Medical EducationOriginal Article

Fundamentals for an Osteopathic Obesity Designed Study: The Effects of Education on Osteopathic Medical Students’ Attitudes Regarding Obesity

Gregory G. Gayer, PhD; Jennifer Weiss, DO; and Michael Clearfield, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: October 11, 2016

Accepted: November 8, 2016

Published: August 1, 2017

J Osteopath Med; 117(8): 495-502

Context: Obesity is a major health concern in the United States, and its prevalence continues to rise. Although it is a common health issue, many people, including health care professionals, are biased against people with obesity.

Objectives: To determine whether a comprehensive obesity curriculum presented to students in medical school can positively influence their attitudes toward obesity.

Methods: The study was designed around a comprehensive educational obesity curriculum at Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine-CA, involving the classes of 2013 through 2018. A survey to assess student attitudes toward obesity was distributed to first-year students before the curriculum, directly after completion, and each year after until graduation (graduating classes of 2015 through 2018). Second- and third-year medical students in 2011 (graduating classes of 2014 and 2013), who did not complete the curriculum, were given an examination to establish baseline values and served as the control group. The obesity curriculum consisted of lectures delivered during the first and second year of medical school and case study simulations during the third year. Knowledge gained from the curriculum was assessed with a multiple-choice examination, and bias was assessed using the Fat Phobia Scale.

Results: A total of 718 first- through fourth-year students were included. Students who completed the first year of the obesity curriculum (n=528) showed significantly greater medical knowledge regarding obesity-related epidemiology, pathogenesis, biochemistry, pathophysiology, and metabolic factors; nutrition, diet, physical activity, self-control, and behavior modification; pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions; and associated chronic disorders, based on their multiple-choice examination scores compared with the control group. The examination scores indicated significant increases in medical knowledge compared with the precurriculum cohort after the curriculum (OMS I students: 130 [72.4%]; 133 [92.6%]; 133 [91.1%]; 132 [89.0%]; vs control: 105 [47.2%]; 134 [52.6%], respectively [P<.01]). In all 4 years observed, there was a significant reduction in bias among first-year medical students after obesity curriculum (before: 3.65, 3.76, 3.57, 3.61, and after: 3.47, 3.38, 3.34, 3.37, respectively) (P<.05). The reduction in bias was also significantly sustained throughout the fourth year.

Conclusions: A comprehensive obesity curriculum throughout medical school resulted in an improvement in students’ attitudes toward and knowledge of obesity.

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