Elucidating obesity and eating disorders health literacy among key stakeholders: A focus groups study

Dr Jonathan Mond1, Ms Bianca Bullivant2

1Centre For Rural Health, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia, 2School of Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

In the past three decades, there has been a substantial increase in prevalence of both obesity and eating-disordered behaviour (EDB) and it is predicted that these issues will present public health challenges well into the future. Further, in view of the conspicuous links between these problems, it has been suggested that integrated health promotion programs are called for. Currently, however, little is known about key aspects of health literacy relating to obesity and EDB among key stakeholders, including health professionals. This is, in our view, a key barrier to the design and conduct of successful integrated programs. The goal of the current study was, therefore, to elucidate key aspects of health literacy relating to obesity and EDB among allied and other health professionals. Using a grounded theory framework, eight focus groups were conducted with a total of 55 participants (females: n = 41) aged 22 to 55 years including doctors, mental health professionals, dietitians, personal trainers, academics, teachers and consumer group representatives. Discussion of a broad range of issues relating to obesity and EDB was initiated through the use of a script comprising a series of semi-structured, open-ended questions. Six key themes were identified,  namely: awareness and understanding of eating disorders/behaviours and obesity; beliefs about the links between eating disorders and obesity related behaviours and experience; beliefs about the role of environmental factors; beliefs about government and industry regulation of/involvement in factors affecting EDB and obesity; beliefs about the feasibility of integrated obesity/EDB health promotion messages; and beliefs about appropriate target groups for prevention health promotion campaigns. Examples of statements within each theme will be given and the implications of the findings for the design and conduct of integrated obesity/EDB health promotion programs will be discussed, along with plans for the next, quantitative phase of the research.


Dr Jon Mond is currently Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Rural Health at the University of Tasmania. He has previously held Associate Professorships in Psychology, Sociology, Medicine and Health Sciences at various Australian Universities. Dr Mond has Honours and Master’s Degrees in Psychology and a PhD in Psychological Medicine, all from the University of Sydney, and a Master of Public Health from Harvard University. His research, which focuses on epidemiological and public health aspects of body weight, body image and eating-disordered behaviour, is widely cited (h index = 42, i10 index = 93, citations ≈ 5700).

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