Getting patients to wear fat suits could reveal medical students’ prejudices against overweight and obese people, researchers say.
Scientists at the University of Tuebingen, south Germany, asked trainee doctors to take an anti-fat attitudes test (AFAT) after taking part in a role play with “patients” wearing fat suits.
A total of 207 medical students took part in the study, where volunteers helped to simulate a meeting between a “family doctor” and a “patient with diabetes”.
The AFAT responses, published in the British Medical Journal, showed that students harboured more negative attitudes towards obesity than either teachers or the patients.
Students were more likely to agree more strongly with the statements “fat people could lose weight if they really wanted to”, “most fat people are lazy”, and “there is no excuse for being fat”.
Responses were recorded by asking participants to rate on a scale of one to five how much they agreed with statements such as “fat people have no will power” and “fat people are lazy”.
The research team said: “We strongly believe that integrating an obesity simulation suit into the routine undergraduate medical teaching context is a valuable tool. It can raise medical students’ awareness for communication encounters with patients with obesity.”