Overweight Doctors Slim on Weight Loss Talks with Patients

2012-01-30 05:51

If your doctor is overweight and you are too, then chances are he or she will not have the weight loss talk with you or give you a diagnosis of obesity. That’s the finding of a new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Doctor, heal thyself?

The epidemic of overweight and obesity in the United States—and around the world—is a growing problem and one that is taking its toll on health in a variety of ways, ranging from a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes to greater pain and disability related to arthritis and osteoporosis, among other health problems.

In this new study, Sara Bleich, PhD, lead author and assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, and her colleagues evaluated the effect of a doctor’s body mass index (BMI) on patient care regarding obesity, physician self-efficacy, perceptions of role modeling, and perceptions of patient trust in their advice on weight loss.

The study group included 500 primary care physicians who were classified according to self-reported BMI: less than 25 kg/m2 were considered to be normal weight, and 25 mg/m2 or greater was considered to be overweight or obese.

The researchers found that compared with overweight or obese doctors,

  • Doctors who had normal BMI more often reported talking about weight loss with their patients
  • Doctors with normal BMI had more confidence in their ability to provide dietary and exercise counseling to their patients
  • Doctors with normal BMI perceived their weight loss advice as trustworthy

Overall, normal BMI doctors were more likely (30%) to talk to their obese patients about weight loss than were overweight or obese doctors (18%). In addition, normal BMI doctors were much more likely (93%) than overweight or obese doctors (7%) to diagnose a patient as obese if they thought their patient’s BMI met or exceeded their own.


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Here are two good questions about weight loss the answers of which I don't know. I question how a patient can lose weight when his or her doctor is overweight. Second, how can an overweight doctor give a good weight loss advice to an obese patient?
I agree. Here's another good question: How can you trust a doctor who smokes to give you good health advice?