Weight Stigmatization among Physical Therapy Students and Registered Physical Therapists

Michal Elboim-Gabyzon, Karin Attar, Smadar Peleg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Weight stigmatization is reflected in anti-fat attitudes and stereotypical perceptions of people who are overweight; it has been demonstrated to be prevalent in many segments of society across multiple countries. Studies examining the prevalence of weight stigmatization use different research tools, which can hinder inter-study comparisons. There is also evidence indicating weight stigmatization among registered physical therapists, although its magnitude differs between studies. Limited information exists regarding the attitudes and beliefs of physical therapy (PT) students toward individuals with obesity. Examining weight stigmatization among PT students is particularly important for developing appropriate educational interventions that may influence the professional lives of future physical therapists. Objective: This study aims to characterize and compare the stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs of PT students and certified physical therapists regarding people with obesity in Israel. Its secondary objective is to translate three weight stigmatization questionnaires into Hebrew and determine their psychometric properties. Methods: A cross-sectional, anonymous, and computerized self-report survey was completed by 285 certified physical therapists (average age 39.6 ± 10.1 years) and 115 PT students (average age 26.4 ± 4.9 years). The study used three validated weight stigma questionnaires employed in earlier studies to determine different aspects of weight stigmatization: the Fat Phobia Scale (short form; FPS), Anti-Fat Attitudes (AFA) questionnaire, and Beliefs about Obese People (BAOP). These questionnaires were translated into Hebrew and their psychometric properties ascertained. Results: Similar to the original English versions, the translated versions of the three questionnaires demonstrated good internal consistency (Cronbach's α values of FPS = 0.77; AFA = 0.75; BOAP = 0.59). The three questionnaires showed a low correlation. No significant difference was noted in the FPS and AFA scores between groups, reflecting that both demonstrated average weight stigmatization (FBS in both groups: average score of 3.6 out of 5; AFA therapists: 3.3 ± 1.2, students: 3.0 ± 1.2 out of 9). However, significant between-group differences were observed for BOAP, which examines beliefs regarding individuals' control over their weight (therapists: 16.4 ± 5.6, students: 18.0 ± 5.7 out of 48; p < 0.01). Conclusion: Student and certified physical therapists demonstrate average levels of weight stigmatization, as reflected in the FPS and AFA scores. Nevertheless, compared to certified physical therapists, physical therapist students believe more strongly that obesity cannot be controlled by the individual. The students' beliefs could affect their clinical judgment and behavior as health care professionals in the future. Therefore, anti-fat attitudes and stereotypical perceptions should be addressed and remediated early using educational interventions during the study period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-116
Number of pages13
JournalObesity Facts
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s) Published by S. Karger AG, Basel.

Keywords

  • Assessment
  • Obesity
  • Physical therapy
  • Students
  • Weight stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Physiology (medical)

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