Five Things We Hope for in This New Year

In a world of divisions, one sentiment seems to unite us: joy in being done with 2020. Thus we say that we look to this new year with a measure of hope for better days ahead. Even for a stern realist, hope is important. Monica Hesse explains:

I am not a superstitious person and I don’t believe that good things always come to those who deserve them. I believe that stories regularly have sad endings and that it’s often nobody’s fault when they do, and that we should tell more stories with sad endings so that people who experience them know that they’re not alone.

But 2020 has taught me that I am, for better or worse, someone who wants to hope for things.

So we offer the following ideas for hope in the new year.

1. More Insight, Less Bias

Bias clouds the way forward for all of us. We did not imagine and did not want to believe that an obscure virus would change our lives for almost all of 2020. Yet it did.

Bias continues to shape the world’s response to obesity because, on the surface it seems like such a simple problem. Eat less, move more, problem solved. But in reality, that conception of obesity proves to be false over and over again.

In the U.S., explicit weight bias is fading, but implicit bias pops up all the time. So in 2021, we hope that people will rethink obesity, gain more insight, and let that insight begin to moderate the implicit bias that gets in the way of progress to reduce the harm of obesity.

2. More Care, Less Blame

Blaming people for their health problems never makes anyone better. It doesn’t matter whether the problem is an accident, an infection, or a chronic disease like obesity. Finger wagging only makes obesity worse. Respect is essential for better care. So we are hoping for less blame and more access to real care for obesity.

3. More Prevention, Less Presumption

Preventing obesity has been an elusive target in public health for more than three decades. One reason is that we have relied on preventions strategies that sound good and we presume will be effective – like breastfeeding. It’s important, but it doesn’t have much effect for preventing obesity.

So we hope that the new year will bring the pursuit of more effective obesity prevention strategies, based on evidence, not presumptions.

4. More Science, Less Politics

Among the many distressing events of 2020, the collision of science and politics played a recurring role. Advice regarding masks, dubious treatments for COVID-19, and even responses to obesity as a risk factor for COVID outcomes were vivid examples. We hope that in the coming year, politicians will respect science enough to let it guide them to more effective policies.

5. More Hope, Less Fear

Fear is not a great motivator for better health. When health fears rise, as they certainly did this year, people often avoid seeking care. Yet, we see fear as a central feature of reporting and outreach about obesity all too often. Combine it with speculation and you have a perfect formula for misinformation.

We have good reason to hope for better options to treat and prevent obesity. Research is yielding deeper insights. Better treatments (examples here and here) are coming. Hope is a strong motivator for positive action.

Let’s use it.

Hope, photograph © Nick Harris / flickr

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January 1, 2021