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Dissertation

Graduate health professions students’ beliefs and attitudes about weight and eating behaviors

1 January 2016

Abstract

Weight bias and stigma is a growing concern in the American healthcare system and is prevalent in many health professional fields. Common misperceptions that obesity is a result of lack of personal control or willpower have been found in physicians, psychologists, nurses, and dietitians. Many do not realize the significant impact that biological, genetic, and environmental factors have on an individual’s weight. Obesity stigma has many adverse social and health consequences and needs to be addressed to improve healthcare. Few research studies have looked at the levels of weight bias in health professions students enrolled in programs such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy, dental hygiene, audiology, and psychology. The present study examined the amount of weight bias present in graduate health professions students. Participants in the study were invited to take an online survey and randomized to one of three conditions that presented information on obesity risks, obesity stigma prevalence, or consequences of alcohol use (control). Several measures of explicit weight bias were then administered. Results showed there were no significant differences in weight bias between experimental groups, but there were significant results on some of the measures for gender, program type, and number of years enrolled. The results also indicated that weight bias levels were lower in graduate health professions students than those found in previous studies and that educational interventions may be important in reducing stigma in students.


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