Obesity prevention and the role of hospital and community-based health services: a scoping review

Claire Pearce, Lucie Rychetnik, Sonia Wutzke, Andrew Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Control of obesity is an important priority to reduce the burden of chronic disease. Clinical guidelines focus on the role of primary healthcare in obesity prevention. The purpose of this scoping review is to examine what the published literature indicates about the role of hospital and community based health services in adult obesity prevention in order to map the evidence and identify gaps in existing research. Methods: Databases were searched for articles published in English between 2006 and 2016 and screened against inclusion and exclusion criteria. Further papers were highlighted through a manual search of the reference lists. Included papers evaluated interventions aimed at preventing overweight and obesity in adults that were implemented within and/or by hospital and community health services; were an empirical description of obesity prevention within a health setting or reported health staff perceptions of obesity and obesity prevention. Results: The evidence supports screening for obesity of all healthcare patients, combined with referral to appropriate intervention services but indicates that health professionals do not typically adopt this practice. As well as practical issues such as time and resourcing, implementation is impacted by health professionals' views about the causes of obesity and doubts about the benefits of the health sector intervening once someone is already obese. As well as lacking confidence or knowledge about how to integrate prevention into clinical care, health professional judgements about who might benefit from prevention and negative views about effectiveness of prevention hinder the implementation of practice guidelines. This is compounded by an often prevailing view that preventing obesity is a matter of personal responsibility and choice. Conclusions: This review highlights that whilst a population health approach is important to address the complexity of obesity, it is important that the remit of health services is extended beyond medical treatment to incorporate obesity prevention through screening and referral. Further research into the role of health services in obesity prevention should take a systems approach to examine how health service structures, policy and practice interrelationships, and service delivery boundaries, processes and perspectives impact on changing models of care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number453
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


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