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Weight Stigma Among Providers Decreases the Quality of Care Received by Obese Patients

14 August 2010


Background: Prior research has provided evidence supporting the hypothesis that weight stigma exists among health care providers and affects the quality of care delivered to obese patients. Evidence has also shown that obese patients delay health care, contributing to the decrease in their quality of health care compared to non-obese patients. This systematic review aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of current research uncovering weight stigma in the health care field.

Methods: An exhaustive search of the available medical literature was performed using the following MeSH terms: obesity, weight stigma, quality of care, and bias. Studies were included if published within the last twelve years with a focus on weight stigma among health care providers. Randomized controlled trials, case control studies, and cohort studies were all included in this review.

Results: Ten studies, out of fifteen, were included in this review. Studies examining provider attitudes toward obese patients showed evidence of weight stigma. Other studies examined patient perceptions of provider attitudes, with findings that also lent support to the hypothesis of weight stigma occurring among providers. Quality of care was found to be sub-optimal for obese patients compared to non-obese patients, with decreased rates of preventive services in the obese population. Obese patients were also shown to delay seeking health care due to their perceptions of provider weight stigma.

Conclusion: Health care providers maintain weight bias, which ultimately affects the quality of care delivered to obese patients. Obese patients are aware of the weight bias their health care providers hold, and this plays a major role in their decision to delay seeking health care. Further education is needed among health care providers on how to ameliorate weight bias and improve the standard of medical care they deliver to obese patients.


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