Tackling Bias Respectfully

In my opinion, one of the most difficult aspects of living with obesity is the bias and stigma often faced on a nearly daily basis. In fact, for many, the constant “shame and blame” that comes with obesity often impacts one’s quality of life more than the health impacts of obesity. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is directing OAC efforts to tackle such issues through our “Bias Busters” campaign.

Thanks to OAC members, I’ve had the privilege of having quite a few people who OAC has called on the carpet for their behavior or actions call me personally to ultimately apologize for their actions and ask my help in how they can move forward in a more appropriate way.  One of those conversations happened yesterday with the CEO of Citizens Medical Center called me to share the news that he had suspended his hospital’s policy that banned the hiring of those with a BMI of more than 35. What I find from the conversation yesterday and the many I have had before is that most of those who engaged in bias ultimately had good intention, misguided good intention, but good intentions none the less. They were trying to help their employees, institution, cause, etc. and got sidetracked often by not having a well-rounded understanding of the obesity epidemic nor the signal their actions sent to those affected by obesity.

I think there is a lesson to be learned in how we should act on these issues based on their reactions. We need to be passionate but rationale, strong but not hateful, and ultimately ever vigilant but not unforgiving.  Grudges can’t and won’t move us forward in the fight against bias. If someone is willing to change, we can and should support it. In the end, getting folks to recognize their own bias is the only way we’ll create change.

As always, I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Making a Difference Together,


2 Comments for this Post
  • Jim Fivecoat
    April 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Well said Joe, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment on the lesson to be learned, as difficult as it may be at time to do.

  • Pam Davis
    April 15, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Excellent post Joe. You make some great points. I agree we must be ever vigilant to address bias, stigma and discrimination against anyone based solely on their size. When the issue is addressed deliberately and with the goal to educate, not intimidate, we set the example for how to change the public perception of obesity. Congratulations on this latest victory.

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