Addressing and improving weight bias in medicine is possible if we share the right education.Recently, one of OAC’s most engaged advocates – Fatima Cody Stamford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP, FTOS – wrote a passionate piece about the overwhelming presence of weight bias in medicine and the need to address it. This compelling read is yet another reminder that healthcare isn’t always the “healthiest,” especially when it comes to patients with obesity – which begs an even bigger concern that most of us have thought about at some point:

If weight bias is rooted in something so standardized as a simple visit to your healthcare provider’s office, is it even possible to get rid of?

Why Knowledge is Truly Power in Addressing Weight Bias

Here’s the short answer: The OAC believes it is possible. However, it requires all of us working together on a grassroots level to see an end to bias and stigma. Dr. Stamford’s piece is a great reminder of all the different ways weight bias can exist in any routine healthcare setting:

  • No chairs to accommodate larger patients in the waiting room
  • Only having smaller-size blood pressure cuffs
  • Being weighed in a disrespectful fashion
  • Having your medical concerns ignored because your provider believes your problems can be solved just by losing weight
  • Hearing your provider “assure” you that weight-loss is possible if you simply eat less and move more

The problem is pervasive in healthcare, but why do so many providers, clinics, hospitals and health settings continue to disservice patients with obesity? It’s a lack of education and understanding.

Many undergraduate and medical students don’t learn about the complex causes of obesity in their programs or trainings. The effects of weight bias aren’t taught in most standard curriculums – only the importance of good nutrition and regular physical activity. And while yes, healthy lifestyle behaviors are important to anyone’s weight and health, they don’t even begin to cover the multi-factorial components of obesity as a chronic and complex disease affecting more than 93 million U.S. adults.

To address and overcome weight bias in healthcare, we must work together to penetrate the deeper spaces that raise generations of providers, medical programs, institutions and even insurance companies. We have to get REAL obesity education out there and into the hands of stakeholders.

Here’s What You Can Do to Help:

  • As Dr. Stamford puts it nicely, speak with your physician and their office staff if you experience bias in the office setting. They may be unaware of ways in which they are contributing to the problem.
  • Share OAC’s Weight Bias in Healthcare Guide with local physicians and offices in your community, as well as online in your personal networks.
  • Help others understand the complexity of obesity by sharing various OAC educational resources which address causes, concerns, related conditions, treatment options, prevention and more.
  • Talk to your physician and their office staff about the importance of using People-First Language, such as using the term “has obesity” vs “is obese.”
  • Introduce your physician, their office staff and others to the Obesity Action Coalition and invite them to join our Membership Community.

To order print copies of any of OAC’s educational resources at no cost, please CLICK HERE. And if you share any of OAC’s education and take action to help end weight bias, let us know by sending us an email or posting to your social media pages with the tag #OACAction so we can thank you!