Do Patients Think Obesity is a Health Risk?

To those of us working in the obesity field, the idea that there are people out there, who do not think that being overweight or obese has a negative impact on health may seem surprising. But fact is, not everyone, who carries around extra pounds, believes that this may be negatively affecting their health – according to a new study just published in the Patient Education and Counseling, whether or not patients do, may depend on their race.

In this study, Nefertiti Durant and colleagues from Birmingham, Alabama, USA, examined 1071 overweight (41%) and obese (59%) patients who completed a 2002 Community Health Center (CHC) User survey.

Interestingly, Blacks and Hispanics were half as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to believe weight was damaging to their health despite correction for covariates (SES, etc.).

Furthermore, overweight/obese patients who were told they were overweight by healthcare providers were almost nine times more likely to perceive that weight was damaging to their health compared to those not told.

Thus, the authors conclude, there appear to be great racial/ethnic disparities in the perception that overweight is unhealthy but provider communication may be a powerful tool for helping patients understand that overweight is damaging to health.

I am not aware of Canadian data on this issue – do visible minorities in Canada (e.g. East Asian, South Asian, etc.) perceive overweight to be any less detrimental to their health than White Canadians? Also, are there sex differences in this perception that explain why we so few men present in obesity clinics?

Edmonton, Alberta