ASO is pleased to endorse and support the new joint consensus statement and pledge by international scientific organisations regarding weight bias and the stigma of obesity.
People with obesity face not only increased risk of serious medical complications but also a pervasive, resilient form of social stigma. Perceived – without evidence – as lazy, gluttonous, lacking will power and selfdiscipline, individuals suffering from obesity are often discriminated against in the workplace, education, and even by healthcare professionals.
Research has shown that obesity stigma can cause significant harm to afflicted individuals including both physical and psychological consequences. People who experience it are also less likely to seek and receive adequate care. The damaging consequences of obesity stigma, however, extend beyond harm to individual victims. The prevailing view that obesity is a choice and that it can be reversed by voluntary decisions to eat less and exercise more can mislead public health policies, undermine access to evidence-based treatments, and compromise advances in research. In fact, diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes receive far less research funding than do other diseases, relative to their prevalence and the costs they impose upon society.
Raising awareness of the negative consequences of stigma is important, but not sufficient to eradicate it. Putting aside longstanding preconceptions, changing widespread, deep-rooted beliefs and prevailing mind sets will require a new public narrative of obesity that is coherent with modern scientific knowledge.
Given the pervasiveness of weight bias, this goal can only be achieved through concerted efforts of a broad group of stakeholders, including healthcare professionals, researchers, the media, policymakers, and the patients themselves.
The aim of this joint consensus conference was to inform healthcare professionals, policymakers and the public about the causes and harms of obesity stigma, explain the gap between scientific evidence and the myths and misconceptions that reinforce weight bias and propose a novel narrative about obesity, coherent with scientific evidence and respectful to the rights of individuals afflicted with this disease.