Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Health Science

First Advisor

Mrs. Jamie Turgeon-Drake

Second Advisor

Dr. Cindy Struckman-Johnson

Third Advisor

Dr. Gerald Yutrzenka


Obesity, Discrimination, Healthcare, Survey


Obesity is a multifaceted condition affecting physical, psychological, and social aspects of a person’s life and requires knowledgeable providers who can work with patients to effectively manage their condition. However, research suggests that healthcare providers are ill-equipped to treat overweight patients. Evaluations of weight bias among healthcare providers show levels similar to that of the general public and calls into question the training of future providers. Ample evidence regarding provider education reveals the system’s shortcomings for reducing weight bias. It suggests that students lack opportunities for prejudice reduction due to inadequate coverage in curriculum as well as modeling of discriminatory behavior by mentors. Therefore, overweight patients may feel stigmatized when encountering healthcare professionals. A survey of pre-health undergraduate students (n=66) at the University of South Dakota revealed that 51.5% have not had any type of prejudice reduction education and only 26.2% had covered the topic of weight bias. The results of this study confirm the lack of prejudice reduction efforts, specifically regarding weight, within the curriculum for pre-health students. With early intervention, it is hoped that students will recognize personal biases and provide effective and empathetic care to all.



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