Individuals with higher body weight experience severe and pervasive discrimination in nearly every walk of life. Stigmatizing treatment from healthcare providers increases anxiety, depression, body dissatisfaction and risk of weight gain while decreasing the likelihood that patients will seek preventative or emergency care. This study assessed whether a virtual session exploring obesity, which included the personal testimony of a Physician Professor with obesity, positively influenced the explicit attitudes and implicit biases of medical students towards people with higher body weight.
SKMC medical students completed an Implicit Associations Test (IAT), a Universal Measure of Bias (UMB) and a demographics questionnaire before and after a virtual session. IAT responses were scored as strong, moderate, slight, or no automatic preference for fat or thin people and UMB items were scored for strength of bias in accordance with the scale design. Mean change between pretest and posttest UMB scores and t-score were calculated.
200 medical students from all class years participated. Participants’ explicit weight bias (UMB) improved after the intervention (mean change = -x; p-value = y). Participants’ implicit biases (IAT) did not change significantly (IAT category change: z/200).
This is the first weight bias intervention in medical students to utilize a virtual format and incorporate the personal experience of a respected mentor with obesity. These accessible tools could be a practical way to change biased attitudes. Further research is required to see if these improvements in attitudes persist and translate to better care and outcomes for patients with obesity.
Goldberg, Gina and Majdan, MD, Joseph, "A Virtual Educational Intervention Addressing Weight Bias in Medical Students" (2021). Phase 1. Paper 70.