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20.3: Physicians Reactions

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    Learning Objectives

    • Physicians' Reactions to Patient Size

    Research conducted by

    Mikki Hebl and Jingping Xu

    Case study prepared by

    Emily Zitek


    Obese people face discrimination on a daily basis in employment, education, and relationship contexts. Past research has shown that even doctors, who are trained to treat all their patients warmly and have access to literature suggesting uncontrollable and hereditary aspects of obesity, believe obese individuals are undisciplined and suffer from controllability issues. This case study examines how doctors treat overweight as compared to normal weight patients.

    Various doctors at one of three major hospitals in the Texas Medical Center of Houston participated in the study. These doctors were sent a packet containing a medical chart similar to the one they view upon seeing a patient. This chart portrayed a patient who was displaying symptoms of a migraine headache but was otherwise healthy. This chart also contained a measure of the patient's weight. Doctors were randomly assigned to receive the chart of a patient who was overweight or the chart of a patient who was of normal weight. After reviewing the chart, the doctors then had to indicate how much time they believed they would spend with the patient.

    Questions to Answer

    Do doctors discriminate against overweight patients? Specifically, do the doctors who review charts of overweight patients say they would spend the same amount of time with their patients as the doctors who review charts of normal weight patients?

    Design Issues

    The method and data described here are only a small part of a larger study. See the reference below for a full description of the study.

    Descriptions of Variables

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Description of variables
    Variable Description
    Patient weight 1 = average weight, 2 = overweight
    Time represents how long the doctors said they would spend with the patient

    Data files



    • Hebl, M., & Xu, J., "Weighing the care: Physicians' reactions to the size of a patient," International Journal of Obesity, 25 (2001): 1246-1252

    This page titled 20.3: Physicians Reactions is shared under a Public Domain license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by David Lane via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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