Enablers and barriers to implementing obesity assessments in clinical practice: A rapid mixed-methods systematic review

Evan Atlantis, Ritesh Chimoriya, Canaan Negash Seifu, Kath Peters, Gill Murphy, Bernadette Carr, David Lim, P. Fahey

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Objectives This systematic review aims to improve our knowledge of enablers and barriers to implementing obesity-related anthropometric assessments in clinical practice. Design A mixed-methods systematic review. Data sources Medline, Embase and CINAHL to November 2021. Eligibility criteria Quantitative studies that reported patient factors associated with obesity assessments in clinical practice (general practice or primary care); and qualitative studies that reported views of healthcare professionals about enablers and barriers to their implementation. Data extraction and synthesis We used random-effects meta-analysis to pool ratios for categorical predictors reported in ≥3 studies expressed as pooled risk ratio (RR) with 95% CI, applied inverse variance weights, and investigated statistical heterogeneity (I 2), publication bias (Egger's test), and sensitivity analyses. We used reflexive thematic analysis for qualitative data and applied a convergent integrated approach to synthesis. Results We reviewed 22 quantitative (observational) and 3 qualitative studies published between 2004 and 2020. All had ≥50% of the quality items for risk of bias assessments. Obesity assessment in clinical practice was positively associated with patient factors: female sex (RR 1.28, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.50, I 2 99.8%, mostly UK/USA), socioeconomic deprivation (RR 1.21, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.24, I 2 73.9%, UK studies), non-white race/ethnicity (RR 1.27, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.57, I 2 99.6%) and comorbidities (RR 2.11, 95% CI 1.60 to 2.79, I 2 99.6%, consistent across most countries). Obesity assessment was also most common in the heaviest body mass index group (RR 1.55, 95% CI 0.99 to 2.45, I 2 99.6%). Views of healthcare professionals were positive about obesity assessments when linked to patient health (convergent with meta-analysis for comorbidities) and if part of routine practice, but negative about their role, training, time, resources and incentives in the healthcare system. Conclusions Our evidence synthesis revealed several important enablers and barriers to obesity assessments that should inform healthcare professionals and relevant stakeholders to encourage adherence to clinical practice guideline recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere063659
Number of pages12
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • obesity assessments
  • systematic review
  • Obesity rates
  • Quality in health care
  • weight management
  • primary care
  • qualitative research
  • preventive medicine


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