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Fam Med. 2013 May;45(5):345-8.

Brief intervention effective in reducing weight bias in medical students.

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Preliminary Medicine (Dr Poustchi), UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.



Medical students are exposed to a growing number of obese patients in clinical encounters. Many medical students harbor negative attitudes and stereotypes regarding obese patients, which lead to negative interpersonal behaviors. This study pilot tested the effectiveness of an educational intervention in reducing bias toward obese patients.


Second- and third-year medical students (n=64) watched a 17- minute video, "Weight Bias in Health Care," and participated in interactive discussion to share experiences with encountering obese patients. The Beliefs About Obese Persons (BAOP), Attitudes Toward Obese Persons (ATOP), and Fat Phobia Scales (FPS) were administered before and after intervention. Change in mean scores from before to after the intervention was tested for statistical significance using the paired samples t test. General linear models were used to examine associations of subject characteristics with mean scores for each scale.


The intervention increased beliefs that genetic and environmental factors play an important role in the cause of obesity as opposed to lack of personal control (mean BAOP increased from 16.53 to 19.27). It also decreased students' negative stereotypes regarding obese patients (mean FPS decreased from 3.65 to 3.45). There were independent associations of subject characteristics with post-intervention ATOP scores, with more positive attitudes in younger, male, and white participants.


Implementing a short educational intervention was effective in improving medical students' beliefs and stereotypes regarding obese patients. This widely accessible and easily replicable program can serve as a model and springboard for further development of educational interventions to reduce weight bias among medical students.

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