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Race may be a factor when obese patients get counseled on weight by their doctors

January 18, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times
  • Black obese patients and white obese patients may be counseled on weight differently by their physicians, a study finds.
Black obese patients and white obese patients may be counseled on weight… (Chris Jackson / Getty Images )

Obese people may not be treated equally when it comes to being counseled on diet and exercise by their physicians. A study finds that blacks may get less counseling than whites, regardless if the physician they see is black or white.

The study, published online recently in the journal Obesity, looked at a sample of 2,231 visits of black and white men and women considered obese (having a body mass index of 30 or more) to their black or white physicians. Researchers noted if they were given guidance on weight reduction, diet and nutrition, or exercise during the visit. Hispanic and Asian patients and doctors were excluded from the study since their numbers were so small.

Black patients who visited white doctors had less chance of being counseled on exercise than white patients seeing white doctors. Black patients who saw black doctors were also less likely to get advice on weight reduction than white patients who saw black doctors.

Researchers offered some ideas for the discrepancy: Doctors may have less faith that black patients will follow advice; black physicians may be trying to be culturally sensitive to their black patients; and physicians generally may not get proper training or have the necessary resources to advise patients about managing their weight, regardless of their race.

"Future work," wrote the authors, "should examine similarities and differences in the contribution of patient, clinician, and health system factors to low levels of weight-related counseling among patients of different ethnic groups."

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