Weight Bias

People-First Language

Graphic listing supporters of People-first languageThe OAC has identified many areas where weight bias penetrates today’s society, such as media, entertainment, healthcare, employment, education and more. However, one of the most prevalent areas that the OAC is now tackling to eradicate weight bias and stigma is language.
The OAC, along with other obesity-focused organizations in the community, are raising awareness of a new initiative titled People-First Language.

What is People-First Language?
People-First Language is not something new; however, it is new to the obesity community. For years, other chronic disease, such as those in the mental health and disabilities community, have adopted People-First Language and encouraged its usage in all reporting. For example, today you will see language such as:

“The man with diabetes was elderly.” instead of
“The diabetic man was elderly.”
“Individuals affected by schizophrenia are considered to have a mental illness.” instead of
“Schizophrenics have a mental illness.”

As you can see, these statements provide clear examples of People-First Language as they DO NOT label someone their disease.

How Can People-First Language Change Obesity?
Quite often, you will see news stories, articles and journal entries refer to an individual with obesity as “obese.” By using “obese,” we are dehumanizing individuals affected by this disease. Here are some examples of how you can use People-First Language:

“The woman was affected by obesity.” instead of “The woman was obese.”

The man with obesity was on the bus. instead of The man on the bus was very obese.”

As you can see here, as we did above, we’re no longer labeling an individual with their disease.

What Can You Do as a Person Writing about Obesity?
The OAC is encouraging all media, bloggers and others to utilize People-First Language in their writings. By utilizing People-First Language, we can further eradicate weight bias and stigma.

What Can You Do as an Organization to Support People-First Language?
The OAC is also asking organizations to sign-on to the People-First initiative and enforce this style of writing within their organization. To date, the following organizations have signed-on to People-First Language and are incorporating it into their organizational communications:

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery
  • College of Contemporary Health
  • European Association for the Study of Obesity
  • European Coalition for People Living with Obesity
  • International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders
  • Obesity Canada
  • Obesity Medicine Association
  • The Obesity Society
  • World Obesity Federation

People-First One-pager
The OAC has created a one-pager document providing more information on People-First Language. To view/download this PDF, please click here.