As in countries with comparable rates the growing number of adipose people has, however, not led to a growing acceptance. In Germany there has been a lack of data on this issue. Recent scientific surveys of the Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) AdiposityDiseases in Leipzig have shown, that obesity might be Germany’s last bastion for prejudices, refusal, and stigmatization.
Especially for the USA diverse studies show negative attitudes toward obese people as well as stigmatization, and discrimination. In Germany the same proved to be true, whereas for other diseases like AIDS or disabilities public discourse and campaigns seem to have led to fewer stigmatizing attitudes.
Scientists of the IFB and the Institute of Social Medicine, Occupational and Public Health (ISAP) have investigated how medical students, hospital staff and the public think about obese people and the causes of overweight. In a Germany-wide representative survey participants attributed adjectives like "lazy" versus "industrious” or "active" versus "inactive" to obese children, adults, and senior citizens as well as to normal weight persons shown in pictures (vignettes with weight data). These attributions were analyzed via the so-called Fat-Phobia-Scale (FPS, Bacon et al).
As to the causes of obesity, participants could choose internal ones like overeating or lack of activity versus genetic causes and external reasons such as an obesogenic environment. The more obese people were considered to be responsible for their overweight the more stigmatizing was the attribution of features.
Are Attitudes of Medical Students and Health Care Professionals different? A similar survey with 671 medical students revealed that the percentage of aspiring doctors with negative attitudes is just as high as in the general public. Despite a bigger medical knowledge most students hold obese individuals accountable for excess weight. Birte Pantenburg, who conducted the survey, explains that, “however, 44 percent of the participants stated that fighting the overweight epidemic is equally the individuals’ and the society’s responsibility. A majority would furthermore appreciate a stronger focus on obesity in the medical curriculum.” Today, a broad majority of students and citizens deem obesity to be one of the most important health problems in Germany. In the early 2000s only 2 to 3 percent of the population agreed to that.
Nearly 700 health care professionals of the University Hospital of Leipzig participated in a comparable survey. As observed with psychiatric patients, respondents who have more experience with obese patients displayed less negative views. So did women and overweight health care workers. The questionnaire also contained questions on the work-related impact of adiposity.Health Care System is not Fit for Obese Patients
Susann Huster | Universität Leipzig
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