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Bias Against Obesity Is Found Among Future Dietitians
Date:3/5/2009

Attitude could affect care patients might get, experts warn

THURSDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Just 2 percent of those training to be dietitians have positive or neutral attitudes toward people who are obese, and the rest are moderately biased against their prospective patients, a new study has found.

"Essentially, this shows that future dieticians are not immune to weight bias, and there are negative attitudes toward obese patients that may have a negative impact on the quality of care," said Rebecca Puhl, the study's lead author and the director of research and stigma initiatives at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Most of the almost 200 dietetic students who participated in the study had pejorative views about the attractiveness, self-control, overeating, insecurity and self-esteem of people who are obese. They also rated obese patients as being less likely than non-obese patients to comply with treatment recommendations. The findings were published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

But the students aren't alone in their beliefs and share the biases with other health-care providers, Puhl said, adding that other studies have shown that many health professionals have negative perceptions about very overweight patients. Patients have reported "very many examples of providers who really make very stereotypical comments that suggest that they are making assumptions about a patient's character, intelligence or abilities because of their weight," she said.

Other signs of professional insensitivity, Puhl said, include weighing obese patients on freight scales because scales in a doctor's office don't accommodate their weight and not having blood pressure cuffs big enough for a heavy patient.

She said that the attitudes expressed by the dietetic students in the study show a lack of appreciation for how difficult it is to lo
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