#TheReasonIGive – I Have Witnessed the Creation of a Supportive Tribe within the OAC

by Tracy Martinez, RN, BSN, CBN

I have spent most of my nursing career working in surgical treatment for obesity as a bariatric nurse. Although I immediately found the specialty professionally gratifying, I was often appalled by the discrimination my patients endured because of their obesity.

Once, a patient of mine was listing his medical conditions associated with his disease and included loneliness as one of them. From that point on, I promised myself I would do everything I could to educate those who are ill-informed.

The disease of obesity is a chronic disease. It continues to be misunderstood and judged unfairly. Many individuals suffer in silence with little or no support from society – and most alarmingly, the medical field. There is substantial empirical evidence that people with obesity endure bias from society and in healthcare. Despite the high prevalence of obesity (approximately one-third of the U.S. adult population), those affected by obesity are frequently targets of prejudice, jokes, stereotypes, derogatory comments and often poor and delayed healthcare treatment.

There is no other disease that is treated the same way. There is a growing body of evidence that physicians and other healthcare professionals hold strong negative opinions about people with obesity. We know that it is complicated and a multifactorial disease; however, obesity is predominantly a genetic disease which is sadly misunderstood.

I supported the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) long before I was a board member because of its unwavering dedication to educating, advocating and supporting those who are affected in any way by obesity. I have witnessed magical moments of love and support at their Annual Your Weight Matters National Conventions. I meet with other board members that give freely of their time and expertise to shift the paradigm of this disease from uneducated to educated. From bias to empathy. From limited healthcare to full access.

I have witnessed the creation of a supportive tribe within the OAC that has formed a devoted, energized and relentless community to which I am proud to be a part of. We have made enormous progress but there is still so much more to be done.

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