BALTIMORE—A patient’s body mass index (BMI) may not be the only factor at play when a physician diagnoses a patient as obese. According to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the diagnosis could also depend on the weight of the physician.
Researchers examined the impact of physician BMI on obesity care and found that physicians with a normal BMI, as compared to overweight and obese physicians, were more likely to engage their obese patients in weight loss discussions (30 percent versus 18 percent) and more likely to diagnose a patient as obese if they perceived the patient’s BMI met or exceed their own (93 percent versus 7 percent). The results are featured in the January issue of Obesity.
“Our findings indicate that physicians with normal BMI more frequently reported discussing weight loss with patients than overweight or obese physicians," said Sara Bleich, PhD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management. "Physicians with normal BMI also have greater confidence in their ability to provide diet and exercise counseling and perceive their weight loss advice as trustworthy when compared to overweight or obese physicians. In addition, obese physicians had greater confidence in prescribing weight loss medications and were more likely to report success in helping patients lose weight."
Using a national cross-sectional survey of 500 primary care physicians, Bleich and colleagues from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine assessed the impact of physician BMI on obesity care, physician self-efficacy, perceptions of role modeling and perceptions of patient trust in weight loss advice. Physicians with a self-reported BMI below 25 kg/m2 were considered to be of normal weight and physicians reporting a BMI at or above 25 kg/m2 were considered overweight or obese.