Abstract: Himmelstein & Knepp

Development and Pilot Testing of a Weight Stigma Reduction Program for Medical Students

Drs. Mary S Himmelstein  (Psychological Sciences, Kent State University) and Kristen Knepp (Family and Community Medicine, NEOMED)

Physicians receive little training in obesity medicine or practical skills for weight communication during medical school. Many physicians endorse weight bias (e.g., believing patients with obesity are lazy, lack willpower, and deserving of blame for health problems). Half of patients with obesity report being mistreated by their physicians because of their body weight. These negative interactions induce both physiological and psychological stress in patients, which manifest in behavioral consequences that exacerbate obesity. Although negative effects of weight bias are well-documented, effective interventions aimed at reducing weight bias among physicians are lacking. This project will develop, and pilot test an intervention to reduce weight bias among medical trainees. Bringing together a panel of experts, we will develop an intervention to address weight bias and obesity competencies in medicine then deliver the intervention as coursework to medical trainees.  We will evaluate the efficacy of the intervention materials by piloting a randomized controlled trial in which students receive the tailored weight bias intervention versus a control group receiving standard coursework. After the intervention students will complete a clinical skills assessment, which will be evaluated by faculty and standardized patients blind to intervention or control assignment. We expect students in the intervention condition to demonstrate superior clinical skills and lower weight bias relative to the control group. Developing, evaluating and ultimately implementing weight bias interventions in medicine is vital to reduce weight bias in the healthcare system and reduce negative health outcomes stemming from weight bias.