May 2019 ICPO European Obesity Day – Tackling Stigma – RTE Brainstorm

Weight bias is defined as a negative attitude and stereotype against people with obesity. This causes exclusion and inequality in healthcare, employment and society. It promotes stereo types that people in bigger bodies are lazy, weak-willed or lack intelligence, and this is linked with physiological and psychological health risks. This leads to patients not seeking help. Shaming people to try and be healthier doesn’t work. Negative stigmatising advertisements and news articles should be addressed immediately. People first language should always be used.

Many patients are involved in support groups online, or at their weight management centres. They attend cookery lessons, mindfulness classes and exercise classes. They arrange family walks and healthy lunch meetings to share recipes and tips. Despite these efforts however patients need support and help from health care professionals, family and everyone in society.

Nobody has a greater vested interest in diagnosis and treatment and support than the patient themselves. Living with obesity you go through every single day anticipating, fearing, expecting and preparing for the worst. Stares, comments, suggestions, judgements. It takes up every ounce of your emotional energy. HCPs need to humanize their patients who they often dismiss as being non-compliant.

Stigma needs to stop.

The first European Obesity Day was held in May 2010. Events held over the years range from information stands, fun runs, debates and workshops for politicians and policy makers. In 2010 EOD received an award for “campaign of the year” at the European Public Affairs Awards and in 2017 won the Best European Lobbying Campaign Award.

European Obesity Day is important to raise awareness about obesity. Recognition of obesity as a chronic disease will result in greater access to care and treatment for those who are overweight or have obesity.

This year Ireland will host its first major European Obesity Event. This event in conjunction with the ASOI annual conference on obesity will be unique in that it will have patient involvement throughout the day. Patients representatives have been a part of the ASOI Committee for some years now and are working towards creating a national patient organisation that will increase the patient voice collectively. Patients will be involved in the programme on European Obesity Day by introducing, concluding and chairing sessions throughout the day. Patients will also hold a patient booth where they can be found by anyone attending the day who wishes to talk to them one-to-one. Patients are eager to share their experiences and help decrease the regular stigmatising reactions from society.

The theme of European Obesity Day is “Tackling Obesity Together” This event on May 18th is certainly trying to do that.

Author avatar
Susie Birney
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