Worlds Within Droplets

4 Things Would Change if We Ran the World

Later today, more than 500 people directly affected by obesity will be gathering in San Antonio for the best conference in obesity that will happen this year. Though there are plenty of other fine conferences with great people and great information, YWM2015 (organized by the Obesity Action Coalition) is the only one that puts people living with obesity at the core of the meeting. It gives us the chance to think: if we ran the world, how would it be different with respect to obesity?

Here are four things that would almost certainly be different, straight from the thought leaders in our community.

  1. Leadership on Bullying, Shaming, and Blaming. This is a subject that is getting more attention, but we need real leadership. Can you imagine the difference it would make if a national leader — say Michelle Obama — spoke clearly and forcefully about the bullying, shaming, and blaming based upon weight? Instead, from national leaders we have mostly silence, and photo-ops that exclude people actually affected by obesity. A few well-chosen words and symbolic actions could make a huge difference.
  2. Access to Care, Putting Health First. With all the talk about how important obesity is to health, it’s amazing that people who need medical help to get their obesity under control must pay out of pocket, go out of country, and go into debt just to get the care they need. And to do that, they have to get past a load of bad stuff shoveled at them by healthcare professionals who honestly just don’t understand the biological basis of obesity. It’s simple. We would just require health plans to pay for evidence-based obesity care.
  3. Better Education for Healthcare Professionals. Health will not come first in obesity until healthcare professionals are equipped with the knowledge and skills to provide evidence-based obesity care. Right now, medical students are better equipped to deal with gonorrhea than to deal respectfully and therapeutically with obesity. Fellowships in obesity medicine prove that this can be learned. We would make sure that all health professionals are equipped to deal with the biggest threat to American health in this century.
  4. Weight Discrimination Banned. In 49 states right now, it’s pretty easy to deny someone a job or a promotion because you think they’re fat. In the one state where it’s not legal — Michigan — it’s been smooth sailing since the law was passed to make it so. In fact, complaints of gender-based discrimination have gone down. The answer is simple. Job opportunities must be based on merit, not body size or shape.

So there you have it: four simple things that would immediately reduce the burden of obesity. With all the theoretical talk of concern, it’s a wonder that policymakers haven’t already fixed this. The trouble is that much obesity policy is made as though millions of people living with obesity don’t exist.

More than 500 people gathering in San Antonio for YWM2015 today will aim to change that.

Click here and here to read more about YWM2015.

Worlds within Droplets, photograph © Susanne Nilsson / flickr

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August 13, 2015