GPs are having trouble bringing up patients' weight as a health concern out of fear of running their doctor-patient relationship, new research has found.
"The delicacy of initiating talk about weight was evident in our video analysis of GP consultations, affirming that GPs do not wish to risk offending their patient or creating imbalance in their doctor-patient relationship," said lead researcher Lesley Gray of the University of Otago.
"For example, fewer doctors would ask a question like: 'Have you put on a bit of weight?' Instead, they were more likely to ask a question like: 'Weight-wise, where do you think you're at?'
"By avoiding a question of statement that directly or explicitly referred to the patient being overweight, GPs opened up a face-saving 'escape-route' if the patient proved to be resistant to pursuing the discussion."
Ms Gray told Newshub it's a hard problem for the whole country, not just health professionals.
"Generally speaking, the population still tends to err on the side of, 'this is a personal - what you eat is what you are', and it's not as simple as that."
New Zealand ranks third in the OECD for obesity among adults, and has overtaken smoking as the leading risk that can be prevented.
Ms Gray says doctors are calling for extra support, so they've created an online tool to help them broach the subject.
"Whilst we might feel we can touch on issues such tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption, we really struggle with raising the issue of weight reduction."
- The research was published in the Journal of Primary Health Care.