Accommodating patients with obesity and mobility difficulties: Observations from physicians

Nicole D. Agaronnik, Tara Lagu, Christene DeJong, Aixa Perez-Caraballo, Kimberly Reimold, Julie Ressalam, Lisa I. Iezzoni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Given the growing population of U.S. adults with obesity and mobility disability, physicians will need to accommodate these patients. Objective: To explore attitudes and practices of US physicians related to caring for patients with obesity and mobility disability. Methods: Three open-ended, semi-structured, web-based focus group interviews with practicing physicians in selected specialties, which reached data saturation. Interviews were video recorded and transcribed for qualitative, conventional content analysis. Measurements included commonly expressed themes around caring for patients with obesity. Results: Physicians recognized obesity as a disability that poses challenges to high quality, safe, and efficient patient care. Observations coalesced around four themes: (1) difficulty routinely tracking weight; (2) reluctance to transfer obese patients to exam tables; (3) barriers to diagnostic testing; and (4) weight stigma. Physicians described difficulties accurately assessing weight, performing complete physical examinations, arranging diagnostic imaging, and providing prenatal care for obese patients. Lack of accessible medical diagnostic equipment impeded care for patients with obesity. Other participants did not contest comments of individual participants’ that suggested weight stigma. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that important gaps may remain in providing equitable access to care for patients with obesity, requiring additional training and accessible medical diagnostic equipment to safely accommodate these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100951
JournalDisability and Health Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Disability
  • Exam tables
  • Obesity
  • Physical access
  • Weight scales

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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