Important new study shows NHS gender weight-loss bias is impacting men’s health
The NHS should urgently tackle a ‘gender bias’ among health professionals as they appear to be reluctant to refer men to weight management services despite positive results, experts from the University of Oxford, Men’s Health Forum and Slimming World suggest.
Currently men make up only one in 10 patients attending commercial weight management programmes like Slimming World through referral by the NHS, despite being more likely to be overweight than women and more likely to carry dangerous excess fat around the waist.
Now a study of 940 patients by the University of Oxford has shown that when health professionals verbally offer referral to men and women equally, based on BMI and without the risk of gender bias, the proportion of referrals who are male jumps to nearly four in 10 – a rise of almost 400%.
Study author, Professor Paul Aveyard of the University of Oxford, said:
It looks like GPs and nurses are presuming that men would not want to use a commercial weight management programme, but our evidence suggests they would if health professionals offered it and recommended it.
Our study found that an NHS referral and a simple recommendation like ‘I think this could be good for you’ is enough to persuade many men to cast aside any reservations they might have and to give a weight management group a try. And our data supports previous findings that when men do join these groups, they do very well – even better than women in fact. These schemes represent good value for the NHS.
The findings were released during Men’s Health Week ,which is this year focusing on raising awareness of the dangers of carrying excess fat around the waist.
Martin Tod, Chief Executive of the Men’s Health Forum, added:
What this research shows is that it’s not just men who need to change their attitudes about their weight – health professionals do too. Men who might benefit from weight management services are missing out because they’re not being told about them. Yet when they are told about them, many men do use them and, despite what might be expected, many men really benefit from them.