Gender perceptions and their impact when referring obese patients for exercise

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Queen, Martyn ; Parker, Andrew ; Crone, Diane (2016)

Obesity trends in the UK have shown a steady increase over the past 20 years, yet differences have been identified in the uptake and adherence data for obese men and women attending exercise referral schemes (ERS). Moreover, evidence suggests that health professionals (HPs) may hold preconceived gender specific views about their patients and this has been identified as a potential barrier to male patients seeking help from their General Practitioners for chronic conditions. The aim of this paper is to examine the gender dynamics associated with health profession/patient interactions in relation to the uptake of an ERS for obese patients. The ERS in question was based in a Primary Care Health Centre in the South West of England. The respondent cohort comprised 12 patients (eight women, four men) aged 55–74 years and their six referring HPs (four women, two men). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with patients and HPs over an eight month period and the data were analysed via a grounded theory approach. The study found that HP gender specific perceptions of their patients had an impact on the methods used to encourage patients to participate. HPs typically adopted a direct interactional approach with obese men and a more cautious approach with obese women. Irrespective of gender, male and female patients found being informed of their obesity difficult to accept. The paper concludes that there is a need for a degree of care to be taken when communicating such health concerns and that this kind of approach may lead to increased ERS attendance (and adherence) by men.
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