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Addressing weight bias

Research indicates that patients with excess weight may feel stigmatized in many areas of their life, including health care settings.1 The language you use and your environment are 2 key components to successful weight management. To promote successful interactions with your patients, it is important to consider the following checklist2:

Equipment for waiting area

  • Open-arm chairs that can support more than 136 kg
  • Firm sofas that can support more than 136 kg
  • Weight-sensitive reading materials

Equipment for exam room

  • Body weight scales with a capacity of more than 136 kg
  • Height meter
  • Large gowns
  • Step stools with handle bars
  • Large adult and thigh blood pressure cuffs
  • Tape measure
  • Wide examination tables, preferably bolted to the floor
  • Consider a hydraulic tilt, if possible


  • Body mass index (BMI) chart
  • Self-administered medical questionnaire
  • Eating pattern questionnaire
  • Physical activity pattern questionnaire
  • Graphing your weight gain chart
  • Food and activity diaries
  • Pedometers


  • Treatment protocols
  • Medication use
  • Referrals to other health care professionals

It is also recommended that scales be placed in a private area and that practice staff only discuss a patient’s weight within a private exam room.2


Also in Professional Education:


Related Information

The Weight Conversation

This video provides tips on productive discussions about weight with your patients.


  1. Puhl RM, Andreyeva T, Brownell KD. Perceptions of weight discrimination: prevalence and comparison to race and gender discrimination in America. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008;32(6):992-1000.
  2. Kushner RF. Roadmaps for Clinical Practice: Case Studies in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion—Assessment and Management of Adult Obesity: A Primer for Physicians. Booklet 9: Setting up the office environment. Chicago, IL: American Medical Association, 2003.