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Health

A pledge to end the social stigma of obesity

In a paper published in Nature Medicine on World Obesity Day 2020, a team of experts, led by Professor Francesco Rubino from King’s College London, outline an International Consensus Statement and related Pledge to Eradicate Weight Stigma.

The consensus statement and Pledge have been developed through a conference jointly organised by the World Obesity Federation, American Diabetes Association, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American Association for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, Diabetes UK, European Association for the Study of Obesity, International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders, Obesity Action Coalition, Obesity Canada, The Obesity Society.

Over 100 medical and scientific organisations have already endorsed the statement and pledge (see list of initial endorsers/pledgers).

On behalf of all our partners, we invite organisations and single individuals to sign up to take the Pledge and help eradicate weight-based stigma and discrimination

Pledge to eliminate weight bias and stigma of obesity

We recognise that:

  • Individuals affected by overweight and obesity face a pervasive form of social stigma based on the typically unproven assumption that their body weight derives primarily from a lack self-discipline and personal responsibility.
  • Such portrayal is inconsistent with current scientific evidence demonstrating that body weight regulation is not entirely under volitional control, and that biological, genetic and environmental factors critically contribute to obesity.
  • Weight bias and stigma can result in discrimination and undermine human rights, social rights, and the health of afflicted individuals.
  • Weight stigma and discrimination cannot be tolerated in modern societies.

We condemn:

  • The use of stigmatising language, images, attitudes, policies, and weight-based discrimination, wherever they occur.

We pledge:

  • To treat individuals with overweight and obesity with dignity and respect.
  • To refrain from using stereotypical language, images, and narratives that unfairly and inaccurately depict individuals with overweight and obesity as lazy, gluttonous, and lacking will power or self-discipline. 
  • To encourage and support educational initiatives aimed at eradicating weight bias through dissemination of current knowledge of obesity and body weight regulation.
  • To encourage and support initiatives aimed at preventing weight discrimination in the workplace, education, and healthcare settings.

Sign the pledge

Project team

Francesco Rubino, Rebecca M. Puhl, David E. Cummings, Robert H. Eckel, Donna H. Ryan, Jeffrey I. Mechanick, Joe Nadglowski, Ximena Ramos Salas, Phillip R. Schauer, Douglas Twenefour, Caroline M. Apovian, Louis J. Aronne, Rachel L. Batterham, Hans-Rudolph Berthoud, Camilo Boza, Luca Busetto, Dror Dicker, Mary De Groot, Daniel Eisenberg, Stuart W. Flint, Terry T. Huang, Lee M. Kaplan, John P. Kirwan, Judith Korner, Ted K. Kyle, Blandine Laferrere, Carel W. le Roux, LaShawn McIver, Geltrude Mingrone, Patricia Nece, Tirissa J. Reid, Ann M. Rogers, Michael Rosenbaum, Randy J. Seeley, Antonio J. Torres, and John B. Dixon 

Summary of findings

Executive summary

Grade of Consensus (GoC): U = Unanimous; A = >90%

Weight stigma is reinforced by misconceived ideas about body weight regulation and lack of awareness of current scientific evidence. Weight stigma is unacceptable in modern societies, as it undermines human rights, social rights, and the health of afflicted individuals (GoC: A).

Research indicates that weight stigma can cause significant harm to affected individuals. Individuals who experience it suffer from both physical and psychological consequences, and are less likely to seek and receive adequate care (GoC: U).

Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, the prevailing view in society is that obesity is a choice which can be reversed by voluntary decisions to eat less and exercise more. These assumptions mislead public health policies, confuse messages in popular media, undermine access to evidence-based treatments, and compromise advances in research (GoC: A).

For the reasons above, weight stigma represents a major obstacle in efforts to effectively prevent and treat obesity and T2D. Tackling stigma is not only a matter of human rights and social justice, but also a way to advance prevention and treatment of these diseases (GoC: A).

Academic institutions, professional organizations, media, public health authorities, and government should encourage education about weight stigma and facilitate a new public narrative of obesity, coherent with modern scientific knowledge (GoC: U).

Partners

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists

American Association for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery

American Diabetes Association

Diabetes UK

European Association for the Study of Obesity

International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and metabolic Disorders

Obesity Action Coalition

Obesity Canada

The Obesity Society

World Obesity Federation

Project status: Ongoing

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