Health Workers Often Stigmatize the Obese

MANCHESTER, England, April 19 (UPI) — Many healthcare professionals are guilty of fatism — prejudice against the overweight, British and U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Dr. Kerry O’Brien of the University of Manchester in England says obesity prejudice stems from the belief that being fat is due to poor diet and lack of exercise and obese people deserve criticism.

However, O’Brien said, uncontrollable factors — such as genes and neurophysiology — also play a role, and medical professionals need to present a more balanced view of obesity causes and treatments.

“Weight status is, to a great extent, inherited,” Kerry says in a statement. “It’s crucial that health professionals, such as nurses, doctors, dietitians and physical educators are aware of these other influences, as well as their own potential prejudices and don’t just blame the individual for their weight status.”

Kerry and colleagues at the Universities of Manchester, University of Hawaii and Yale University found prejudice toward obese people is often greater among healthcare professionals than in the general population.

The study, published in the journal Obesity, also finds weight-based discrimination by the public increased by 66 percent during the past decade and indicates prejudice could either increase or decrease depending on the type of training health students receive.

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