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/ World Obesity Day - Press Releases

Please find below our press release for weight discrimination being 'Rife across the world'. At the bottom of this page, you can find the full downloadable press release in addition to ones specifically for the UK, South Africa & Brazil.


  • New research published for World Obesity Day 2018 shows scale of weight discrimination 

  • Role of media and healthcare highlighted to help #endweightstigma and tackle obesity

11th October 2018

The World Obesity Federation is calling for an end to weight discrimination to improve the life chances of people with obesity around the world. New findings, released to coincide with World Obesity Day, reinforce the global extent of weight stigma.

A new report – published by the World Obesity Federation and based on research published in Clinical Obesity – highlights the prevalence of negative images used by media when reporting on obesity.* In a cross-national study of online media in 22 countries, outlets in South Africa, Hong Kong and Italy were found to be the most stigmatising.

In light of the findings, World Obesity is calling out examples of discrimination in a bid to #endweightstigma this World Obesity Day, arguing that stigmatising people with obesity affects their life chances and physical and mental health whilst ignoring the multiple and complex causes that lead to obesity.


Johanna Ralston, Chief Executive of the World Obesity Federation says: 

“Weight discrimination is rife across the world. People are being blamed for obesity, but decades of public health research show that obesity is complex and there are multiple causes. Despite this, society at large continues to treat people with obesity unfairly. Stigmatising obesity undermines people’s health and makes it harder to seek support. It’s time this ended.

“This World Obesity Day we’re calling on the media to reshape the narrative around obesity and for social media companies to clamp down on weight abuse online. Changing the narrative around diseases and conditions can transform public perceptions and improve quality of life and outcomes for patients.  As obesity rates continue to rise, we’re also appealing to the medical education authorities and providers to improve specialist education in medical schools, as people with obesity are often dismissed by their healthcare professional because of their weight without being properly diagnosed.”

New research, commissioned by World Obesity, also reveals that people with obesity are viewed negatively because of their weight and are likely to be victims of discrimination because they are overweight. This is higher than other forms of discrimination, including sexual orientation, ethnic background or gender.**  

The findings from adults in Brazil, South Africa and the UK show that people with obesity experience stigma and discrimination across all aspects of their lives, including in clothes shops, health settings and at the gym. 

The impact of weight stigma and discrimination is far-reaching. It can damage career prospects and reverse efforts to tackle obesity. Stigma also has physical and mental health consequences: it’s been found to deter people from seeking medical care and can lead to social isolation.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said:

“Everyone has the right to a healthy life in a world where healthy choices are easy to make. Sadly in our modern world, consuming a healthy diet and enjoying an active lifestyle is often hard. For many people, this translates to obesity and ill health.”

“But governments can address this. Making healthy food easily available in communities, workplaces and schools is essential to protecting people from obesity. Restricting marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, taxing sugary drinks, and banning industrial trans-fat in foods attacks the main drivers of obesity. Providing more opportunities for active transport and leisure is essential to promoting better health.”

To coincide with World Obesity Day, a new Twitter handle – @endweightstigma – has been launched to highlight examples of discrimination. Anyone can highlight good and bad practices by businesses, institutions or individuals when they see examples of stigmatising language or images by tweeting @endweightstigma or using the hashtag #endweightstigma.  More information about how to help combat weight stigma can be found on the World Obesity website (

World Obesity has also published an Image Bank for media, picture editors and healthcare professionals to use when writing about obesity. This includes a range of non-stigmatising visuals in different settings, providing a more accurate reflection of living with obesity. 





For more information please call the World Obesity Federation team at Barley Communications:  

James McCollum: / +44 (0)7903 741829

Nicola Ennis: / +44 (0)7837 201085

Notes to editors  

* K. Sievert,  T. Lobstein, P. Baker, Stigmatizing images in the media – a cross‐national survey and World Obesity Federation, ‘Weight Stigma In The Media’, The current use of imagery and language in the media’:

** Survation poll of 1,105 Brazilian adults, September 2018    


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