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Attitudes about diverse patient populations in health professions students

20 December 2013


Obesity stigma is thought by some to be the last “acceptable” form of stigma. Stigma against obese individuals has been found not only in the general public, but in health professionals as well. In addition, some research has linked levels of obesity stigma to lower quality care of obese patients. This study proposes use of a universal measure of bias to compare levels of obesity stigma to stigma against two other highly stigmatized groups: individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) and Muslims. Students enrolled in eight different health professions programs at a university in the Pacific Northwest were recruited for the study. Results indicated that health professions students had significantly more bias towards obese individuals than towards LGB or Muslim individuals. Levels of obesity stigma were not significantly associated with graduate program. Similarly, analyses did not reveal differences in levels of obesity stigma based on number of years enrolled in a health professions program. This study shows that obesity stigma is not just a problem at the professional level in the medical field, but it is also present at the student level.


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