Addressing and improving weight bias in medicine is possible if we share the right OAC President/CEO Joe Nadglowski

I’ve had the privilege, along with a number of obesity community advocates, of participating in a STOP Obesity Alliance project that is trying to improve obesity care in primary care.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us with the lived experience of obesity have had a negative experience in terms of our weight and/or obesity with a healthcare provider. Oftentimes, that is our primary care provider.

If you’re like me, you’ve experienced the finger wag and the words, “You need to lose ‘X’ amount of pounds.” Your defense response might have been, “I’m trying” when what you’re really thinking is, “No kidding, doc” — to which they may have replied, “Try harder.”

Box checked, but is it really? In this case, the provider assumed they had the perfect conversation with their patient, when in reality these conversations aren’t helpful. In some cases they can even be harmful.

Good Obesity Healthcare

Our group in this project is exploring lots of ideas – not just on re-hashing what bad looks like (and trust me, the patient advocates in the room have shared plenty of the bad), but what good might look like.

So, I spent a bit of my flight time home from the meeting in DC thinking about what good would look like for me. Here’s my list so far:

  • Getting weighed privately and without comment/judgement by the medical assistant or nurse.
  • My provider asking permission to talk about obesity/weight. This can easily be done by including a check box on the pre-visit paperwork we almost always have to fill out!
  • My provider delivering more than the advice to “eat less and move more.” What are their specific recommendations?
  • My provider asking about my health/life goals around obesity that go beyond my weight, and then helping me determine what’s realistic.
  • My provider having compassion and using sensitive language. Asking patients what language they like to use around their weight is a great start! In addition, they should recognize my past efforts around weight that have been frequent and serious.
  • My provider’s willingness to be a partner in my efforts and schedule follow-up visits to check in.
  • My provider reminding me that other options for treatment exist if I don’t respond to their initial recommendations.