Higher Physician Body Mass Index is Associated with Increased Weight Bias in an Arab Country with High Prevalence of Obesity

Satish Chandrasekhar Nair, Saba Munib Sheikh, Halah Ibrahim


Background: Obesity is a worldwide problem. The Arab world, and particularly the Middle East, has witnessed a recent dramatic rise in obesity and obesity‑related diseases. Yet, little is known about physician attitudes toward or management of obesity in this region of the world. The purpose of this study is to explore physician perceptions and attitudes toward obesity in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Methods: A cross‑sectional, self‑administered anonymous survey of primary
care physicians was performed between December 2015 and January 2017 at academic medical centers in the UAE.

Results: A total of 573 of 698 physicians (82% response rate) completed the survey. Thirty‑seven percent of respondents met body mass index (BMI) criteria for overweight and 12% for obesity. Physicians had suffcient knowledge but lacked training in obesity management. Physician subspecialty impacted knowledge with internal medicine physicians showing better obesity knowledge (Chi‑square 392, df 210, P = 0.00). There was no signifcant relationship between knowledge and attitudes with physician age, gender, or nationality. Attitudinal responses toward obesity management were generally positive. However, there was an inverse correlation between physician BMI and positive attitudes toward obesity management (Chi‑square 1551, df 323, P = 0.00).

Conclusions: Although our study did not fnd signifcant weight bias, negative
attitudes were directly correlated with physician BMI, a signifcant concern as half of physicians surveyed reported BMIs consistent with overweight and obesity.

Keywords: Attitudes, obesity, physician, weight bias

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