Night Light in El Paso

Weight Bias in the Paso del Norte

Interviewing Someone with Obesity for a JobThe Paso del Norte region of  Texas and New Mexico is home to one of the largest bilingual, binational workforces in western hemisphere. But new survey research from the Paso del Norte Institute for Healthy Living (IHL) suggests that weight bias plays a role in job opportunities where these two cultures work so closely together.

The IHL research found that 41% of English-speaking residents in the region expressed reluctance to interview a person with obesity for a job. By comparison, far fewer Spanish-speaking residents (17%) expressed the same sentiment.

“These numbers make it clear that weight discrimination adds to the burden that people with obesity face,” said Leah Whigham, Executive Director of the Institute. “Weight stigma and bias makes overcoming obesity much harder. This is exactly why our Institute for Healthy Living is working so hard to create an environment that promotes healthy eating and active living without bias against people affected by obesity,” she said.

At a briefing in El Paso yesterday, ConscienHealth Founder Ted Kyle explained that these results suggest a slightly greater problem for people in the Paso del Norte region. “The hesitance of English speakers to grant job interviews is a bit higher than we have seen in ongoing surveys nationwide,” said Kyle. “Across the U.S., we see 35% of the English-speaking population expressing a similar attitude. This kind of discrimination is intolerable.”

“Bias makes my job harder as I try to help people with obesity improve their health” said Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine physician at the Weight Center of Massachusetts General Hospital. “A whole host of factors contribute to obesity, including trauma, mental and physical disabilities, age, race, genetics, portion sizes, diet patterns, advertising, stress, having children, social circles, insurance coverage, sleep, smoking and the built environment. So all this blame and shame is just ridiculous.”

Michael Kelly, Vice President of Program for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, explained the importance of overcoming obesity in the region, saying: “Our mission at the Health Foundation is to improve health of all people in the region. To do that, we must reduce the burden of obesity through healthy eating and active living.”

Michele Collins, a certified bariatric nurse at the Hospitals of Providence Surgical Weight-Loss Program in El Paso, spoke passionately about the challenges that her patients face. “We see people who have struggled with obesity all their life, feeling shame and blame for this medical condition. When they realize that medical help makes a big difference, a tremendous burden is lifted.”

Whigham closed the briefing by saying, “These new insights leave us more determined than ever to work with our partners for a future of healthy eating and active living in the Paso del Norte region, free from bias against people with obesity.

Click here for more perspective from the El Paso Times.

Night Light in El Paso, photograph © Amanda Tipton / flickr

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August 4, 2016

One Response to “Weight Bias in the Paso del Norte”

  1. August 04, 2016 at 11:15 am, Stephen Phillips said:

    Christopher Columbus Weighs-In On Body Image

    Judgment and discrimination based on size and shape is as old as ignorance….or at least as old as the “discovering of the Americas”
    The following are actual translated excerpts from Christopher Columbus journals

    Friday, 12 October 1492

    “No sooner had we concluded the formalities of taking possession of the island than people began to come to the beach, all as naked as their mothers bore them,………. They are very well-built people, with handsome bodies and very fine faces … ….These are tall people and their legs, with no exceptions, are quite straight, and none of them has a paunch. They are, in fact, well proportioned”

    Surveys in Paso del Norte region of Texas identified significant weight bias that leads to employment discrimination
    The Paso del Norte Health Foundation, explained the importance of overcoming obesity saying: “Our mission is to improve health of all people in the region. To do that, we must reduce the burden of obesity through healthy eating and active living.”

    Healthy eating and active living is not a solution for bias and discrimination Perhaps their mission could include reducing size discrimination.

    “Obesity creates an enormous psychological burden. In fact, in terms of suffering, this burden may be the greatest adverse effect of obesity.”
    NIH Consensus Report 1985

    Stephen Phillips
    American Association of Bariatric Counselor