Geoff Ball, a researcher in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry with the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta, and colleagues Amanda Newton and Carla Farnesi reviewed articles about the relationship between families and health professionals when it comes to children's weight.
The study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, found the delicate balance was affected by parents' preferences about language regarding obesity, how health professionals talked about weight, how care was delivered and parents' expectations.
Some parents felt blamed for their children's weight issues, while others found health professionals "rude and judgmental" or inattentive, the researchers said.
"Health professionals probably shouldn't use terms like fat, chubby, overweight or obese," Ball said in a statement. "Terms that are more neutral, less judgmental and less stigmatizing should be used. Most of the time families will want that sensitive type of language. And that's what clinicians should want, too, because that's what families want."
Ultimately, if parents feel ostracized by physicians, the families are less likely to follow doctor recommendations, the study concluded.