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Overweight Physicians Display Bias in Obesity Care

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 27, 2012

The doctors were not pre-selected for their weight. Instead, they were asked questions about caring for obese patients and at the end, they were asked to give their height and weight, which the researchers converted to a body mass index or BMI score. 

About 38% of the respondents self-reported height and weight indicating an overweight BMI of between 25 and 29.9. The percentage of overweight adults in the nation is 34.4%.  Fifteen percent indicated an obese BMI of at least 30.

"Physicians with normal BMI (body mass index) more frequently report discussing weight loss at lower levels of BMI compared to overweight/obese physicians," Bleich and colleagues wrote in their paper.

"Physicians with normal BMI also have greater confidence in their ability to provide diet and exercise counseling to their obese patients, and perceive their weight loss advice as trustworthy."

Bleich says that the study is unique "because we know [there are] all sorts of barriers when it comes to obesity care. Things like, physicians don't have enough time. Or they have negative attitudes toward overweight patients or they don't have adequate training...and there are insurance barriers," which restrict the amount they get paid for spending extra time counseling patients.

"But what we looked at is that there is something about the physicians themselves that creates barriers when it comes to obesity care because of the way this is such a personal issue."

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1 comments on "Overweight Physicians Display Bias in Obesity Care"


mparker7198 (1/31/2012 at 4:18 PM)
I am rather concerned about calculating whether a physician is overweight based on height and BMI alone. I work with surgeons, some of whom would fall into the overweight category, but this is because they lift weights... However, I do believe the "if the patient looks like me and I'm healthy, ergo, they must be health, too" belief is prevalent throughout society.