Guest Post: “Balancing the Scales” Theatre Workshop Trains Professionals in Obesity Sensitivity

Sara Kirk, PhD., Canada Research Chair in Health Services Research, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Sara Kirk, PhD., Canada Research Chair in Health Services Research, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Readers will recall last week’s tremendous response on the issue of inappropriate and unprofessional comments received from health professionals.

The following is a guest post by Sara Kirk, Sheri Price and Meaghan Sim, researchers from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Behind the Scenes: Interprofessional Insight on Patients’ and Practitioners’ Interactions and Experiences with Obesity Management

A team of researchers in Nova Scotia is using live drama to highlight the issue of weight bias and stigma in obesity management in an innovative way. Targeted at health professional students from a range of disciplines, the drama is part of a 3-hour workshop that conveys the key findings of a Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation funded study.

This research explored multiple perspectives on obesity management through interviews with individuals living with obesity, health care professionals and policy-makers across Nova Scotia.

The words spoken in the drama come from the actual interviews with study participants. Internal dialogue (directed at the audience) and external dialogue (directed at each other) highlight the tensions described by our research participants.

The workshop highlights some of the barriers in weight management within a system that is not designed to support individuals living with obesity and chronic disease. The drama brings these tensions to life and provides an avenue for the work shop participants to “rewrite the script” and generate new ways of working with individuals that are less stigmatizing.

To date, over 180 health professional students and practitioners in Atlantic Canada have participated in the workshops with representation from the disciplines of nursing, dietetics/nutrition, respiratory therapy, nuclear medicine, radiation therapy and radiological technology. These workshops have been made possible through a dissemination grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The feedback from workshop participants has been overwhelmingly positive and one of the workshops was featured on both CBC radio (regionally and nationally during Thanksgiving weekend) and CBC local news on Prince Edward Island (approx. 21:20).

Here are examples of what workshop participants had to say about the event:

As a health care student, the implications for my own practice have been profound. There are situations in X-ray when we have no equipment that can image a very obese patient. We need to find solutions to this – communicate restrictions with doctors so they are referred in a way that they are not set-up for failure. This workshop was very well done and I hope that MANY other students and health care professionals get to experience this and learn from this.

fantastic! What a novel way to go beyond our boring prescriptive way of dissemination.

really interesting! Made me think of patients as people with real struggles, not just as statistics

A video of the dramatic presentation can be viewed on youtube (e-mail subscribers will have to visit my website to view the video):

Sara Kirk, Sheri Price and Meaghan Sim, on behalf of the BTS research team
November 2013

Sara Kirk PhD is a Canada Research Chair in Health Services Research at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre, Halifax, NS. Her research program explore how diet and lifestlye factors influence health status and health utilization, using a socio-ecological approach.

Sheri Price is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS. Her research explores the areas of health services, professional socialization, nursing work environments and women’s health.

Meaghan Sim is a project coordinator for the BTS project and PhD student at Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS.

Comments and feedback on the video clips are very much appreciated.