Centre Obesity Management and Prevention Research Excellince in Primary Health Care

Project Short Title

Project Number

Project Status

Chief Investigator
Mark Harris

Other investigators
Siaw Teng Liaw, Gawaine Powell-Davies, Upali Jayasinghe, Elizabeth Denney-Wilson, Adrian Bauman, Ian Caterson, Deborah Schofield, Rachel Laws, Karen Campbell, David Crawford, Kylie Ball, Nigel Stock, John Lynch, John Karnon, Noel Hayman, Deborah Askew


A quarter of the population is obese and this proportion has increased in all age groups by about 1% a year over the past 30 years. Rates of obesity are particularly high and increasing in disadvantaged populations groups. This imposes a substantial burden on individuals, health services and the community in terms of higher incidence of diseases such as diabetes, length of hospitalisation, disability and premature mortality. Preventing and managing obesity requires complementary intervention strategies through population health and primary health care (PHC). There is increasing that PHC practitioners can assess the risks associated with obesity and effectively assist patients to lose weight and therefore reduce the risk of chronic disease. However, there is only sparse evidence on how this can be translated into routine practice, and what systems may be necessary to ensure widespread adoption.  


The Centre for Obesity Management and Prevention Research Excellence in Primary Health Care aims to inform primary health care policy and practice in the prevention and management of obesity in disadvantaged populations across Australia.

Design and methods

COMPaRE-PHC has three streams of research and a KTE program. The three streams are:

Adults with low health literacy: This stream developed and trialled an intervention called Better Management of Weight in General Practice (BMWGP). The intervention trained general practice nurses to act as prevention navigators for obese patients with low health literacy. Early evaluation results suggest the intervention developed for this trial has improved the management of patients who are obese by practice nurses and GPs. For more information, click here.

Implementation of obesity management in PHC:  This stream conducted three research studies that aimed to inform ow the NHMRC guidelines for obesity prevention and management can be implemented in Australian general practice:  

  • A qualitative study of barriers to referral of obese patients by GPs that identified how referrals can be improved. This has assisted us to work with HealthPathways Sydney to develop an obesity management pathway.
  • A feasibility study of the UK weight management program called Counterweight that showed the intervention is feasible and was positively reviewed by both staff and patients.
  • An economic evaluation of an intervention that had improved recording risk factors in general practice. This study showed that an intervention that had increased GP assessments of risk factors did not increase costs to the MBS and PBS

For more information, click here.

Families with young children: This stream developed and trialled an m-health intervention called Growing healthy, which promotes healthy feeding of infants. Its development entailed literature reviews and consultations with service providers and parents. This stream has provided a wealth of knowledge about the needs of new mothers and the health professionals who work with them and about the practicalities of developing an m-health intervention. For more information, click here.

Knowledge, Translation and Exchange

The KTE program includes a varied program of research capacity building (undergraduate and postgraduate student supervision and support), knowledge synthesis (research reviews and topic summaries) and knowledge exchange in multiple forms such as seminars, webinars, symposiums, and policy roundtables. Many of the knowledge exchange events were enhanced by the involvement of international experts who were hosted by COMPaRE-PHC. For more information, click here.

Key publications

Harris MF, Spooner CJ. Weight loss options in general practice. Medical Journal of Australia 2014; 201(4): 184-5.

Faruqi N, Spooner C, Joshi C, et al. Primary healthcare-level interventions improving health literacy for weight loss: A systematic review of the literature. BMC Obesity 2015; 2(6): 6.

Faruqi N, Stocks N, Spooner C, Haddad Ne, Harris M. Research Protocol: Management of obesity in patients with low health literacy in primary health care. BMC Obesity 2015; 2(5).

Kim KK, Yeong L-L, Caterson ID, Harris MF. Analysis of factors influencing general practitioners' decision to refer obese patients in Australia: a qualitative study. BMC Family Practice 2015; 16(45): 45.

El-Haddad N, Spooner C, Faruqi N, Denney-Wilson E, Harris M. Readability and content analysis of lifestyle education resources for weight management in Australian general practice. BMC Obesity 2016; 3(1): 1-9.

Harris MF, Laws RA. Are there bad foods or just bad diets? BMJ 2016; 353: i2442.

COMPaRE PHC website

For more information and news of the project, please visit the COMPaRE PHC website for more detail.