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Some Dietician Students Biased Against Obese Patients

Fat phobia, biases in patient evaluation prevalent among undergrad dietetics students

MONDAY, Mar. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Undergraduate dietetics students have a moderate degree of fat phobia and display bias in their approach to treating obese patients, according to research published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D., of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues evaluated the attitudes towards obese individuals among 182 dietetics students. The weight bias of the participants was determined using a self-report online survey. The effect of patient weight on evaluation of that patient was assessed by randomly assigning a mock health profile to each study participant.

Using the Fat Phobia Scale, participants were found to have an average amount of fat phobia, which was not affected by their own body weight. Students rated obese patients as less likely to comply with treatment recommendations compared with non-obese patients, the report indicates. Although the nutritional and health characteristics were identical among each of the mock health profiles, participants determined mock obese patients had a poorer diet quality and poorer health status, the authors report.

"These findings suggest a need to increase education and awareness about weight bias in existing dietetics curricula to ensure that negative assumptions about obese patients do not adversely influence the treatment practices of future registered dietitians," Puhl and colleagues write.

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