Article | Published:

Behavior, Psychology and Sociology

The effects of a teaching intervention on weight bias among kinesiology undergraduate students

International Journal of Obesity (2019) | Download Citation

Abstract

Objectives

Weight bias is present among kinesiology professionals and this may cause a significant negative impact on their clients with obesity. Thus, our objective was to test if learning about uncontrollable cause of obesity and about weight bias would reduce explicit and implicit weight bias among kinesiology undergraduate students compared to the traditional curriculum which is more focused on controllable causes of weight gain.

Methods

We recruited undergraduates from two classes of the same kinesiology major course taught by the same instructor. In-class teaching activities consisted of 80 min lecture on day 1, video watching session and a group activity on day 3 for both groups. Intervention group (n = 33) learned about uncontrollable causes of obesity and about weight bias and had activities to evoke empathy. Control group (n = 34) learned the traditional curriculum where they learned the role of exercise and diet in weight management. We measured explicit and implicit weight bias using Anti-Fat Attitude Test (AFAT) and Implicit Association Test (IAT), respectively pre-intervention, immediate post intervention and 1 month later.

Results

In mixed model analysis, AFAT Blame scores had significant group by time interaction (p < 0.001). Blame scores significantly reduced with mean differences (standard error (SE)) of −0.35 (0.08) post intervention (p < 0.001) and persisted to be reduced with mean differences (SE) of −0.39 (0.08) even after 4-week follow-up (p < 0.001) only in the intervention group. Odds of having less implicit weight bias was significantly lower at 4-week follow-up than pre-intervention (odds ratio = 0.4; 95% CI: 0.22–0.73) in the control group but no changes were seen in the intervention group.

Conclusions

“Blame” component of explicit weight bias significantly decreased when students learned about controllable causes of obesity and weight bias, but implicit bias did not reduce. However, implicit weight bias appears to increase when education on obesity is limited to diet and exercise interventions as taught in the traditional curriculum.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all the participants who took part in this study and Hunter Turnipseed (MS) for helping with the data collection.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Kinesiology and Sport Management, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA

    • Nadeeja N. Wijayatunga
    • , Youngdeok Kim
    •  & Emily J. Dhurandhar
  2. Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH, USA

    • Winfield S. Butsch

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Emily J. Dhurandhar.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-019-0325-0