7th June 2019, Volume 132 Number 1496

Caz Hales, Lesley Gray, Carol MacDonald, Gordon Purdie

Effective communication is essential in the relationship between a patient and healthcare professional (HCP) with terminology playing an important role. The terminology used by HCPs can impact on an individual’s…

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Summary

This paper comprised 775 adult participants (330 health professionals, 440 non-health, five not specified) and is the first study of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand to explore weight-related terminology. Communication has an essential role in the therapeutic relationship between patient and healthcare professionals (HCPs) where terminology used can significantly impact on an individual’s perceptions of weight and experience of stigma. ‘Weight’ or ‘high BMI’ were the most preferred terms for describing excess adiposity for participants. There was a conflict in responses relating to the terms considered most blaming and those considered to be motivating terms to lose weight, which is perhaps unsurprising given the level of bias and stigma in relation to people with excess adiposity (fatness). Whichever term is selected, HCP-patient conversations need to be respectful, appropriate and support meaningful non-stigmatising dialogue.

Abstract

Aim

Communication has an essential role in the therapeutic relationship between a patient and healthcare professionals (HCPs) with terminology playing an important role. The terminology used by HCPs can significantly impact on an individual’s perceptions of weight and experience of stigma. This is the first quantitative research study in Aotearoa New Zealand to explore weight-related terminology.

Method

A self-completion questionnaire was administered to a convenience sample of adults aged 18 years and over, residing in New Zealand across four different geographical regions (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin) in 2016.

Results

Seven hundred and seventy-five participants completed questionnaires, with 330 identifying as HCPs or HCP students, 440 as lay persons and five not specified. ‘Weight’ or ‘high BMI’ were the most preferred terms for describing excess adiposity for participants. The term ‘bariatric’ is poorly understood in New Zealand. There was dissonance in responses relating to the terms considered most blaming and those considered to be motivating terms to lose weight.

Conclusion

The terms ‘weight’ or ‘high BMI’ are the terms most commonly preferred across this and other surveys, although neither term is meaningful in describing accurately the clinical relevance of the person’s size during the HCP-patient interaction. Whichever term is selected, HCP-patient conversations need to be respectful, appropriate and support meaningful non-stigmatising dialogue.

Author Information

Caz Hales, Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Nursing and Midwifery, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington; Lesley Gray, Senior Lecturer, Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, University of Otago, Wellington; Carol MacDonald, Independent Researcher, Wairarapa; Gordon Purdie, Biostatistician, Dean’s Department, University of Otago, Wellington.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank all the participants, the data collection sites for their permission to erect survey stands and to Sarah Nelson, Rebecca Bear and Julie Howe for their contribution to the data collection and data entry. 

Correspondence

Lesley Gray, Senior Lecturer, 23a Mein Street, Level F, Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, University of Otago, Wellington 6242.

Correspondence Email

lesley.gray@otago.ac.nz

Competing Interests

Nil.

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