ICPO to feature in European “Living with Obesity Campaign day” to help curb obesity stigma



Members of the Irish Coalition for People Living with Obesity, ICPO to feature in European campaign to help curb obesity stigma

October 21, 2021 –Many members of the ICPO in Ireland have been chosen as photo and role models for a European campaign to help fight stigma and change people’s attitudes about overweight and obesity.

Aoife Vickers, Carmel Lynch, Eoin O’Connell, and Diane Charleton are among the volunteer group who have been living with obesity for many years. After requesting help, they are now receiving or waiting for the treatment they need. It has been a struggle, and their stories are all too typical of people whose condition is often made worse by stigma and misunderstanding.

As part of a major effort to help change public perception, the European Coalition for People living with Obesity (ECPO), has created a new European image bank. It contains professionally taken photographs that can be used by the media in place of the stigmatising images often featured.

When ICPO members heard of the initiative, they didn’t hesitate to volunteer to be models. Today, their photos are appearing in the new image bank for its launch to mark European Living with Obesity and People First Day. These Irish photos are among some of the 250 that have initially been chosen from over 1,000 images received from associations in 10 European countries.


“Unfortunately, many images that appear in newspapers perpetuate stereotyped portrayals of people living with obesity and reinforce the social acceptability of weight bias,” says Susie Birney, Executive Director of ICPO.  “They fuel the belief that people with obesity have a lifestyle disorder and are lazy, non-compliant, gluttonous, or have no willpower, despite obesity being recognised as a disease by WHO.”


The ECPO campaign has the support of the World Health Organization (WHO).


“The initiative by ECPO of launching an image bank for the media with non-stigmatising images of people living with obesity is a great initiative and in line with WHO European Office for Europe’s recommendations for its Member States to create new standards for the portrayal of individuals with obesity in the media,” says Kremlin Wickramasinghe, acting head of the WHO European NCD Office. “This image bank will be very useful for Member States and all other stakeholders to create these standards and for the media itself to use these non-stigmatising images.”


Throughout the campaign day, members of the ICPO will be taking to social media to raise awareness of the damage caused by weight discrimination in society and healthcare settings.


“As with other forms of stigmatisation – on the grounds of race, class, ability, gender, or sexual orientation – obesity stigma can have devastating social and health impacts,” says Dr. Jean O’Connell, Chair of the Association for the Study of Obesity in Ireland. “Weight bias and stigma have significant physiological and psychological consequences, leading to low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, increased risk of eating disorders, as well as poor metabolic health and further weight gain. Weight stigma is particularly prevalent in healthcare settings, and this can affect patients accessing care for obesity and other health conditions”.

“The National Obesity Management Programme is delighted to see the launch of this image bank. We will only effectively address the health of people living with obesity when we stop stigmatizing and judging the condition. A picture is a thousand words. I have done many positive interviews about obesity, the message of which has been completely overshadowed by the accompanying negative imagery. This initiative is a real step forward in shaping society to deal actively with obesity – which is now the commonest of the chronic diseases we face” says Professor Donal O’Shea, HSE Clinical Lead for Obesity

ICPO Members Ben Whelan, Yvonne Byrne and Deirdre Murphy are among 16 of the new image bank models who tell their stories in today’s issue of ECPO’s Eurobesity Magazine. Susie Birney and Maura Murphy will join todays ECPO Patient Lounge.



For Further information on the Irish Living with Obesity and People First Campaign Day, please contact:

 Susie Birney @ susie.b@icpobesity.org or Maura Murphy @ maura@icpobesity.org

Our new website, under development, will launch with our new image bank at 02.00 BST October 21st here at www.icpobesity.org


To organise media interviews please contact: ICPO Secretary Maura Murphy @ Maura@icpobesity.org

Author avatar
Susie Birney

Post a comment

We use cookies to give you the best experience.