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Medical bias against obesity is preventing patients from receiving proper care

Nurses in the accident and emergency dept of Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, England.
Nurses in the accident and emergency dept of Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, England.

According to a study in the National Library of Medicine, only 1 percent of doctors are trained in treating one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in the U.S. — obesity.

That lack of education comes with consequences for patients.

Here’s what Deana from Detroit, Michigan, told 1A:

I am an obese person. I am also a professional dancer. I avoided the doctor for eight years because of consistent dismissiveness. I went to a chiropractor for a dance injury and was met with doubt that the injury was in fact dance-related — and it happened because I did a drop split. So the ability to even be seen fully as a human being let alone as a patient has been really hard for me. Luckily, I found a great doctor who understands that my weight is only one of many factors.

The condition has been recognized as a disease since 2013. The CDC reports nearly 42 percent of Americans are experiencing obesity. But a longstanding bias against these patients has affected their ability to seek treatment and weight loss medication. Former NPR host Lulu Garcia-Navarro recently shared how difficult it was for her to get this kind of medication on Twitter.

— Lulu (@lourdesgnavarro) May 7, 2022

To tackle this bias, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is rolling out new standards for diversity, equity, and inclusion. The new curriculum standards will address practices in treating patients who are diagnosed as overweight or obese.

So what are the barriers to seeking treatment for obesity? And what role do doctors play in erecting them?

Copyright 2022 WAMU 88.5

Sophia Alvarez Boyd, Mia Estrada