Weight bias among health care providers for children in UAE

Naguib M. Abdel Reheim, Nehad Gomaa Ramadan Ali, Shaf Khot, Motahareh Vamegh, Mohammad Anwar, Mamdouh Swilem


Background: This research looks at weight bias among healthcare providers for children in UAE.

Methods: This study was done through self-administered questionnaire. Our targets were health care providers for children working in both governmental and private hospitals in UAE. 198 participants were enrolled in the study after exclusion of invalid questionnaires.

Results: While 15.4% of healthcare professions in our study acknowledged practice of weight bias during care of obese children, 52.5% denied and 32.1% are not sure about it. 149 participants (76%) believed that failure of obesity management in children is attributed to their weak willpower and poor commitment. Compared with normal children, overweight/obese children are considered less complaint by 59% of our participants, less active by 78.2%, less willpower by 59.5%, less confident by 73.2% and less intelligent by 17.7%. Finally, 10% of our participants consider treatment of overweight/obesity is a waste of time.

Conclusions: This study shows significant weight bias among healthcare profession which can occur unintentionally. Weight bias among health care providers affects the quality of medical care of obese children. Education, training and increasing awareness of weight bias among health care providers in UAE is an initial and essential step to decrease the risk of weight bias which is a significant barrier in management of childhood obesity.


Children, Obesity, Physicians, Weight bias

Full Text:



Prevalence of overweight and obesity among children in the United Arab Emirates. Obes Rev. 2007;8(1):15-20.

Hebl MR, Xu J. Weighing the care: physicians’ reactions to the size of a patient. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001;25:1246-52.

Harvey EL, Hill AJ. Health professionals’ views of overweight people and smokers. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001;25:1253-61.

Spruijt‐Metz D. Etiology, treatment, and prevention of obesity in childhood and adolescence: A decade in review. Journal of research on Adolescence. 2011;21(1):129-52.

Young LM, Powell B. The effects of obesity on the clinical judgments of mental health professionals. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 1985:233-46.

Foster GD, Wadden TA, Makris AP, Davidson D, Sanderson RS, Allison DB, et al. Primary care physicians’ attitudes about obesity and its treatment. Obesity. 2003;11(10):1168-77.

Oberrieder H, Walker R, Monroe D, Adeyanju M. Attitude of dietetics students and registered dietitians toward obesity. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 1995;95(8):914-6.

Keane RM. Contemporary beliefs about mental illness among medical students: Implications for education and practice. Academic psychiatr. 1990;14(3):172-7.

Schwartz MB, Chambliss HO, Brownell KD, Blair SN, Billington C. Weight bias among health professionals specializing in obesity. Obesity. 2003;11(9):1033-9.

Campbell M, Fitzpatrick R, Haines A, Kinmonth AL, Sandercock P, Spiegelhalter D, et al. Framework for design and evaluation of complex interventions to improve health. BMJ. 2000;321(7262):694.

Puhl RM, Brownell KD. Confronting and coping with weight stigma: an investigation of overweight and obese adults. Obesity. 2006;14(10):1802-15.

Hebl MR, Xu J. Weighing the care: physicians' reactions to the size of a patient. Internat J Obesit. 2001;25(8):1246.

Kristeller JL, Hoerr RA. Physician attitudes toward managing obesity: differences among six specialty groups. Preventive medicine. 1997;26(4):542-9.

Maiman LA, Wang VL, Becker MH, Finlay J, Simonson M. Attitudes toward obesity and the obese among professionals. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 1979;74(3):331-6.

Price JH, Desmond SM, Ruppert ES, Stelzer CM. School nurses' perceptions of childhood obesity. Journal of School Health. 1987;57(8):332-6.

Puhl RM, Heuer CA. Obesity stigma: important considerations for public health. American journal of public health. 2010;100(6):1019-28.

Nemiary D, Shim R, Mattox G, Holden K. The relationship between obesity and depression among adolescents. Psychiatric annals. 2012;42(8):305-8.

Gortmaker SL, Must A, Perrin JM, Sobol AM, Dietz WH. Social and economic consequences of overweight in adolescence and young adulthood. New Engl J Medic. 1993;329(14):1008-12.

Karnehed N, Rasmussen F, Hemmingsson T, Tynelius P. Obesity and attained education: cohort study of more than 700,000 Swedish men. Obesity. 2006;14(8):1421-8.

Pearce MJ, Boergers J, Prinstein MJ. Adolescent obesity, overt and relational peer victimization, and romantic relationships. Obesity. 2002;10(5):386-93.

Sargent JD, Blanchflower DG. Obesity and stature in adolescence and earnings in young adulthood: analysis of a British birth cohort. Archives Pediatr Adolescent Medic. 1994;148(7):681-7.

Strauss RS, Pollack HA. Social marginalization of overweight children. Archives of Pediatr Adolescent Medic. 2003;157(8):746-52.

Viner RM, Haines MM, Taylor SJ, Head J, Booy R, Stansfeld S. Body mass, weight control behaviours, weight perception and emotional well-being in a multiethnic sample of early adolescents. Internat J Obesit. 2006;30(10):1514.

Neumark-Sztainer D, Falkner N, Story M, Perry C, Hannan PJ, Mulert S. Weight-teasing among adolescents: correlations with weight status and disordered eating behaviors. Internat J Obesit. 2002;26(1):123.