Parents find terms 'obese' and 'overweight' offensive
Doctors should avoid using terms like 'obese' or 'overweight' if they want to have a positive rapport with parents of children with excess weight.
Instead, it would be best if physicians use less offensive terms like "large" or "gaining too much weight," according to medical researchers at the University of Alberta.
Geoff Ball, a researcher in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry with the Department of Pediatrics, worked with department colleagues Amanda Newton and Carla Farnesi to review articles about the important relationship between families and health professionals when it comes to addressing concerns about children's weight.
They found the delicate balance was affected by: parents' preferences about language regarding obesity, how health professionals talked about weight, how care was delivered and parents' expectations.
"Health professionals probably shouldn't use terms like fat, chubby, overweight or obese," said Ball.
"Terms that are more neutral, less judgmental and less stigmatizing should be used. Most of the time families will want that sensitive type of language. And that's what clinicians should want, too, because that's what families want," he noted.
Some parents felt blamed for their children's weight issues, while others found health professionals "rude and judgmental" or inattentive.
When it came to discussing sensitive issues around children's weight, parents felt it was the role of doctors to spearhead that difficult conversation, especially if there were health concerns. But health professionals were somewhat reluctant to do this because they didn't want to offend families and negatively affect the physician-patient relationship - especially when it came to raising concerns about weight during a medical appointment about an unrelated medical issue.
Ultimately, if parents feel ostracized by physicians, the families are less likely to follow doctor recommendations, the study concluded.
Their findings were recently published in the peer-reviewed journal, Pediatric Obesity.