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Integrating person-centred care and social justice: a model for practice with larger-bodied patients


Person-centred care (PCC) has been touted as a promising paradigm for improving patients’ experiences and outcomes, and the overall therapeutic environment for a range of health conditions, including obesity. While this approach represents an important shift away from a paternalistic and disease‐focused paradigm, we argue that PCC must be explicitly informed by a social justice lens to achieve optimal conditions for health and well-being. We suggest that existing studies on PCC for obesity only go so far in achieving social justice goals as they operate within a biomedical model that by default pathologises excess weight and predetermines patients’ goals as weight loss and/or management, regardless of patients’ embodied experiences and desires. There remains a dearth of empirical research on what social justice-informed PCC looks like in practice with larger patients. This interview study fills a research gap by exploring the perspectives of 1) health practitioners (n=22) who take a critical, social justice-informed approach to weight and 2) larger patients (n=20) served by such practitioners. The research question that informed this paper was: What are the characteristics of social justice-informed PCC that play out in clinical interactions between healthcare practitioners and larger-bodied patients? We identified five themes, namely: 1) Integrating evidence-based practice with compassionate, narrative-based care; 2) Adopting a curious attitude about the patient’s world; 3) Centring patients’ own wisdom and expertise about their conditions; 4) Working within the constraints of the system to advocate for patients to receive equitable care; 5) Collaborating across professions and with community services to address the multifaceted nature of patient health. The findings illustrate that despite participants’ diverse perspectives around weight and health, they shared a commitment to PCC by upholding patient self-determination and addressing weight stigma alongside other systemic factors that affect patient health outcomes.

  • obesity
  • narrative medicine
  • Medical humanities
  • medical ethics/bioethics
  • sociology

Data availability statement

The full data set is not publicly available as this was not a part of the consent process. Deidentified data may be available upon reasonable request to the authors.

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