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Obese People Do Not Receive Inferior Medical Care

April 7, 2010

Contrary to popular belief, obese men and women do not receive inferior health care and are just as likely to receive preventative care from doctors, according to a new study.

The study, which was completed by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, followed nearly 70,000 patients who received Medicare benefits or were treated at VA hospitals across the country.

As Nanci Hellmich of USA Today reported on Wednesday: “The scientists compared how likely heavy and normal-weight people were to meet standard guidelines for preventive care, including diabetes care (eye exams, sugar and cholesterol testing), flu vaccines, pneumonia vaccines and screenings for breast, colorectal and cervical cancers.”

According to the research team’s findings, which were published n the April 7, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), overweight or obese patients were just as likely to receive quality medical attention from doctors and nurses.

“Previous research has shown that some physicians find it awkward to work with obese patients and have low expectations for success,” Hellmich said. “And heavy patients have reported feeling that doctors are biased and disrespectful because of their extra weight.”

Even lead author Dr. Virginia Chang seemed surprised by the results of the study.

“We were not expecting these findings,” Chang, a physician with the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, told Rachael Myers Lowe of Reuters Health. “We were fully expecting to find that obese patients got lower quality care and were less likely to get recommended care.”

Not only wasn’t that the case, but according to Lowe, clinically obese men and women “may receive better care. Compared to their normal-weight counterparts, obese patients were more likely to get the flu vaccine, and breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer screenings.”

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