Exploring the Association Between Body Weight, Stigma of Obesity, and Health Care Avoidance


  • Christine Aramburu Alegria Drury MSN, APRN, BC,

    Corresponding author
    1. Christine Aramburu Alegria Drury, MSN, APRN, BC, is an Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing, University of Nevada, Reno, NV.
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  • Margaret Louis PhD, RN

    1. Margaret Louis, PhD, RN, is Associate Professor, Department of Nursing, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV.
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Contact Ms. Drury by e-mail: cdrury@unr.edu.



To explore the stigma of obesity and its effect on health care utilization, associations between self-esteem, attribution for weight, body mass index (BMI), satisfaction with medical care and the behavior of delaying/avoiding health care were examined.

Data Sources

A convenience sample of 216 women recruited from church sites in Las Vegas completed self-administered questionnaires.


The findings show an increase in BMI is asso-ciated with an increase in the delay/avoidance of health care. Weight-related reasons for delaying/avoiding health care included having “gained weight since last health care visit,” not wanting to “get weighed on the provider's scale,” and knowing they would be told to “lose weight.”

Implications for Practice

The obese are a stigmatized and vulnerable population. Nurse practitioners are challenged to be aware of attitudes towards obesity and to identify ways to promote continuity of care and regular health maintenance. The goals of Healthy People 2010 to reduce obesity-related morbidity cannot be met if health care is delayed/avoided.