Academic Writing: Weight Bias


Negative attitudes toward people with high body weight have been documented in pre-professional health students, prompting concern that such feelings may manifest as poor patient care in professional practice. This study assessed weight bias in university students in the non-physician health professions. A convenience sample of 206 students completed an online survey composed of a validated 14-item scale (1-5 lowest to highest weight bias) and questions regarding personal experiences of weight bias. Respondents were grouped by discipline within graduate and undergraduate levels. Weight bias was present in a majority of respondents. Overall, the percentage of responses indicative of weight bias was 92.7%. The mean total score was 3.65. ± 0.52, and the rating exceeded 3 for all 14 scale descriptors of high-weight people. In graduate students, discipline had a significant main effect on total score (p=0.01), with lower scores in dietetics (3.17 ± 0.46) vs audiology/sign language/speech language pathology (3.84 ± 0.41) and physician assistant students (3.78 ± 0.51; p<0.05). These findings show that weight bias is prevalent in health professions students at a mountain west university. Well-controlled studies that track students into professional practice would help determine whether bias-reduction interventions in college improve provider behaviors and clinical outcomes.

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