Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Discriminating Physicians?

Dratz. I was able to find MANY news stories ABOUT this research but not the actual journal text. It is said to be found in the November issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. I suppose if I used one of the university links I could find the article but I already know that it isn’t going to tell us much more or be very useful.

The report to which I am referring has to do with how physicians feel about the patients they see who are obese. A very small study, that is far from a randomized clinical trial, included physicians at 14 different practices in Baltimore MD . In total, 238 patients and 40 physicians completed questionnaires about the doctor visit. Some patient information was available to the researches and what the Johns Hopkins team noted was that many of the patients had high BMIs of around 32 which is considered obese and that the physicians’ amount of respect for them, on a five point scale, was lower than for that of patients who were not obese.

What does this mean? That was not determined. The research does not say if that lack of respect affected treatment, testing or outcomes. I sense a bit of verisimilitude in the study but it is far from a scientific conclusion. I have been far more sensitive to the lack of physician attention to DOING something about the person’s weight. Probably weight and smoking are the two most difficult things for a clinician to address. At least there is as much research to suggest that as there is to say they do not respect their overweight patients. That is pretty tough since the majority of Americans ARE overweight or obese.

Personally, I can attest to being treated differently by the general public when I was heavier. I feel that people are more willing, no happy, to help me with things now. It is hard to explain. Asking where an item is in the store, stopping for directions, people opening doors for me, smiling and talking on the elevator. All of it.

My BMI is low now, but at one time and for several years it was over 26. Even though I have swung to the other extreme with an underweight BMI, remembering how I felt when it was out of the 18-24 range of normal is well, it’s a little unpleasant! And though I do not remember doctors treating me indifferently, I CAN say that nearly any practitioner I see now remarks about my low weight in a very positive way, and they often SAY things about their other patients being BIG. I guess that supports the above research doesn’t it.

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