PROVIDER WEIGHT BIAS: EXPEREINCES OF OVERWEIGHT AND OBESE CANCER SURVIVORS
Wyrick, Sandra Lee
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Declared a disease by the AMA in 2013, obesity claims the lives of over 2.8 million people annually in the U.S. Mounting evidence indicates weight bias is encountered in the interactions with health care professionals; resulting in a decreased health-related quality of life and shorter survival rates. Knowingly or unknowingly, healthcare providers communicate forms of weight bias when they associate negative traits and assumptions with obesity to their patients. Using a descriptive phenomenology methodology, the purpose of this research study is to explore and describe the phenomenon of weight bias as experienced by overweight and obese cancer survivors in their interactions with oncology nurses and physicians. The study findings report heavy underlying implications related to the psychosocial and cultural aspects related to the overweight and obese cancer survivor population that oncology nurses and doctors are not addressing in their clinical practice. There are strong implications related to the coexisting factors including large body size and increased risks of many types of cancer, yet often nurses and doctors fail to contemplate what constitutes health outcomes for overweight and obese cancer survivors. Findings from this study explicate and illuminate disparities within the oncological healthcare settings. Evidence from this study found oncologists simply do not “want to get involved” in the weight-related implications of cancer. One participant called it a disservice and others simply described it as ignoring the elephant in the room. Additionally, the study findings discovered emerging themes denoting the participants’ positive experiences with their cancer care. The current study advanced the understanding of how overweight and obese cancer survivors experience oncology health care. Given the prevalence of obesity in the U. S. and permeation of weight bias throughout the healthcare industry, meaningful remedies are needed to protect patients against weight bias. Findings may be used to further the state-of-the-knowledge by informing oncology healthcare nurses and physicians of tactics to change current practice to include culturally sensitive, holistic, and respectful delivery of care for the overweight and obese cancer survivor.