Practice nurse-led weight management in Australian general practice

Blog Author - Ms Jodi Gray, University of Adelaide

Australia has one of the highest rates of overweight and obesity (63%) among developed nations. Given the regularity of general practice attendance by Australian adults, general practitioners and practice nurses are well placed to identify and manage obesity, however there are currently no widely implemented weight management programs in Australian general practice.

The Counterweight Program was launched in the UK in 2000. It provides a structured, evidence-based model for managing obesity in adults that can be delivered by practice nurses as part of routine clinical care. With training and support, practice nurses provide patients with six fortnightly education sessions covering healthy eating, physical activity and behaviour modification techniques. Follow-up sessions are provided at 6, 9 and 12 months to support weight maintenance.

During a recent South Australian feasibility study six practice nurses, from three general practices, were trained and subsidised to deliver the program. Of the 65 patients enrolled, 75% (n = 49) completed the six education sessions. General practitioners and practice nurses reported that the training and resource materials were useful, the program fitted into general practices with minimal disruption and the additional workload was manageable. Patients reported that the program created a sense of accountability and provided a safe space to learn about weight management.

Overall, the study demonstrated that the Counterweight Program is feasible, acceptable and perceived as valuable by Australian general practice staff and patients. Funding limitations were identified as the biggest challenge to continued program delivery.