Inclusivity: Ensuring Patients Who Are Plus-Size Feel Welcome

Psychiatric TimesVol 38, Issue 9

A welcoming environment that fosters inclusivity is the first step in establishing a good therapeutic relationship.


waiting room


Many people are anxious when it comes to visiting their health care provider. As providers, we need to recognize these issues and create a welcoming environment for all patients to ensure they do not postpone care or avoid it entirely.

This can be especially important when working with overweight or obese patients, as the office should feel is inclusive for patients of all shapes and sizes. This might include ensuring there are chairs that are suitable for patients at higher weights and providing blood pressure cuffs that fit properly. Little things from the moment they walk in the door will set the tone. By ensuring a welcoming, inclusive environment, patients will be more open about their health issues and you will be better able to engage in genuine conversations that are rooted in trust.

Practice With Compassion

The concept of compassionate care is not new to the medical community. We have always been committed to sharing our clinical expertise and delivering health messages with an empathetic tone. However, not every provider has a supportive bedside manner, and this can adversely affect patients with obesity.

For instance, it is important to provide proper guidance and encouragement. Telling a patient to “lose weight” is as unhelpful as suggesting to a patient with depression “think happy thoughts.” Instead, clinicians should collaborate with patients and other members of a support team to develop a comprehensive obesity treatment that includes intensive lifestyle intervention, structured nutritional assistance, physical activity prescription, and medical management.

Create a Patient-Friendly Environment

As with all patients, make sure front office staff is kind and courteous with patients. Some simple steps will foster the inclusive and welcoming environment: weigh patients in a private setting on a scale that can accommodate patients with a higher body mass index; offer furniture that allows patients of all sizes to sit comfortably; and use equipment and supplies (eg, blood pressure cuffs,) designed for larger patients.

We all want patients to feel secure and cared for—we strive for that in every clinical encounter. By being aware of how we and office staff speak with patients and how we welcome them into our office environment, we can help people feel more comfortable. And this, in turn, enables us to provide them with the care they need and deserve.

Dr Lazarus has practiced full-time obesity medicine since 2004, and has served on the board of the Obesity Medicine Association since 2013. He is also a delegate in the American Medical Association. ❒

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