Shock fat-shaming statistic: more must be done to understand human cost of obesity

Hoop UK Lesley McCormackTwo years on from an article in the British Journal of Obesity which uncovered the devastating ‘human cost’ of failing to act on obesity, is primary care still failing the majority of our obese community asks HOOP UK’s CEO Lesley McCormack.

Published in Spring 2015, The human cost of failing to address obesity highlighted vast evidence to show the patient impact of a treatment black hole, including HOOP UK’s 2014 report Tackling Obesity: All Talk, No Action. The article called for urgent action ‘to begin tackling the condition in primary care’ yet year on year reports by HOOP (2015 and 2016) has clearly demonstrated that treatment provision remains patchy and far from adequate.

“Not a day goes by without members contacting us after hitting a brick wall when asking their GP for help,” says Lesley. “We know that most primary care professionals are empathetic but many still have few resources to help or lack enough understanding of how obesity impacts all aspects of an obese person’s life to provide an informed treatment plan.”

According to Lesley, some of the charity’s now 10,000 strong membership feel let down in an even more alarming way. She explains: “Shockingly, in a straw poll conducted with members this week on the issue of bullying, more than half of respondents said they had experienced ‘fat-shaming’ by health professionals, which ranked third below strangers in public places and family members. We put our trust in doctors and nurses when we are feeling most vulnerable so the damage caused by such experiences is not only huge but wholly unacceptable.

“At HOOP, we not only provide a safe place for anyone struggling with obesity to seek advice and support but we are also fighting hard to put an end to fat-shaming and bullying which have become far too commonplace and acceptable practices today. False perceptions that the obese person deserves to be the subject of stigmatisation or will feel shamed into taking action to lose weight are weighing our nation down. For most people, such attitudes are counterproductive and harmful.

“If we all stand against fat victimisation and stand by someone struggling with obesity, we will go a long way to making a real dent in the most overwhelming problem facing us today. This must and should start with primary care.”

HOOP UK is working with professionals across the health, social care, education, nutrition and fitness sectors to improve obesity awareness and eliminate both weight bias and discrimination.

Click here to read The human cost of failing to address obesity.

The British Journal of Obesity is the official journal of the National Obesity Forum (NOF) in association with the Obesity Management Association (OMA).