Letter Writing Week – Writing for Healthcare Free of Weight Bias
Weight bias and stigma affects numerous individuals affected by excess weight and obesity, and it plays a role in their everyday life — even in visits to their healthcare provider.
One of the goals of the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is to eliminate negative stigma associated with obesity, and one of the ways we can get there is by educating healthcare professionals on the importance of understanding obesity stigma and taking steps to remove it from their work in treating patients.
In today’s letter, OAC National Board Member Michelle Vicari writes to every doctor out there about the importance of making their patients feel safe, welcome and respected when they walk into the office for their appointment.
I want to trust you. I want to feel respected and heard. I want to work together with you to be the healthiest I can be. I’m a person. I’m someone’s loved one – a daughter, a son, a brother, a sister, a father, a mother, a husband, a wife. They need me, love me and want me to be in their lives for as long as the universe allows.
Can you help me?
Can you offer me a seat while I wait for you to help other patients? You might have noticed your patients come in all body sizes and abilities, and while arms on a chair may help one of your elderly patients rise up, they may prevent me from sitting in your waiting room. I know you require accurate information in order to treat me. Please have blood pressure cuffs, scales and exam tables that can give you that data.
These few items will tell me you want to be my doctor.
While those physical items are important; what is most important are the interactions we have. Please do not make assumptions based on my weight about my character, intelligence or health status. I am more than numbers on a chart, more than a body mass index (BMI) or a weight circumference, more than lab results and medical terms.
Ask me — why I am here? Listen to my answer.
If we have decided together that addressing my weight and how it may be affecting my health is what is best for me. Please understand that one treatment does not fit all. It’s frustrating when a course of treatment doesn’t elicit the results desired. It might be tempting to place blame or assume I haven’t been compliant, but please don’t. Please treat me with the same level of care, compassion, interest and concern that you would with any other patient affected by a chronic disease. Let’s discuss, reassess and set some realistic goals.
I know that you took a Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, so I ask that you remember that. Create a safe place free from fear of humiliation, weight bias and stigmatization that can lead to avoidance of care, follow-up appointments and preventive health services and challenge your colleagues to do the same.
P.S. May I suggest this important read on weight bias and healthcare.
About the Author:
Michelle Vicari is a member of the OAC National Board of Directors and currently serves as the Convention Committee Chair. You can learn more about Michelle by visiting her popular blog, The World According to Eggface.