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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Texas A&M: Researchers Investigate Next Generation of Physicians’ Views on Health Disparities and Childhood Obesity

A new study by Dr. Shinduk Lee, in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health investigated how medical students perceive health disparities and how this perception is related to their view of childhood obesity.

Most of the medical students surveyed considered childhood obesity a serious health issue and one they would likely be faced with as physicians. A majority also considered childhood obesity to be a family issue, but said that physicians can play an effective role in reducing childhood obesity. However, fewer than half of the students reported feeling prepared to treat childhood obesity. Additionally, many of the students placed most of the responsibility on patients and parents, which the researchers note could lead to victim blaming. In line with this observation, the medical students also ranked patients and informal roles as the most important individuals in reducing childhood obesity and patient behavior as the most important topics to discuss with child patients and their parents.

Dr. Lee and colleagues observed that the students who were aware of health disparities in childhood obesity based on socioeconomic status reported greater importance of government roles and discussing with parents about school-based interventions. This study suggests a possible benefit of training the medical students about the interactions between behavior and environmental and social factors related to childhood obesity, paving the way for improved medical school curricula that prepares medical students to work with children and their parents, as well as policy makers, teachers and community leaders, to address this growing health concern.

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