Vicki Mooney

Profiles in Advocacy Courage

When a small group of international advocates for people living with obesity  gathered in Copenhagen this week, we noted a huge gap. In HIV, cancer, and diabetes, for example, patients are at the center of policymaking. In obesity, we are often shunned or ignored. It takes courage to advocate in this realm.

Support for change is growing. But the hostility that erupts when people with obesity speak up is sobering. Here’s a small sampling of comments that were mild enough to make it past editors at the New York Times:

Fat people are immoral.

There’s no one too heavy to exercise. No one.

I am a general surgeon. Am I prejudiced against obese patients? Probably, because their lack of discipline has made my work harder and more dangerous for the the patient.

I just know that I have worked out regularly for many years and have been careful not to be a glutton. Should I resent a person who sits around and eats them self into self-inflicted morbid obesity? Hard not to.

And then there are people who attack from the other side of the weight divide. People who think obesity is a contrivance of the medical industrial complex get angry when people speak up in favor of obesity care for people who seek it.

So it really does take courage for someone with obesity to step up and demand respect. Five such advocates joined the group in Copenhagen this week. They deserve our thanks and respect.

Amber Huett-Garcia is Chairman of the Obesity Action Coalition. She led development of OAC’s annual Your Weight Matters National Convention. Huett-Garcia is an energetic idealist who  absolutely loves helping the OAC make a difference in the lives of millions of people living with obesity.

Carlos Oliveira is a retired merchant marine captain and President of Adexo – the Obese Patients Association of Portugal. He serves on the EASO Patient Council. He has been a tireless advocate for access to evidence-base obesity care in Portugal for nearly  two decades.

Ken Clare is the founder of WLS Info, a UK charity that aims to provide information and support for people who are considering or or have elected to have bariatric and metabolic surgery. He also serves on the steering committee of the EASO Patient Council.

Marty Enokson chairs the Canadian Obesity Network’s Public Engagement Committee. Every day that he draws breath, he is committed to speak out, stand up, and bring positive change to the way people regard others who are living with obesity.

Vicki Mooney is the EASO Patient Council representative from Ireland. She is a 38-year-old single mother who founded Ireland’s only plus-size modeling agency. Mooney is a passionate and effective advocate for people with obesity. She makes a difference in the lives of other people with obesity by opening up honest dialogues about obesity and mental health.

A lifelong public servant once told us:

If you do anything worthwhile for the public good, it will seem at times like the entire world is angry with you. Half will be  angry because they don’t think it should be done. The other half wanted to do it themselves.

Vicki Mooney, photograph by Tony Gavin / Irish Independent

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September 29, 2016