According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, weight discrimination and bias is widespread in medicine. Weight prejudice in medicine may be due, at least in part, to a lack of obesity teaching in undergraduate and graduate medical school. There is considerably less education regarding weight bias and stigma, as well as its influence on the health of those who are overweight.
Weight bias, also known as obesity discrimination in healthcare, refers to a wide range of discriminatory and detrimental attitudes against persons who are judged overweight. Some ideas people have when participating in obesity discrimination include larger individuals are typically ill, having extra weight is simple to change and is usually a person’s “fault,” and heavier people must always be striving to reduce weight if they care about their health.
According to research, healthcare workers have been proven to be biased against patients who are overweight or obese. As a result, they engage in discriminating behavior, such as blaming major health concerns on weight and, as a result, neglecting other probable reasons.
Many healthcare practitioners’ views on obesity are unsupported by science. Although evidence shows a link between obesity and certain health risks, not everyone who is overweight is unhealthy. In reality, according to 2015 research, many obese individuals are healthy, with 2–50% being “metabolically normal,” suggesting a low risk of cardiovascular and other diseases.
A 2014 study looked at women’s weight increase and the signals they got about their weight from persons they trusted. When women heard humiliating or critical comments about their weight, they were more likely to gain weight, but weight acceptance was linked to reduced weight gain and even weight reduction.
Studies demonstrating pervasive prejudice and discrimination were emphasized in a 2016 article. The study reported that obese women report receiving improper comments about their weight from healthcare providers in around 53% of cases. It also said that 79% of persons who are overweight or obese say they eat extra to cope with weight prejudice.
Similarly, nearly 52% of women believe their weight has prevented them from obtaining proper medical treatment. Weight concerns are also linked to postponing or skipping preventative treatment. Furthermore, around 40% of healthcare workers report having unfavorable responses to obese patients.
For the sake of our collective health, doctors and obese individuals must work together to eradicate weight prejudice and stigma.