This is the report I wrote to submit for a behavioral economic course. Now taking advantage of already having written it, let me publish on this blog :D. Enjoy some scholar atmosphere which has been gone for a long time on this blog, folks. Yeà 😀
A part of society may have an adverse attitude towards obese individuals, and it is the main reason that leads to unfair cost-benefit bias for such individuals. This problem can be noticed in every aspects of daily life, at schools, in the workplace as well as in public places such as hospitals, stations, shops, etc. The degree of hostility may vary, from light scale such as one-sided judgment oneself may make, to severe cost-benefit results such as treatment bias, and other problematic issues like interest bias and misconception intensity. To make thing worse, in health-care centers like hospitals, clinics and health offices, this unfavorable prejudice answers to negligent, neglectful treatment for the obese, and already prevents them from being accessible to best medical care/attention, medical supply and treatment course.
A previous research proved that doctors may have the tendency to perform discrimination to patients according to their body weight, but there is no evidence of difference in treatment bias of health-care specialist and non-health-care people.
Janice Sabin, Professor of Washington University, together with her colleagues, carried out an experiment to measure doctors’ aversion towards obese patients with a 360,000 participants, 2,284 of whom were doctors – participating in a computer survey, according to Healthday.
The result showed that doctors bear the same abhorrence to obese people as other non-doctor subjects; however, the majority of them were unaware of this mental status. Misconception of male doctors was more noticeable than female docs’, and overweight doctors intend to show more sympathy with obese patients than slender or average doctors. Citing Professor Sabin, “The most notable aspect of our study is that, like a part of society, doctors also have negative opinions about obese people. Our study did not consider behavior so we are unsure about the consequence of this bias to doctor-patient relationship.”
In societies where obesity occupies high percentage of population (US: 2/3 population, around 93 million, where 1/3 of adults are overweight/obese), this distaste may pose considerable threat. Taking the problem to new extreme, David W Freeman of CBSNews posted an article “Fat-phobic doctors refuse to treat obese patients: Is that fair?” and considered it unethical action, Dr. David L. Katz wrote on The Huffington Post“When Doctors judge their obese patient” that he perceived this judgment as a violation to doctor’s oath and profession.
Doctor Rebecca Pulh, Director of Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, demonstrated that Sabin’s study had a tremendous meaning for the recognition and solution of the problems. Quoted Dr. Puhl, “Negative feelings have harmful effect on patient’s physical emotional health. Some may even refuse to visit health-care centers because they fear of doctors’ hostility. This aversion might be noticed in various forms – offensive jokes, derogatory comments by doctors, nurses, nutritionists, heath professionals, attributing unrelated problems to patients’ weight, refusal to perform some health procedures, services, or equipment (for instance, South Florida gynecologists refuse to treat obese female patients, according to poll by Sun Sentinel).”
The solutions to this problem are not quite achievable during the unawareness of their own bias of doctors. The Rudd Center proposed a crash course with an aim to“grow concern about weight bias in the health care environment, helping providers to implement strategies to reduce bias and provide better care for overweight and obese patients”, they also provided a specialized toolkit for doctors themselves to modify their current status of weigh bias as well as published many legal documents and presentation, conference footnotes for further reference purpose. Along with such available resources, there are also multiple approaches which need to be considered. Hospitals need to implement straightforward policies for doctors to reflect their treatment status for obese patients to treatment for normal patients to prevent them from weigh bias as well as apply public remind to those doctors who fail to comply with (however, monetary penalty is not desirable method for prevention, according to video lecture 4.7 and 4.8). Pharmacy R&D departments also have to consider specification in medicine for obese people. As for obese patients, a raise in voice is necessary when they sense negative attitude towards themselves. Commentary box in health-care centers are in need, and every doctor who is redirected a complaint will receive reminder for their actions.
Weigh bias is present not only in health care but also in other fields like employment, education, etc…However, ignorance and inaction usually take place when it comes to such bias, resulting in omitting rights and interest of the obesity, which if at severe degree, may consider as unfair and unethical attitude.
Rudd Center of Yale:
All images is for illustration purpose only.
I took them from:
You can view the whole report paper here.