Article Text

Is an obesity simulation suit in an undergraduate medical communication class a valuable teaching tool? A cross-sectional proof of concept study
  1. Anne Herrmann-Werner,
  2. Teresa Loda,
  3. Lisa M Wiesner,
  4. Rebecca Sarah Erschens,
  5. Florian Junne,
  6. Stephan Zipfel
  1. Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Teresa Loda; teresa.loda{at}


Objective With the growing prevalence of overweight and obesity, medical students should be prepared to engage in weight management and obesity-related communications in order to prevent patients from having stigmatising experiences. In addition, medical students should have training to reduce anti-fat prejudices.

Design Cross-sectional proof of concept study.

Setting University Hospital Tuebingen, Germany.

Participants 246 participants (207 second-year medical students, 13 standardised patients (SPs) and 22 teachers) took part in the study.

Primary and secondary outcome measures The primary outcome was the assessment of degree of reality of the encounter with the SP wearing an obesity simulation suit (OSS). The secondary outcome was the evaluation of students’ awareness and prejudice against patients with obesity in a simulated role play. Additionally, a description of the advantages and disadvantages when using such a teaching tool is delivered.

Results The OSS contributed to a realistic perception of the patient group depicted in a role play according to students, teachers and SPs. OSS body mass index estimation by students, teachers and SPs correctly was over 30 kg/m2—thus in the range of obesity. In a selected subscale of the Anti-Fat Attitudes Test, students showed significantly stronger anti-fat stigmatisation compared with teachers and SPs.

Conclusions An OSS worn by an SP is a valuable teaching tool to raise awareness about patients with obesity. It gives a realistic picture of the encounter. Stigmatisation was low in general but was especially present in the students. Further research should include intervention studies to address this issue.

  • obesity simulation suit
  • doctor-patient encounter

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  • Contributors AHW was responsible for the design and conduct of the study, as well as acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data. She drafted the first version of the manuscript. TL and RE were involved in data acquisition, analyses and interpretation, and revised the manuscript critically. FJ was responsible for the teaching and revised the manuscript critically. LMW and SZ made substantial contributions to the study design and revised the manuscript critically. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Funding We acknowledge support with financing publication fees by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and Open Access Publishing Fund of the University of Tuebingen.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval for the study was given by the Ethics Committee of Tuebingen’s Medical Faculty (No. 683/2017BO2). All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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