Many patients with diabetes loathe being called “diabetics” and people with autism may blanch at being called “autistic.” And studies, some reported on in JUCM News, have shown that the words a healthcare provider chooses actually influence outcomes. Using patient-first language (eg, “a patient with diabetes”) is a good first step toward a productive clinical relationship, whereas putting the disease first (“the diabetic patient”) can leave someone feeling demeaned or paint the clinician as uncaring, out of touch, or even biased. This is no less true for individuals who are overweight, according to a policy statement issued by The Obesity Action Coalition and supported by The Obesity Society, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and eight other professional associations. Citing a 2012 study published in the journal Obesity, the statement notes that even telling a patient flat out that they are “obese” can inhibit them from seeking further care with that provider. In fact, 19% of patients said they would avoid future medical appointments and 21% said they would seek a new provider if their current one made them feel stigmatized about their weight. The study suggested that the terms “unhealthy weight” and “weight problem” are preferable to “obese” or certainly “fat.” JUCM published an article that includes an important discussion of using appropriate terminology when working with patients who have felt marginalized by medical professionals, in this case centering on gender. You can read Best Practices for LGBTQ-Friendly Urgent Care in our archive.
Word Choice Can Help or Hinder the Odds of a Good Outcome with Patients Who Are Overweight