Objectives. Although experiencing weight bias is associated with poor physical and psychological health, health professionals often stigmatize overweight and obese clients. The objective of this study was to evaluate a brief educational intervention that aimed to reduce weight bias among Australian pre-service health students by challenging beliefs about the controllability of weight.
Design. Non-equivalent group comparison trial.
Methods. Undergraduate psychology students were assigned to an intervention (n= 30), control (n= 35), or comparison (n= 20) condition. The intervention condition received a lecture on obesity, weight bias, and the multiple determinants of weight; the comparison condition received a lecture on obesity and the behavioural determinants of weight; and the control condition received no lecture. Beliefs about the controllability of weight and attitudes towards overweight and obese people were assessed 1 week pre-intervention, immediately post-intervention, and 3 weeks post-intervention.
Results. After receiving the lecture, participants in the intervention group were less likely to believe that weight is solely within individual control and were also less likely to hold negative attitudes towards overweight and obese people and rate them as unattractive. These changes were maintained 3 weeks post-intervention. There were no such changes in the control or comparison groups. Disparagement of overweight and obese peoples’ social character increased over time for participants in the control condition but did not change in the comparison or intervention groups.
Conclusions. This study provides evidence that brief, education-based anti-weight bias interventions show success in challenging weight controllability beliefs and reducing weight bias among pre-service health students.