Our Children Are Watching
A surprising bit of truth popped out at a Washington, DC, area high school late last week. At Northern High School in Calvert County, MD, a student summed up a lot of unspoken health policy regarding obesity with a poster he or she displayed in the school’s health club. It was up for about five minutes before it was removed by school staff.
Our children are watching carefully and distilling what they learn from us in clear and simple terms, undisguised by pretense. This poster presents a harsh view of children with obesity being in the way of good and healthy people. Is it so different from the message we send with health policy that focuses almost exclusively on preventing obesity? For the 20 percent of children with obesity — especially those with severe obesity — the access to evidence-based care is utterly inadequate. And the stigma that we pile on is far worse.
Given widespread bias and few options for real help, many children and families living with mild and moderate obesity do their best to ignore the problem. It’s hardly surprising. Children with more severe obesity have few choices. Some tough it out and prosper through exceptional force of character. Some are pushed out of view and out of social situations.
The school superintendent blamed social media for “making a bad idea live forever.” He is right that this poster was a bad idea. But it was nothing more than a mirror, reflecting implicit, pernicious bias against kids with obesity that is everywhere. He needs to look a little deeper and think about ways to reverse that bias — not work harder at disguising it.
Rather than burying weight stigma and bias, the Binge Eating Disorders Association (BEDA) is sponsoring an entire week to create awareness of the problem and provide resources for solving it. Today at noon (Eastern Time) they will be sponsoring a webinar with expert insights on children and weight-based bullying.
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September 22, 2015