New Orleans, La. – New research, sponsored by the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), presented at ObesityWeek 2016 indicates that weight shaming is less common as the public comes to understand that obesity is a serious medical condition. Between 2013 and 2016, public perception of obesity as a “personal problem of bad choices” dropped from 44 percent to 34 percent. On top of that, public agreement that people with obesity need medical help increased significantly throughout the last year.
The research included data from more than 100,000 interviews with Americans since 2013. Bias against people with obesity is a daunting problem that discourages people from seeking medical care and can make obesity harder to overcome. In recent years, concerns about “fat shaming” have captured public attention in mass media and pop culture. Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and Professor at the University of Connecticut was senior author of the study. She commented on the importance of the research, saying “We see encouraging signs here that the public may begin to reject some of the bias directed at people with obesity. Weight bias remains a significant source of harm to people living with obesity. It makes prevention and treatment of obesity much harder.”
OAC President and CEO Joe Nadglowski commented, “Putting an end to fat shaming and bias against people with obesity is one of our most important goals. Shame and blame only makes obesity worse. So these numbers tell us that we’re making progress, but we still have a long way to go.” The OAC, a national nonprofit representing individuals affected by obesity, has the led the charge in the fight against weight bias throughout the past decade. Their most recent effort in this space, the OAC Image Gallery, has received praise from the medical community and is considered an excellent resource for free non-biased stock imagery of individuals with obesity.
This research was selected by The Obesity Society as one of the top-scoring studies at the ObesityWeek meeting and singled out for a special presentation on Thursday evening. Lead author Ted Kyle, RPh, MBA, Immediate-Past OAC Chairman, pointed to the growing agreement that people with obesity need medical help for their condition. Mr. Kyle said, “For years the public and even healthcare professionals have looked at obesity as a personal failure and not one that should require help from medical professionals. We now see that the 2013 decision by the American Medical Association to classify obesity as a chronic disease was an important milestone. And this year, for the first time, more Americans agree than disagree that obesity is disease that requires medical help.”
The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), a more than 54,000 member-strong National nonprofit organization, is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals affected by the disease of obesity through education, advocacy and support.