New Course to Address Weight Bias in Clinical Settings

A new online course will help improve quality of care for overweight and obese patients. (Shutterstock Photo)
A new online course will help improve quality of care for overweight and obese patients. (Shutterstock Photo)

The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine recently launched an online continuing medical education course for health care providers to help reduce weight stigmatization in clinical settings.

A new online course will help improve quality of care for overweight and obese patients. (Shutterstock Photo)
A new online course will help improve quality of care for overweight and obese patients. (Shutterstock Photo)

With two-thirds of Americans affected by overweight or obesity, weight bias is an important clinical concern.

“This course responds to increasing calls for training and education to improve obesity care and prevent negative stigma toward patients with obesity,” said Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the UConn Rudd Center, who led the course development.

Physicians, nurses and other health professionals self report negative attitudes and prejudice towards patients with obesity. Research demonstrates that patients with obesity frequently feel judged and stigmatized in health care settings, she said.

The course, “Weight Bias in Clinical Care: Improving Health Care for Patients with Overweight and Obesity” is relevant for clinicians across a variety of practice settings and specialties, according to Puhl. It is free and easily accessible and can be completed online at Improveobesitycare.org

“The course equips clinicians with strategies to improve provider-patient communication, make positive changes in the medical office environment, and increase awareness of personal biases that could unintentionally compromise patient care,” said Puhl.

Weight stigmatization during medical visits can harm the quality of provider-patient interactions, interfere with patients’ care experience, and influence decisions to avoid future medical visits and routine preventive care.

“Negative bias and stigma create obstacles in efforts to effectively prevent and treat obesity.”

Learning objectives for the course include the following:

1) Recognize the sources of weight bias and stigmatization in health care settings.

2) Describe the adverse consequences of weight stigma on patients’ emotional and physical health.

3) Identify personal assumptions about obesity and body weight, and how these views can influence patient care.

4) Improve communication skills to facilitate productive discussions with patients about weight-related health.

5) Implement clinical strategies to help patients with obesity set appropriate goals for lifestyle behavior change.

6) Identify strategies to improve accessibility and comfort for patients with obesity in the medical office environment.

7) Educate medical students about weight bias and provide resources for further training on this topic.

As today’s health providers can help align medical education with future patient needs, strategies to reduce weight stigma among medical trainees are also presented, said Puhl. Registration and enrollment can be completed on the website.

UConn’s Rudd Center is a distinguished multi-disciplinary policy research center dedicated to improving the world’s diet, preventing obesity and reducing weight stigma. The Rudd Center is a leader in building broad-based consensus to change diet and activity patterns by conducting research and educating policy makers and the public. For more information, visit the Rudd Center website .