June 07--If a doctor is going to tell a patient he's obese and needs to lose
weight, that patient seems more likely to trust the advice if the doctor is
overweight too, scientists say.
It might seem that patients want role models in their primary care doctors, but
in matters of weight, that doesn't seem to be the case. Researchers from John
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health set out to see what effect a doctor's
weight might have on patients; they published their findings in the June issue
of Preventive Medicine.
Some things are already known about what happens to overweight or obese people
in doctors' offices. Doctors have been shown to consider obese patients as
"noncompliant, lazy, lacking in self-control, weak-willed, dishonest and
unsuccessful," the researchers, led by Sara Bleich from the Bloomberg school,
The researchers say these issues are growing in importance because Medicare will
soon begin covering obesity screening and treatment, and private insurers could
follow suit. And trust, they said, is "a critical precursor to behavior change."
They surveyed 600 overweight and obese patients in April 2012 about their trust
of their doctors and about any stigma they felt related to weight.
The patients had a very high degree of trust in their doctors overall -- above
an 8 on a 10-point scale -- but that fell when the patients were asked about
their trust in weight-related advice. In those cases, patients said they had
more trust in heavier doctors.
The researchers speculated that could be because heavier doctors and heavier
patients "improves the relationship from the patient perspective." Patients
might like feeling that their doctors know what it's like to be them.
But other research has shown that normal-weight doctors are more likely to
discuss weight loss with patients, and feel more confident about doing so.
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