Referral sources to a weight management program: Relation to outcome

Martin Binks, Patrick Mahlen O'Neil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To examine the characteristics and outcomes of physician-referred weight management patients relative to self-referred patients. DESIGN: Review of clinic records of all individuals contacting a weight control program during a 2-year period with follow-up throughout consecutive levels of treatment (i.e., enrollment, completion, and outcome). SETTING: Medical school weight management center. PARTICIPANTS: A consecutive sample (N = 1,392) of overweight and obese callers was categorized as physicianinitiated (n = 345), media (n = 653), or personal (n = 394) referrals. Attendees at initial consultation (n = 571) were age 41.7 ± 12.8 years, weight 113.9 ± 36.1 kilograms, and body mass index (BMI) 40.3 ± 11.3 kg/m2 (data expressed as mean ± standard deviation). INTERVENTIONS: Low-calorie-diet and very-low-calorie-diet programs. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Gender comparisons, attendance at initial consultation, body mass index, motivation, comorbidities, enrollment and completion rates, and weight loss. RESULTS: Compared to callers from other referral sources, physician referrals included a larger minority of males (25.2%) and were more likely to attend an initial consultation (63.5%; P < .001). Among consultation attendees, physician referrals were heavier (mean BMI = 44.8), reported more comorbidities, were less likely to join programs (16.9%), and scored as less motivated than other referrals (P < .007). Completion rates for physician referrals were higher than for self-referrals in the very-low-calorie-diet program (85.7%; P < .04) but not in the low-calorie-diet program (P > .05). Among completers, physician referrals did not differ on weight loss in either program (P > .05). CONCLUSIONS: Compared to self-referrals, physician-referred individuals are in greater need of weight loss, less motivated, less likely to enter treatment, but equally likely to profit from it. Therefore, physician referral for weight loss is beneficial for at least some patients and should be encouraged.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)596-603
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2002


  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Reducing
  • Referral and consultation
  • Weight reduction


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