Obesity Bias Squared

Bias hits people who live with the chronic disease of obesity, and the professionals who devote their careers to overcoming it, with a double dose – obesity bias squared.

Intellectual bias that favors personal convictions in obesity and nutrition has a profound effect on research and the scientific literature in obesity. Writing in Clinical Obesity, Krista Casazza and David Allison explain that personal beliefs must be tested before they make their way into scientific literature and clinical recommendations:

Many conjectures commonly advanced as recommendations to reduce weight gain or promote weight loss – “eat breakfast every day,” “eat more fruits and vegetables,” “eat more meals with family members,” “reduce fast food availability,” “eliminate vending machines from schools,” etc. – could be tested and we should challenge ourselves to do so more often.

Bias against people with obesity is so widespread that it has a pervasive effect on the quality of clinical care that people with obesity receive. People with obesity feel routinely disparaged by healthcare professionals and thus avoid needed care. When they do seek it, the care they receive is compromised, both by provider bias and by health plans that restrict coverage of medically necessary services intended to treat obesity.

Speaking yesterday at the annual meeting of the South Carolina Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ConscienHealth’s Ted Kyle offered reasons for optimism:

Despite all these problems with scientific and personal bias in obesity, many signs of progress are appearing. The understanding of obesity is growing rapidly – among scientists, healthcare professionals, and even perhaps the public. Health policy is slowly but surely catching up. Bad coverage habits of health plans die hard, but they are dying.

Click here for Kyle’s slides on obesity bias squared. Click here for more on bias in scientific publications on obesity and here for more on overcoming weight bias and stigma.

Square, photograph © Willard / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


May 6, 2016

One Response to “Obesity Bias Squared”

  1. May 06, 2016 at 8:22 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Go, Ted! Keep on keeping on!