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Addressing weight bias in medicine

April 3, 2019

About the Author

photo of Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP, FTOS

Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP, FTOS, Contributor

Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, MBA, FAAP, FACP, FAHA, FAMWA, FTOS is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an obesity medicine physician scientist at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She … See Full Bio
View all posts by Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP, FTOS


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Jeannie Howell
May 6, 2019

I appreciate this post and agree that physicians need to make strides to reduce weight bias, but they also need to be held accountable, and the way to do that is to advocate for legal protections for people of size. Weight bias and discrimination are increasing, and millions of Americans of larger size need the protection of the law because discrimination is happening at alarming rates. In fact, it has recently been discovered that weight discrimination has increased by 66% in the last ten years, making it equal to racial discrimination. (Fruh et al., 2016). Legislation must be created to protect patients, employees, and customers from discrimination.

Fruh, S., Nadglowski, J., Hall, H., Davis, S., Crook, E., & Zlomke, K. (2016). Obesity Stigma and Bias. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 12(7): 425-472. doi: 10.1016/j.nurpra.2016.05.013

Bill Fabrey
April 5, 2019

Dr Stanford makes some excellent points. Stigmatization of people of size is not only unfair, it is misguided. It is rare for anyone to lose weight and keep it off because they were harassed about it. That goes for kids and adults alike.
That said, I feel that part of the stigma of being fat is to have medical professionals believe that they have a disease. People come in all shapes and sizes. The definitions and cutoff weights that are associated with “overweight” and “obese” are completely arbitrary. Some experts, especially in Canada, feel that obesity is not a disease unless it accompanies a real disease. “People first” language is a good thing, but should not make it perfectly OK to insist on pathologizing someone’s larger body.

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