June 14, 2013

Last month, NYTimes column Well had two articles on the overweight bias in a healthcare setting. Specifically, one article discussed how doctors are not immune to this bias and tend to treat overweight patients with less empathy. The second reversed the roles and talked about the bias that overweight doctors face from their patients.

Two things struck me as interesting. One – how prevalent this bias is, even though we’d never want to admit it. And that it comes out in ways we most likely don’t even realize. Because how do you fix something you don’t know you’re doing? This isn’t really surprising. There are loads of articles that will tell me that because I’m a young, healthy, attractive female, I get a lot of benefits of people being nicer, etc that I just take for granted.

Second – that doctors are held to such a higher standard. And based on some of the comments – a lot of healthcare staff are too. Don’t be overweight. Don’t be a smoker. Don’t have the same biases all of us non-doctors have (even when we have them toward you). And yet if you’re the pinnacle of health – patients might not trust you to know how hard it is to lose weight or quite smoking.

Obviously, I have no personal story here. I’ve never been told to lose weight by a doctor. I’ve never consciously chose a doctor who was thin or not chosen one because they were overweight.  Maybe that’s why I find it interesting – because I’ve never experienced it.



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