“Dietitians May Only Have One Chance”—The Realities of Treating Obesity in Private Practice in Australia

Claudia Harper, Radhika V. Seimon, Amanda Sainsbury, Judith Maher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Overweight and obesity are the leading contributors to non-fatal burden of disease in Australia. Very low energy diets (VLEDs) comprising of meal replacement products (MRP) effectively induce substantial weight loss in people with obesity, yet they are rarely used as a first line treatment. Dietitians in private practice are perfectly placed to administer treatments for obesity; however, little is known about the preferred interventions used or their attitudes to incorporating VLEDs and MRPs into their treatments for overweight and obesity. Methods: This study used descriptive qualitative methods to explore accredited practicing dietitians’ (APDs’) perspectives and practices regarding obesity and obesity interventions, including the use of VLEDs and MRPs. Qualitative in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 dietitians who had experience in private practice and in treating obesity. Transcribed interviews were analysed thematically using the technique of template analysis. Results: In the context within which dietitians’ practice was found to be a barrier to using evidence-based practice (EBP) for obesity treatment, four overarching themes were found. These were: (1) patient-centred care is the dietitians’ preferred intervention model; (2) VLEDs promote weight loss in specific situations; (3) systemic barriers constrain effective dietetic practice and equitable access to all, and (4) successful outcomes are predicated on working outside of systemic barriers. Conclusion: Dietitians in private practice are well placed and able to provide life-enhancing and evidence-based treatments for overweight and obesity and associated chronic disease in the community. However, systemic barriers need to be addressed to provide equitable access to effective care irrespective of socio-economic status.

Original languageEnglish
Article number404
JournalHealthcare (Switzerland)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


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