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A third of med students show bias against obese patients

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 17, 2013

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There is widespread anti-obesity bias among medical students, although many are unaware of it, according to a study in the May issue of Academic Medicine.

Between 2008 and 2011, researchers asked third-year medical students at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina to take the Weight Implicit Association Test (IAT). The test measures implicit preferences for “fat” or “thin” individuals. Students also answered a survey assessing their explicit weight-related preferences.

Of 310 surveyed students, 33% reported a significant explicit anti-obesity bias. No students reported a significant explicit anti-thin bias.

More than half of the students had a significant implicit weight bias, according to the IAT scores. Seventeen percent had an implicit anti-thin bias. Of the students surveyed, two-thirds were unaware of their implicit overweight bias (link).

Study authors suggest that medical school obesity courses address weight-related biases and their potential impact on health care.

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