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Obese Patients

An online article about overweight and obese patients generates numerous comments.

Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD, recently posted an article titled "Treating Obese Patients: The Importance of Improving Provider-Patient Interaction" on Medscape.com. Puhl noted that two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and that although obesity has become a common problem in the healthcare arena, obese patients often are treated disrespectfully. She included quotes from overweight patients that revealed that they had encountered judgmental and insensitive healthcare providers. Puhl concluded that weight bias is not uncommon in health care.

Soon after Puhl's article was posted, Medscape blogger Susan Yox, RN, posed the question "Does your workplace provide quality care to obese patients?" Her question generated numerous responses, but virtually all of the nurses who responded did not answer her question and instead wrote about weight bias that they had personally experienced. One nurse wrote, "I recently underwent bariatric surgery. I underwent surgery because of my desire to be thin and because of the biases I have experienced being overweight. Biases have been demonstrated by family members, friends, co-workers, and strangers. I have experienced rude glances and comments, over-heard negative statements, been given a pig for eating too many cookies, been denied promotions as a heavy person, and promoted after successfully losing 125 lbs. Unfortunately I regained the weight and again began experiencing biases. Unfortunately, it is my belief that many perceive weight issues as a lack of self control instead of as a metabolic issue and addiction. The trouble is, due to embedded biases, obese individuals struggle to convince others that their added weight is related to more than simply overeating. The issue however, is far more complex."

Another nurse wrote that she cares for the "super obese" and has little patience offering health and wellness advice to people she assumes will ignore it. As the previous nurse wrote, it is a complex issue and one that undoubtedly will be with us for some time. es