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Nutrition competence of primary care physicians in Saudi Arabia: a cross-sectional study
  1. Osamah Al-gassimi1,
  2. Hassan Bin Usman Shah2,
  3. Rawan Sendi3,
  4. Heba A Ezmeirlly4,
  5. Lauren Ball5,
  6. Marwan A Bakarman6
  1. 1 Preventive Medicine and Public Health Center, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  2. 2 Public Health Administration, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  3. 3 King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  4. 4 King Fahd Armed Forces Hospital, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  5. 5 Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Southport, Queensland, Australia
  6. 6 King Abdulaziz University Faculty of Medicine, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Osamah Al-gassimi; oalqasimi{at}


Objectives Primary care physicians have an opportunity to support healthy dietary behaviours of patients by providing nutrition care. However, it is unclear whether primary care physicians in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are sufficiently competent in nutrition. This study aimed to assess the nutrition competence of primary care physicians in KSA and identify whether nutrition competence is associated with the provision of nutrition care to patients living with diet-related chronic disease.

Design A cross-sectional study.

Setting Chronic disease clinics across 48 primary care centres under the Ministry of Health in the city of Jeddah, KSA.

Participants 90 primary care physicians completed the survey (response rate: 98%). General practitioners and family medicine residents, specialists, and consultants actively working in chronic disease clinics between February and May 2019 were included.

Primary and secondary outcome measures Primary outcome measure was nutrition competence of primary care physicians measured via the validated nutrition competence (NUTCOMP) questionnaire.

Results Primary care physicians perceived themselves as competent in nutrition care but their reported provision of nutrition care was limited. Confidence in their nutrition knowledge and skills elicited the lowest mean scores of 25.8 (±5.4) out of 35 and 29 (±5.2) out of 40, respectively. The reported provision of nutrition care was closely correlated with physicians’ confidence in their nutrition knowledge (r=0.57) and communication (r=0.52). Three factors were identified as predicting whether physicians provide nutrition care to patients: confidence in counselling about nutrition (p<0.001), having previous nutrition education (p=0.005) and a higher professional qualification (p=0.008).

Conclusions Primary care physicians felt confident in providing nutrition care to patients living with diet-related chronic disease. Primary care physicians would benefit from higher levels of nutrition knowledge and skills to effectively support patients to improve their dietary behaviours and health conditions, leading to a positive impact on public health.

  • education
  • counselling
  • family medicine
  • general practice
  • healthcare
  • skills

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published. The headers for the Table 2 are updated.

  • Contributors OA had the original idea for the paper, which was further developed in discussions with RS, LB and MAB. OA and HE conducted the pilot. OA, RS and HE collected the survey data reported in this study. HBUS led the statistical analysis. HBUS, OA and LB contributed to interpretation of findings and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed to the subsequent drafts and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. At the time of this project, LB's salary was supported by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council fellowship.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All deidentified participant data used in this study is available on reasonable request by contacting Dr. Osamah Al-gassimi:

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