Coinciding with World Obesity Day, AACE has joined over 100 medical and scientific organizations across the world in pledging our support for a consensus statement that recognizes unscientific public narratives of obesity as a major cause of weight stigma and calls for strong policies and legislation to prevent weight-based discrimination.
In a paper published today in Nature Medicine, a team of experts, led by Professor Francesco Rubino from King’s College London, outline a joint international consensus statement and a related Pledge to Eradicate Weight Stigma. The statement was developed through an international conference jointly organized by the World Obesity Federation, American Diabetes Association, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American Association for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, Diabetes UK, European Association for the Study of Obesity, International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders, Obesity Action Coalition, Obesity Canada, The Obesity Society.
“Weight stigma is a public health problem, undermines human and social rights and is a major stumbling block in the fight against the epidemic of obesity,” said lead author Professor Francesco Rubino, Chair of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery at King’s College London.
“The objective of this initiative was to gather a broad group of experts and scientific organizations and, for the first time, speak with one voice to unambiguously condemn weight stigma and expose the misconceptions that contribute to weight bias,” he said.
Previous evidence indicates that weight stigma can cause both physical and psychological harm, and that affected individuals are less likely to seek and receive adequate care. Often perceived as lazy, gluttonous, lacking will power and self-discipline, people with obesity are vulnerable to stigma and discrimination in the workplace, education, and in healthcare settings.
Main issues discussed in the statement include:
- Healthcare providers are a common source of weight stigma. The group calls on academic institutions and professional bodies to incorporate formal teaching on the causes, mechanisms, and treatments of obesity, including stigma-free skills and practices.
- Social stigma is based on the typically unproven assumption that obesity derives primarily from a lack self-discipline and personal responsibility. Such portrayal is inconsistent with current scientific evidence demonstrating that body weight regulation is not entirely under volitional control, and that biological, genetic and environmental factors critically contribute to obesity.
- The media portrayal of obesity is influential; it plays an important role in shaping public attitudes and beliefs about people with obesity. The group calls on the media to produce fair, scientifically accurate, and non-stigmatizing portrayals of obesity.
- Public health practices and messages that use stigmatizing approaches to promote anti-obesity campaigns are objectively harmful. The group calls for public health authorities to bring such practices to an end and increase scientific rigor in obesity-related public policy.
"The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists has been working diligently for the recognition of obesity as a disease and the need for appropriate medical treatment. Included in this approach is the importance of eliminating weight stigma. We proudly pledge to end obesity stigma," said Sandra L. Weber, MD, FACE, FACP, president of AACE.
Individuals and organizations are welcome to join and take the pledge at www.pledge2endobesitystigma.org #pledge2endobesitystigma #WorldObesityDay