Background: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition affecting up to 13% of reproductive-aged women. Weight and lifestyle management are key initial treatment strategies for individuals with PCOS, as recommended in international evidence-based guidelines. Allied health professionals, including dietitians, exercise physiologists, and psychologists, are crucial in delivering support for lifestyle and weight management.
Objective: Our aim was to explore the barriers and enablers to lifestyle and weight management for individuals with PCOS from the perspectives of allied health professionals.
Design: This was a qualitative study using a phenomenology approach to understand the allied health professionals lived experiences managing the lifestyles of individuals with PCOS. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with allied health professionals (ie, dietitians, exercise physiologists, and psychologist). Interviews were audio-recorded and professionally transcribed. Transcripts were coded inductively and analyzed thematically.
Participants/setting: Participants were 15 allied health professionals (ie, 9 dietitians, 5 exercise physiologists, and 1 psychologist) involved in the management of PCOS in Australia (n = 10 in Victoria, n = 5 in other states) and interviewed between June and September 2019.
Main outcome measures: Barriers and enablers of allied health professionals relating to the provision of lifestyle and weight management in individuals with PCOS were analyzed.
Results: Barriers relating to individuals with PCOS included insufficient knowledge on lifestyle management; lack of time; socioeconomic disadvantage preventing access to lifestyle support; and psychological issues, such as eating disorders or depression. Barriers relating to health professionals included insufficient knowledge about PCOS and insufficient time during consultation. Barriers relating to the health system included lifestyle recommendations in the PCOS guidelines that are too general and weight-focused, funding system that does not facilitate long-term care, and low integration of care among health professionals.
Conclusions: Barriers for the individual, health professional, and health system all need to be addressed to improve the implementation of lifestyle management in PCOS care to optimize consistency with the PCOS international evidence-based guidelines.