Apr 6, 2010 12:26 PM by Jamie Smith
Surveys of physicians and other health care professionals have shown a certain stigma towards overweight and obese patients. Some of these patients say they feel that bias, but does it affect the care they receive?
A new study shows when it comes to several common outpatient medical procedures, overweight and obese patients receive just as good, or slightly better care than those who are normal weight.
Dr. Virginia Chang from the University of Pennsylvania and co-authors reviewed common outpatient procedures including cancer screenings which were performed at VA facilities from 2003 to 2004 and also to medicare beneficiaries from 1994 to 2006.
Dr. Chang says "while it may very well be true, that physicians, and other health providers may harbor somewhat negative attitudes towards obesity or obese patients, these attitudes don't seem to be born out in lower quality of care."
After reviewing common outpatient procedures, Dr. Chang said "we did not find any evidence across any of these measures that obese or overweight patients are receiving lower quality of care. To the contrary we found that these groups often receive slightly better care on several of our measures."
In the study Dr. Chang looked at diabetes care. She said "if you look at the medicare population at diabetes care and you consider whether patients with diabetes are having their sugar or glucose monitored in a timely fashion the proportion that are getting that care successfully is 74 percent for obese patients compared to only 62 percent for normal weight patients."
Researchers found it was almost the same percentage for diabetic patients when it came to timely cholesterol checks. Dr. Chang said "Those numbers were 72 percent for obese patients but only 65 percent for normal weight patients so the obese patients were more likely to receive recommended care."
Researchers say these findings may help to understand why the risk of death associated with obesity is not as high as it used to be. Dr. Chang said "I think our results suggest that physicians might be a little bit more aggressive in modifying risk factors for obese patients."
It is important to take in account that this study looked at a slightly older group of patients, and the quality of care experienced by younger overweight or obese patients differ.
The study appears in Jama, Journal of the American Medical Association