One of the guiding principles of our book is that all people should be treated with respect; this is especially true in the health care field where it’s not uncommon for doctors and other health care providers to look down on people who smoke. This can often backfire – as smokers who may otherwise come to their physicians to get help for tobacco cessation are now turned off from seeking medical care. (And who can blame them.)
It seems that the same holds true for overweight and obese patients (I can only imagine how bad it is for people who are both obese AND smoke).
Two recent studies published in the journal Obesity reveal some disturbing and disappointing facts regarding the physician-patient relationship for the overweight or obese patient.
The first study, which followed over 200 patients from close to 40 primary care centers, showed that physicians had less rapport with patients who were overweight or obese.
The second study followed over 20,000 patients and showed that those who were overweight were 23% more likely to shop around for doctors (doctor-shop) whereas those who were obese were 52% more likely to doctor-shop than patients of normal weight. Even worse, this resulted in 85% more trips to the emergency room for problems that could have been addressed in the doctor’s office.
It’s well known that many physicians and other healthy care providers hold negative feelings towards overweight and obese patients, blaming them for their excess weight, and assuming that they sit all day and stuff their faces with junk food.
I think it’s time for all doctors and other people taking care of patients to realize that the first step towards helping people improve their lifestyle is to treat them as an equal with respect – to listen to their take on things. If you listen, most patients who smoke or who are obese will tell you of their many struggles to quit smoking or lose weight. Furthermore, realize that if you never smoked and were always trim, then it may be hard for you to empathize.
Hopefully, medical schools will start putting on more emphasis on the proper patient-doctor relationship, and quality of care for smokers and overweight or obese patients will improve.