight management (WM) efforts in the health care setting. Despite the need, evidence-based research on effective and practical WM practices for persons with SCI is inconsistent and not widely used by health care providers (HCPs). Objective: The objectives were twofold: (1) to explore HCP perspectives of the extent of the problem of overweight/obesity in individuals with SCI and (2) HCPs awareness of and beliefs about availability of literature or evidence-based guidelines that discuss WM in SCI. Design: Qualitative study using semistructured interviews with HCPs and thematic analysis to identify themes. Participants/Setting: SCI HCPs (n = 25) from Veterans Health Administration and Midwest Regional SCI Care System. Intervention: Not applicable. Results: SCI HCPs (88%) emphasized the large scope of the problem of overweight and obesity in persons with SCI. HCPs noted the multiple associated negative consequences, specifically 84% highlighted the impact on chronic conditions (cardiometabolic, respiratory) and 48% discussed the impact on secondary/associated conditions (skin, bowel, bladder, musculoskeletal). HCPs noted other impacts of excess weight as greater disability in later life (28%), challenges with mobility and function (60%), self-care (24%), and equipment safety (28%). This sample of HCPs (76%) indicated being unaware of published or available information about WM efforts that work in SCI populations. Conclusion: Our findings indicate that HCPs believe that overweight and obesity is a significant problem in persons with SCI but that this sample of HCPs are not aware of published work and easily accessible SCI-specific WM evidence-based guidance. This suggests the need for more education and proactive efforts to improve awareness of appropriate information within interprofessional HCPs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-30
Number of pages11
JournalPM and R
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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