Well, yet another study has come out indicating that fat stigma is alive and well among medical students. Even NPR (with it’s RWJ-fueled, anti-fat slant) released a story about this study conducted among medical students in South Carolina. Over one third of the students tested, demonstrated moderate to strong bias against obese people. What’s more two thirds of those students who demonstrated fat bias were even aware that they had any bias against overweight and obese subjects. And while the study only checked bias among students in one school, it is clearly in line with other studies that demonstrate fat bias among doctors and med students.
None of this comes as much of a surprise to overweight and obese people seeking health care in this country. Many of us have experienced not only a flat refusal to treat the illness or injury for which we are seeking care, but also outright and overt disdain from our doctors. I have spoken extensively about my own story in the past. And as I have reviewed the videos that have been submitted for the Resolved Project created by the Size Diversity Task Force and ASDAH, I’ve cataloged so many distressing stories. We are compiling a veritable library of cases of little kids put on speed, doctors refusing care and medically supervised fat shaming.
It’s so hard to find a good doctor that will treat us with respect. It can be a long and arduous search. So it’s probably not a shock that another report was released last week that shows that overweight and obese patients are more likely to engage in “doctor shopping”. If one in three doctors coming out of medical school are displaying recognized or unrecognized bias against people of size, it makes sense that we have to look a little harder. What I find interesting about the study however is the way it connects doctor shopping with quality of care. One of the lead doctors from the Johns Hopkins study, Dr. Kimberly A. Gudzune, stated:
“There’s something going wrong in these doctor-patient relationships that make these switches so frequent for this group of people… The real problem here is that the health of overweight and obese patients who doctor shop is being compromised. Because they do not remain with their doctors for very long, they are ending up in the emergency room, likely for things that could have been taken care of in a primary care office.”
I wonder, does this point to yet another reason why fat stigma may be causing health problems that are currently blamed on fat? I’ve stated before, and I’ll state again, there is no proof that weight loss improves health. (For one thing, we can’t get enough people to keep enough weight off for long enough to do a real test.) We also know that people who engage in healthy behavior live longer, regardless of body size. What would be very interesting to me would be to see what impact medical training to reduce weight stigma would have on the health of fat patients. That’s the study I would like to see.
In the meantime, I guess we’ll just have to keep searching for Doctor Good…
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