Prejudice against higher-weight health providers: Implications for patients and providers

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Higher-weight health providers may face prejudice, which may affect the health provider and the patient alike. In a series of five studies, we sought to experimentally determine the extent of weight prejudice against health providers as well as boundary conditions for the effects. In all studies, participants evaluated the profile of a potential health provider, which contained each study's manipulation. They subsequently rated their likelihood of selecting the provider, their perceived legitimacy of the provider, and how likely they would be to follow the provider's advice. We found that higher-weight professionals were evaluated more negatively than lower weight professionals in Study 1. Focusing only on health professionals in Study 2, we found that higher-weight health professionals were evaluated more negatively than lower weight professionals, especially when the health professional's specialty was relevant to weight (i.e., nutrition vs. allergies). This did not depend on gender of the health provider (Study 3). In Study 4, we found that imagined patient risk for heart disease did not moderate the effect of provider weight on prejudiced attitudes, and the effect did not change when providing participants with credible purported physician advice (Study 5). Taken together, these studies provide evidence that weight prejudice against higher-weight health providers exists, especially in medical contexts related to weight. Not only are there implications for higher-weight health providers, but also there are implications for patients as well. Thus, prejudice against higher-weight health providers could constitute an important health issue.



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