Nearly half of all new doctors have an unconscious bias against obese people, according to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
The study included more than 300 third-year medical students at a medical school in the southeastern United States. The researchers used a computer program called the Weight Implicit Association Test to measure students' unconscious preferences for "fat" or "thin" individuals.
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. Perhaps most importantly, less than 25 percent of students were aware of their biases.
"Previous research has shown that on average, physicians have a strong anti-fat bias similar to that of the general population. 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," said David Miller, lead author of the study.
"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," Miller concluded.
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Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center