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For #WorldObesityDay 2018 we are raising awareness about the prevalence, severity and diversity of weight stigma. Stigma occurs in a wide variety of settings and the media has been identified as one of the main perpetrators. Current media portrayals of obesity reinforce inaccurate and negative stereotypes about weight which can lead to weight stigma. 

 

We are calling on all media outlets to end their use of stigmatising language and imagery and instead portray obesity in a fair, accurate and informative manner.

/ What is Weight Stigma?

Weight stigma refers to negative behaviours and attitudes that are directed towards individuals solely because of their weight. Although it has been proven to undermine people’s broader health, weight stigma remains relatively absent from the conversation surrounding obesity.

 

If we are to end obesity stigma, it’s important to adjust our language and attitudes, raise awareness and improve our knowledge about its extensive impact. By focusing on stigma this World Obesity Day we aim to:

• Raise awareness about the presence and impact of weight stigma and what can be done about it.
• Increase member engagement and encourage engagement with advocacy/campaigning on              weight stigma.
• Help people overcome the barriers that arise as a result of stigma, which can prevent them getting    the medical treatment they need.

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/ What can we do to Reduce Weight Stigma?

Media to abandon the use of negative images and language about obesity
Here are some tips designed to support journalists reporting in the media, which will help reduce weight stigma.

• Derogatory and pejorative labels and references about people with obesity should     be avoided

• People-first language should be used, i.e. ‘people with obesity’ as opposed to            ‘obese people’

• False and inaccurate stereotypes about obesity should be avoided

• Images that accompany news stories should not portray individuals with obesity        negatively

• Headless figures, individuals wearing ill-fitting clothing and engaging in                      stereotypical behaviour (e.g. consuming unhealthy food) are de-humanising and        create unfair generalisations about those with obesity

There is consistent evidence of weight discrimination at every stage of employment including; career counselling, interviews and hiring processes, salary disparities, fewer promotions, harsher disciplinary actions and more dismissals.
 
Furthermore, the school environment is renowned for teasing and bullying and weight is one of the primary reasons for victimisation.
Greater awareness that there are multiple sources of weight stigma and greater understanding of the steps to avoid it.

We recommend that all places of work:

• Implement policies that protect employees; employers; students and            clients with respect irrespective of their weight.

• Take steps to raise awareness about and prevent weight discrimination.

Government action to improve the environments we live in, rather than focus on individual responsibility and blame.
Reducing the risk of obesity requires governments to take an integrated approach across different sectors, which should incorporate:

• Implementation of policies which address obesogenic food environments,                  improving the availability and access to nutritious food and reducing exposure to      marketing of less healthy options.

• Introduction of policies and town planning protocols which improve urban                  environments, ensuring they are walkable, have green space and are conducive to    more activity as part of people’s daily lives.

• Consideration of health in all policies, to ensure action is taken in all relevant              sectors from health, to education, to media and culture, to development and              social services.

• Research has shown that language such as ‘high BMI’ and ‘weight’ are preferred to    words like ‘obese’ and ‘morbidly obese’. In addition, it has been recommended          that asking your patient which terms they prefer is an effective option.

• People-first language that puts the patient before the medical condition and              avoids categorising patients by their medical condition. For example, ‘you have          obesity’ as opposed to ‘you are obese’

• Patients with obesity should be treated with the same level of respect and                  empathy as their slimmer counterparts.

A positive, supportive narrative between clinicians and their patients will increase the effectiveness of care. The following steps will help ensure HCPs are providing the best, non-stigmatising care to their patients:
Health care providers to acknowledge the environmental factors that cause obesity, which will improve support and efficacy during diagnosis and treatment.

/ Weight Stigma Mind Map

Weight stigma is incredibly pervasive and more complex than people realise. This mind map highlights some examples and details the causes, its drivers, its effects and the wide variety of recipients.