Background. Little is known about physical therapists' attitudes, knowledge, and practice approaches regarding people who are obese. Objective. The objectives of this study were to determine physical therapists' attitudes, knowledge, and practice approaches regarding obesity and to explore the relationships between attitudes and knowledge. Design. A prospective paper mail survey was designed to obtain demographic characteristics, attitudes, knowledge, and practice approaches regarding obesity. Participants were randomly selected members of the American Physical Therapy Association. Methods. Descriptive statistics were used to explore physical therapists' attitudes, knowledge, and practice approaches regarding obesity. Pearson product moment and Spearman rank correlations were used to test the relationships between attitudes and knowledge. The a priori alpha value was set at .05. Results. The response rate was 34.5%. Physical therapists indicated that physical inactivity (92.8%, n=320) and overeating (78.5%, n=270) are the most important causes of obesity and that diet modifications and exercise are the most effective treatments. Respondents frequently recommended exercising more (87.4%, n=263) but rarely recommended changes in nutritional habits or referred clients to other health care disciplines. Attitude scores regarding obesity were neutral. The mean knowledge score was 6.7 (of 10). A significant correlation (r=.133, P=.043) was found between the respondents' knowledge scores and attitudes regarding statements about obesity. Inverse correlations were seen between the respondents' age and knowledge scores (r=-.195, P<.0005) and between years in practice and knowledge scores (r= -.216, P<.0005). Limitations. The descriptive nature of this study did not allow for further investigation. The survey questionnaire was adapted from a nonvalidated tool. Conclusions. The results suggested that physical therapists have neutral attitudes toward people who are obese. Physical therapists appropriately indicated that lack of physical activity and poor nutritional habits contribute to obesity. Younger respondents, who had recently entered the work force, had higher knowledge scores than respondents who were older and had worked longer. Improvements in physical therapists' referral patterns may assist in the health care team approach to the treatment of obesity. Education to enhance physical therapists' knowledge about obesity should be emphasized.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation