Introduction Discrimination against fat people in the healthcare system is rampant. Doctors, nurses and insurance companies need to rethink their positions on size discrimination and adopt a Health At Every Size (HAES) philosophy.
A system that exists to help, achieves the opposite result more times than not.

Medical Professionals

In a study of 400 doctors:

  • 1 out of 3 listed obesity as a condition to which they respond negatively, ranked behind only drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness.
  • Obesity was associated with noncompliance, hostility, dishonesty,
    & poor hygiene

  • Self-report studies show that doctors view obese patients as lazy, lacking in self-control, non-compliant, unintelligent, weak-willed, and dishonest
  • Psychologists ascribe more pathology, more negative and severe symptoms, and worse prognosis to obese patients compared to thinner patients presenting identical psychological profiles

In a survey of 2,449 overweight and obese women:
  • 69%experienced bias from doctors
  • 52% experienced recurring incidents of bias

In one survey of nurses:
  • 31% said they would prefer not to care for obese patients
  • 24% said that obese patients “repulsed them”
  • 12% said they would prefer not to touch obese patients


  • Avoidance of proper care
    • Reluctant to seek medical care
    • Cancellation or delay of medical appointments
    • Delay important preventative healthcare
  • Doctors seeing overweight patients
    • Spend less time with patient
    • Engage in less discussion
    • Show reluctance to perform preventive health screenings (i.e., pelvic exams, cancer screenings, mammograms)
    • Do less intervention

  • Appropriate-sized medical equipment Not Available:
    • Stretchers
    • MRIs
    • Blood pressure cuffs
    • Patient gowns
    • Etc.

(Puhl et al 2008)

NAAFA understands you may experience size discrimination by healthcare professionals and has created tools to help you as a Patient of Size. If you visit the Brochures, Tool Kits and Fact Sheets page, you will be able to access a number of brochures that are available for you to download, print and take with you when you visit various healthcare professionals.