Supervised weight loss requirements disproportionately affect Black patients seeking weight loss surgery

Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2023 Oct;19(10):1094-1098. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2023.03.006. Epub 2023 Mar 17.


Background: We use our high-volume institutional experience with a majority Black population to examine the role of supervised weight loss (SWL) requirements perpetuating disparities in bariatric surgery.

Objective: To determine if there are racial disparities in the required amount of supervised weight loss prior to approval for bariatric surgery.

Setting: University hospital.

Methods: A retrospective review was conducted of all patients seen at our institution's bariatric surgery clinic in 2018. Odds of undergoing surgery within 1 year and mean number of SWL requirements were determined using descriptive statistics for Black patients as compared with non-Hispanic White patients. Finally, a logistic model was constructed to examine likelihood of undergoing an operation within 1 year for patients of varying SWL requirements.

Results: A total of 335 patients were included (75% Black, 25% White). Within 1 year, 37% of Black patients compared with 53% of White patients had undergone an operation (relative risk .7, P = .01). Mean insurance-mandated SWL sessions were significantly higher for Black patients (3.6 ± 2.8) versus non-Hispanic White patients (2.2 ± 2.7) (P < .01). Mean program-mandated SWL sessions were also significantly higher for Black patients (2.5 ± 2.6) versus non-Hispanic White patients (.8 ± 1.8) (P < .01). Increasing SWL requirements significantly reduced the odds of undergoing surgery at 1 year within the entire cohort (odds ratio .86, P < .01).

Conclusions: Black patients are disproportionally affected by SWL requirements, which strongly correlate with decreased likelihood of undergoing a bariatric operation as compared with their White counterparts. Even after overcoming barriers to see a bariatric surgery provider, Black patients still face disproportionally more barriers to surgery. Bariatric centers must be sensitive to the effect of SWL requirements, as it is negatively associated with the likelihood of a patient receiving a bariatric operation.

Keywords: Bariatric surgery; Healthcare disparities; Obesity; Supervised weight loss; Surgical disparities.

MeSH terms

  • Bariatric Surgery*
  • Humans
  • Obesity, Morbid* / surgery
  • Racial Groups
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Weight Loss