Concern As Doctors Told Not To Use Words 'Obese' or 'Obesity' In Favour Of More 'Positive Language'

Concerns it undermines training

Concern As Doctors Told Not To Use Words 'Obese' or 'Obesity' In Favour Of More 'Positive Language'

New South Wales Health is being criticised for a new policy which requires doctors avoid using terms like “obese” and “morbidly obese”.

AMA vice president, Dr Tony Bartone, said he was concerned the policy, which encourages doctors to use “positive language” with their patients, undermines the doctor-patient relationship.

Instead, doctors are suggested to use terms like “well above a healthy weight”.

“Our concern is that what is a very complex issue – that is communication with our patient – is being undermined… We know our patients, we have a relationship with our patients,” Dr Bartone said.  “We are very sensitive to their issues and their concerns. Obesity and weight management is a very significant problem in our country.”

He said many patients did not realise their weight was putting them at risk of health issues.

“A significant proportion of the population do not realise that they fall into the at risk category. They do not realise they are at risk and they think it’s someone else.

“They sometimes need to have that conversation to understand the severity and the enormity of the problem they face.”

With two thirds of Australians over-weight or obese, he said it was a big health issue for doctors to tackle.  

Dr Bartone said doctors had years of training as to how to speak to their patients which is backed by research and it was vital doctors were able to communicate with their patients to assist them to make positive changes.