Document Type


Publication Date



Maine Medical Center, Medical Education, Maine Medical Center Research Institute

MeSH Headings

Adult, Child, Humans, Obesity, Documentation, Referral and Consultation


Purpose/Background: Obesity is a serious public health concern that is overwhelming primary care doctors. The 15 minute office visit model leaves little time for counseling in regards to nutrition and physical activity, and many providers may not have enough expertise in nutrition and exercise to confidently counsel their patients. Despite the time constraints placed on primary care doctors, there are things that can be done. Studies have shown that simply documenting obesity on the problem list promotes action about obesity. The purpose of this study was to determine the rate of obesity documentation on the problem list and referrals to obesity medicine specialists and dietitians among obese adult and pediatric patients at 14 primary care offices in a regional health network in Southern Maine.

Methods/Approach: All patients with BMI > 30 (adults) or BMI > 95%ile for age (pediatrics) between 5 - 100 years old, who were seen at one of 14 primary care clinics in Maine between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2019 were included for retrospective review. Variables requested included age, BMI, inclusion of obesity on the problem list, various comorbidities, and any referrals to dietitian or obesity medicine specialists. The percentage rate of inclusion of obesity on the problem list and rate of referrals were calculated for both pediatric and adult patients.

Results: We obtained records for 20,461 patients, 2,780 under 18 and 17,681 over 18. Obese children had obesity on the problem list in 31.2% of cases, and received any referral 12.5%. Obese adults had obesity on the problem list 54.2% of the time, and a referral in 8.4% of cases. For both children and adults, more referrals were made for patients with obesity on the problem list compared to those without this problem listed (in children: 20.2% vs 9.0%; for adults: 12.12% vs 3.9%, p values < 0.0001). Similarly, a statistically significant higher proportion of referrals were made for those with higher BMI (in children: 26.6% vs 8.6% for those with a BMI ? 99 percentile; adults: 19.88% vs 5.75% for those with a BMI ? 40, p values < 0.0001), and


2020 Costas T. Lambrew Research Retreat