Nefertiti H. Durant, Ph.D., Barbara Bartman, M.D., Sharina D. Person, Ph.D., Felicia Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and S. Bryn Austin, Sc.D.
An abstract is available at:
A study of overweight and obese patients in community health centers found significant disparities in how patients of different racial and ethnic backgrounds perceive the health effects of their weight. Health care providers can play an important role in helping patients understand the often serious implications.
In the United States, obesity is more prevalent among members of racial and ethnic minority groups. Receiving advice from a health care provider to lose weight has been linked to patients' readiness to lose weight, improve their diet, and increase exercise. However, the effect of patient–provider communication on patients' perception of the harmful effects of obesity—which include type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and gallbladder disease—requires further study.
Patient–provider communication is a crucial component of disease management for overweight and obese patients, regardless of race or ethnicity. Among the many benefits, it can help empower patients to be more active participants in their care. Additional studies are needed, the authors say, to examine the intersection of race, ethnicity, and culture in patient–provider communication to optimize models of care and training programs for health professionals.
The study included 1,071 overweight and obese patients at 70 community health centers. The sample included black, white, and Hispanic adults having a body mass index greater than or equal to 25. Respondents were surveyed about their perceptions of the health effects of weight, and about whether their provider at the health center had talked to them about their weight. Race, ethnicity, and weight status were self-reported.
With obesity and its associated health risks becoming a public health crisis, the role of patient–provider communication is essential. Improving patient and provider communication skills may help to resolve disparities in care.