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Wrong Approach to Obesity Can Alienate Patients

Last Updated: May 01, 2009.

When physicians tackle the issue of obesity with their black patients, they may unintentionally alienate them if they do not use the right timing and approach, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

FRIDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- When physicians tackle the issue of obesity with their black patients, they may unintentionally alienate them if they do not use the right timing and approach, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Stephanie H. Ward, M.D., and colleagues at the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, conducted a study of 43 obese black patients who were recruited into focus groups to discuss their physician's approach to obesity.

The focus groups generated four themes, namely a dislike of the word obese, the crucial role of timing when discussing obesity with patients, a desire for a personalized approach to weight loss, and mixed responses to physicians' scare tactics, the researchers note. The participants were able to clearly identify which behaviors had a positive and negative effect on motivating weight loss, the investigators discovered.

"The results of our study highlight the need for physicians to be cognizant of the potential unintended consequences of the current techniques they use to counsel African Americans about obesity. Physicians must be aware that their patients may respond unexpectedly if approached in a manner they perceive as disrespectful, condescending, emotionless, or non-supportive," the authors write. "Physicians should consider counseling approaches that let them remain accessible to patients, offering concrete advice on weight loss goals, diet, exercise, and potential ways to address individual barriers."

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