Seeing the Problem

Health Professionals Can Lead Against Weight Stigma

In the March issue of Bariatric Times, two outstanding advocates for obesity care take a hard look at weight stigma and offer a solution. “We have met the enemy and it is us,” say Paul Davidson and Pamela Davis. Health professionals contribute to stigma and thus, they can lead in overcoming it.

The #1 Source of Stigma

Davis and Davidson tell us that physicians and family members are the most frequent sources of weight stigma. Even health professionals who devote their careers to obesity care bring bias to their work. The fact is that our brains depend on bias every day. Biases give us shortcuts and help us recognize patterns.

But when it comes to providing care for people living with obesity, those shortcuts turn into dead ends. Implicitly, the thought is there that somehow the patient must be responsible for their condition and resolving it is something that only he or she can do.

And that blocks the way for progress on many levels.

Leadership for Overcoming Stigma

Guidelines mandate that facilities providing obesity care should be equipped to accommodate people with obesity. Those same guidelines mandate sensitivity training for personnel. But ultimately, the answer doesn’t lie with guidelines, as Davis and Davidson explain:

Unfortunately, the guidelines are not able to mandate empathy, understanding, and acceptance of all individuals who present to us for treatment. We must assess and treat our individual bias while establishing the highest of standards for how patients are treated within our programs and facilities. It might be cliché, but it really does begin with you.

And so it is that every single health professional can be part of the solution. Both patients and peers look to professionals to be the example of excellence in caregiving.

The future of obesity care depends upon it.

To read this new CE unit by Davis and Davidson, click here. For a companion editorial by ConscienHealth’s Ted Kyle, click here.

Seeing the Problem, photograph © Turn Source / flickr

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March 24, 2019