On Friday, February 1, the OAC became aware of Mississippi legislation targeting those affected by obesity and morbid obesity.
The legislation, titled “House Bill 282,” clearly stated that members of the Mississippi House of Representatives were seeking an act to prohibit certain food establishments from serving food to any person who is affected by obesity based on criteria prescribed by the Mississippi State Department of Health.
Upon reading HB 282, the OAC and patients throughout the country immediately mobilized and issued statements expressing their disappointment with the bill and the legislators.
From an organizational standpoint, the OAC disseminated a news release nationwide calling on the state of Mississippi House of Representatives to withdraw HB 282. This bill clearly discriminated against those affected by obesity by restricting their right to dine in restaurants.
Prior to the bill being deemed “dead,” OAC President/CEO Joseph Nadglowski, Jr., appeared on the CBS Early Show, along with Representative Read, who was a co-author of this Bill. This National appearance brought widespread discussion about the Bill and its effects on the population with obesity.
The OAC strongly felt that HB 282 was outright discrimination against the population with obesity and an example of the often misguided attempts proposed to address the obesity epidemic. In fact, studies have demonstrated that discrimination, ridicule and/or stigma against those affected by obesity do not lower obesity rates. Instead, the opposite is true. Those that are the victims of stigma and/or discrimination are more likely to engage in unhealthy eating behaviors.
For one of the first times in history, once the obesity community was discriminated against, it immediately responded with passion and dedication. It was the determination of all those affected by this disease, especially Mississippians, that brought this issue to the national media and assisted in illustrating the discriminatory aspects of HB 282.
Each and every day examples of discrimination such as that found in HB 282 are perpetuated and proposed in society. It is up to us, the patients and the OAC, to make a difference and stop this type of stigma.
Advocating to your state representative and letting them know the issues in your state regarding access to care and fair treatment for those with obesity is extremely important. We must demonstrate the need for access to safe and effective treatment options.
Obesity is a serious health epidemic that targets one in three Americans. It is estimated that more than 93 million Americans are affected by obesity, with that number predicted to climb to 120 million in the next five years.