Study: Many Doctors View Obese Patients Negatively

In at least one large New York City healthcare network, more than 40 percent of doctors have a "negative reaction" to obese patients, according to a new study. And most physicians feel that treating obese patients was "very frustrating."

More and more U.S. patients — by recent estimates, more than 30 percent — are obese. That means they have a body mass index — a measure of the ratio of weight to height — of 30 or greater.

In a survey of 399 of their colleagues in pediatrics, internal medicine, and psychiatry, Dr. Melanie Jay and a team of researchers — all from New York University School of Medicine — found that 56 percent felt qualified to treat obesity, and 46 percent felt successful at it.

Pediatricians were "more positive" and psychiatrists "less negative" in their treatment expectancies than internists. Newer physicians expected more positive outcomes.

In the journal BMC Health Services Research, the authors suggest two possible explanations: "First, physicians may become disillusioned with years of attempted treatment of obese patients in the face of modest weight loss or even weight gain. Second, obesity management training may be different for recent graduates who practice in an era in which it is widely accepted that even modest weight loss (is) a successful outcome."