An online education program about weight management in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) improved physiotherapists’ confidence in their knowledge and skills in weight management and their attitudes toward obesity, according to study results published in Arthritis Care & Research.

Obesity is common among patients with OA and weight management is an essential component of treatment. Physiotherapists play an important role in OA management and are well placed to counsel patients about caloric restrictions. However, few physiotherapists have specific training in this area.

In a randomized controlled trial (prospectively registered as ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04574804), researchers evaluated an online education program for physiotherapists to improve their knowledge and skills in weight management and their attitude toward obesity in patients with OA.


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Participants included 80 physiotherapists (58 women) who were randomly assigned to education and control groups. The education group participated in the “EduWeight-OA” online training, an 8-hour program consisting of 6 modules completed over a 6-week period.

The primary study outcome was self-reported confidence in knowledge, measured at baseline and at 6 weeks using a customized validated tool (score range, 14-70; higher scores indicated higher confidence). Secondary measures included self-reported confidence in nutrition care and clinical weight management skills, as well as negative attitudes toward obesity.

Changes in outcomes between baseline and 6 weeks were compared between the treatment and control groups using linear regression models adjusted for baseline scores and stratifying variables (private vs public practice, self-reported confidence in weight management score). A moderation analysis was also performed.

Among 80 participants, 79 (38 and 41 in the education and control groups, respectively) completed the study.

The adjusted mean difference in confidence in knowledge between the groups was 22.6 units (95% CI, 19.6-25.5 units), favoring the education group. Individuals with lower baseline values demonstrated greater improvement in knowledge (P =.002). The education group also showed greater improvements in confidence in skills and nutrition care and reduced “antifat” attitudes. Participants’ perception of the program was very positive; more than 90% said they would recommend the program to their peers. 

The researchers concluded, “This study provides evidence for the effectiveness and acceptability of an e-learning program to increase physiotherapists’ confidence in their knowledge and confidence in their clinical skills about weight management for OA, as well as improve weight stigmatized attitudes. Online learning serves as a feasible and effective mode of delivery for such education, with benefits of being affordable, scalable and accessible.”

Reference

Allison K, Jones S, Hinman R, et al. Effects of an online education program on physiotherapists’ confidence in weight management for people with osteoarthritis: a randomized control trial. Arthritis Care Res. Published online December 20, 2021. doi:10.1002/acr.24828