According to a study appearing in the June 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, patient-physician gender concordance is associated with weight-related counseling in obese individuals. Investigators from the University of Pennsylvania and John Hopkins University reported that obese male patients seeing male physicians had a higher chance of receiving weight-related counseling than obese women seeing a female physician.
Octavia Pickett-Blakely, MD, MHS, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, commented that “Perhaps societal norms linking physical fitness to masculinity leads male physicians to view obese men as more receptive to weight-related counseling and contributes to open dialogue about weight in male gender-concordant relationships. The findings of this study should heighten clinicians’ awareness of how the personal attributes of physicians and patients may influence obesity care. Future studies should objectively measure weight-related communication (e.g., direct observation, audio tapes) in gender-concordant and gender-discordant patient-physician encounters, and explore the potential role of physicians’ explicit and implicit attitudes regarding obesity and gender, in weight-related counseling for obese patients.”
The results of the study indicated that male patients had a 60% higher chance of receiving diet/nutrition advice and about a 76% higher chance of getting exercise counseling from male doctors. Non significant differences related to weight-related counseling were found in the case of female patient/female physician pairs and female/male pairs of both types.
The results indicate that all patients had a similar chance of receiving weight related counseling when a female patient or a female physician was part of the pair. This might reflect the fact that women are more likely to be dissatisfied with their weight.
The researchers determined the association between patient-physician concordance and three types of counseling: diet/nutrition, exercise and weight reduction. This was achieved through an analysis of clinical data from 5,667 obese patients acquired from the 2005-2007 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.
Less than 30% of the American obese adults (which total to about one third of the population) receive weight related counseling which is associated with modest weight loss. Further benefits of weight related counseling include a lower blood pressure, cholesterol level and blood glucose.