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ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 27  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 231-237

Reducing obesity prejudice in medical education


1 Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA
2 Department of Family Medicine, University of California, Irvine, Orange, CA - 92868, USA
3 Mayo Medical School, Rochester, MN 55905, USA
4 Division of General Internal Medicine, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA - 95817, USA
5 Department Public Health Sciences, Biostatistics, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA - 95616, USA

Correspondence Address:
Kabir Matharu
55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA - 02114
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1357-6283.152176

Background: Healthcare worker attitudes toward obese individuals facilitate discrimination and contribute to poor health outcomes. Previous studies have demonstrated medical student bias toward obese individuals, but few have examined effects of the educational environment on these prejudicial beliefs. We sought to determine whether an innovative educational intervention (reading a play about obesity) could diminish obesity prejudice relative to a standard medical lecture. Methods: We conducted a randomized, controlled trial enrolling medical students (n = 129) from three universities. Students were assigned to play-reading or a standard lecture. Explicit attitudes and implicit bias toward obese individuals were assessed prior to intervention and after four months. Results: At baseline, students demonstrated moderate explicit and implicit bias toward obese people despite high scores on empathy. Students randomized to the play-reading group had significantly decreased explicit fat bias (P = 0.01) at follow-up, while students in the lecture group showed increased endorsement of a prescriptive model of care at the expense of a patient-centered approach (P = 0.03). There was a significant increase in empathy for those in both the theater (P = 0.007) and lecture group (P = 0.02). The intervention had no significant effect on implicit bias or regard for obesity as a civil rights issue. Discussion: Dramatic reading may be superior to traditional medical lectures for showcasing patient rights and preferences. The present study demonstrates for the first time that play-reading diminishes conscious obesity bias. Further research should determine whether nontraditional methods of instruction promote improved understanding of and care for obese patients.


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