Yet Another Study Finds Anti-Fat Bias Among Medical Professionals


Okay, guys, I’m confused. How many studies is it going to take for the general public to accept that medical professionals hold the same anti-fat biases as the rest of the nation, and that those biases jeopardize fat people’s health? It doesn’t mean that there aren’t nice doctors (my doctor rulz), or that doctors “aren’t allowed” to bring up size when it’s medically relevant, or even that people deserve to be vilified for holding unconscious, socially conditioned biases. It just means that those biases need to be examined and eradicated so that fat people (who are PEOPLE) can access the same standard of medical care afforded to thin people.

That means not being told “lose weight” when you go in with a broken arm. That means not being ridiculed by trusted authority figures with a mandate to provide care. That means not being congratulated on drastic weight loss from an undiagnosed illness. That means not being told that you’re too fat to have an eating disorder. Basically all of this stuff. Fat people just want the same thing that everyone else wants from their doctors—to be treated, humanely, for illnesses that they actually have. If those illnesses are genuinely related to size (if, say, someone is completely immobilized) then it is entirely within the purview of a responsible doctor to bring it up. Kindly. If a patient’s diet and lack of exercise are having tangible effects on their health, then doctors may officially GO NUTS (kindly!!!)—but with the understanding that poor diet and lack of exercise affect thin people too. Personally, I don’t even mind if my doctor checks in with me about my weight during a general physical exam, though I’m sure there are fat people who feel differently. That’s something that they can discuss with their own doctors.

But the point is, if you insist on denying that anti-fat bias is real and self-perpetuating and that it affects the level of care given to fat people, you are at best a credulous dumbass. How many studies do you need? How many testimonials? Jesus, this is so BORING. These studies keep coming out, and the response is the same every time:

“It IS a health risk, though.” – a great listener

“It IS a health risk, though. Fatty.” – a person who has to be a mole?

“Eat less, exercise more.” – Albert Einstein

“But I’m a doctor and I’m nice!” – a nice person who became a doctor because he flunked out of Getting the Point School

Anyway, here are two more. This one, from Wake Forest School of Medicine, examined bias among medical students:

“The key, take-home point from our study is that close to 40 percent of medical students have a significant anti-obesity bias and don’t realize it,” Miller told LiveScience. “Therefore, medical schools need to teach their students about anti-obesity bias, how it can affect patient care and what students can do to minimize its impact.”
“Ignoring anti-obesity bias will only get in the way of delivering the best care possible for a condition that now affects the majority of Americans,” Miller added.

And here’s one more, out of Johns Hopkins, which finds that fat people switch primary care doctors far more frequently than thin people. (The same researchers were behind this study in the March issue of the journal Obesity.)

Perhaps not totally unrelated, overweight and obese patients are significantly more likely than their normal-weight counterparts to repeatedly switch primary care doctors, according to the other study, which is published in the current issue of the journal Obesity. This switching practice disrupts continuity of care and leads to more emergency room visits, according to the researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
The phenomenon of switching doctors is frequently called “doctor shopping.” The researchers found that, compared with normal-weight non-shoppers, overweight and obese doctor-shoppers were 85 percent more likely to visit the emergency room.

Anti-fat bias exists. Anti-fat bias affects the health of fat people. Anti-fat bias undermines even well-meaning doctors’ ability to do their jobs. This is happening. Even if you hate fat people, could you just stop denying that the sky is blue and oxygen is delicious? Because seriously, I’m DYING OF BORED in this conversation. (Though I guess I should just drop 10 pounds and see if it goes away.)

Image via sunabesyou/Shutterstock.

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