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Diversity in Medicine: Weight Stigma

Dr. Ali Zentner is an Obesity physician working to provide evidence-based treatment options to patients living with obesity while challenging the stigma that obesity is a self induced condition. 

  • Obesity is a disease. 
    • It is affected by genes and hormones and is not a lack of a person's "will power."
  • Why is it that a women with breast cancer is a fighter but a woman with obesity is a failure? 
  • biases exist well beyond the clinical bedside and they permeate into our everyday lives. 
    • 63% of children with obesity are bullied at school. 
    • 54% of workers with obesity have been bullied at work.
    • 64% of patients have had inappropriate comments issued to them by their physicians. 
    • 69% of surveyed doctors have weight bias.
    • 72% of medical students have weight bias. 
    • 55% of nurses have weight bias
    • 43% of dietitians have weight bias. 

Weight Bias worsens the quality of care provided to obese patients. 

  • Studies show that patients with obesity are examined less often by a ration of two to one. Simple procedures are explained to them less often. They are treated less. They are offered less treatment. They are diagnosed less. 

Weight Bias makes people sicker. 

  • Studies show that patients with obesity exposed to weight bias have higher rates of inflammation in their blood, have higher rates of depression, of high blood pressure, that they have a clinical worsening, and they are less likely to engage in treatment because that treatment is seen as pointless . 

Weight bias kills people. 

  • Studies have shown that patients with obesity exposed to weight bias die sooner and die more frequently. 

Medicine reflects culture, and culture reflects medicine. To conquer bias Dr. Zentner has four small steps for our lives and eventually the institutions we belong to: 

  1. Check your mind
    • Do you have weight bias? 
  2. Watch your mouth
    • Fat jokes, fat comments, inappropriate dieting advice at the grocery store. Stop worrying what goes into other people's mouths and worry about what comes out of your own. 
  3. Positive imagery 
    • 72% of all media images portray obesity in a negative light. 
  4. Evoke empathy 
    • What if our heroes were people with size and were heroes because of what they did and not because of the weight they lost. When we sit and talk to each other we look past the tissue and speak to what is human in us all. All of us have value, everyone has a story to tell. 
Last updated on Nov 8, 2022 12:42 PM