Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Future doctors unaware of own obesity bias

Two of five medical students have a bias against obese people and they don't even know it,  according to a study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. The study is published online in the Journal of Academic Medicine. 

“Because anti-fat stigma is so prevalent and a significant barrier to the treatment of obesity, teaching medical students to recognize and mitigate this bias is crucial to improving the care for the two-thirds of American adults who are now overweight or obese,” said Dr. David Miller, associate professor of internal medicine and lead author of the study.

The three-year study included more than 300 third-year medical students from 2008 through 2011. The students were from 25 states and 12 other countries. 

Researchers used a computer program called the Weight Implicit Association Test to measures students’ unconscious preferences for “fat” or “thin” individuals. Students also answered a survey assessing their conscious weight-related preferences. 

Overall, 39 percent of medical students had a moderate-to-strong unconscious anti-fat bias as  compared to 17 percent who had a moderate-to-strong anti-thin bias. Less than 25 percent of students were aware of their biases.

The study didn't specify which teaching strategies are most effective, but to combat prejudice, doctors have to acknowledge its existence, Miller said.

At Wake Forest, all third-year medical students in the family medicine program must complete the online Weight Implicit Association Test and then participate in an in-class discussion of their experience with bias. 

“Bias can affect clinical care and the doctor-patient relationship, and even a patient’s willingness or desire to go see their physician, so it is crucial that we try to deal with any bias during medical school,” Miller said. “Previous research has shown that ... Doctors are more likely to assume that obese individuals won’t follow treatment plans, and they are less likely to respect obese patients than average-weight patients.”
The study was funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute. Co-authors are Dr. John Spangler, Mara Vitolins, Stephen Davis, Edward Ip, Gail Marion, and Sonia Crandall of Wake Forest.


Anonymous said...

Most everybody has a "bias" against people that are obese.....especially the ones that don't have jobs (and haven't had one in decades), and just complain about every single thing all day long...while they stuff their faces. Go down the list: do you want to live with a fatty (errrr, someone suffering from "obesity")?, date em? go to dinner with em? work with em? sleep with em? hire em? train em? sit next to em on a plane? give em a physical? Well? Again, most everybody has a bias against em whether they know it or not.

Anonymous said...

so what did the data show as to whether or not obese patients do or do not follow the recommendations relative to their health??? i would be willing to bet that they do not follow their doctors orders.....or they wouldn't be obese.....under obamacare, doctors are supposed to be judged by the outcomes of their patients.......so how are they supposed to be responsible for irresponsible patients?

Anonymous said...

I am a healthcare worker and I can state that obese patients do not follow a doctors guidelines for health- because they don't see themselves as obese. I have had a patient tell me they weighed 150 lbs and when I stood them on the scale, the actual weight was 215 lbs and the patient argued with the scale saying it was wrong. I would love to see a research project that asked overweight people to rate themselves as normal, overweight and obese. I can promise you that most people who are morbidly obese would rate themselves as anywhere from normal to overweight only