So big news this past week in the world of obesity. Apparently it is now officially a disease according to the American Medical Association.
I wish I could eloquently write about this turn of events, but I’m not that good.
Mostly all I think about is the fact that the AMA apparently did this to decrease the stigma faced by obese people. I think they meant the discrimination doled out by health professionals; you know the stories of a person seeking medical attention with specific symptoms but being told by their doctor simply to lose weight.
But that’s of course just the obvious discrimination. Stigma can often be much more subtle than that; a look, a thought of judgement, the negative beliefs and prejudices we hold against fat people (lazy, gluttonous, and so on).
I wish I could say I believed that labelling something a disease would end the discrimination and stigma, but I doubt it will. After all, many diseases have had stigma associated with them (in the past, and sometimes to the present day). And many of these diseases weren’t visible to others; you didn’t have to tell anyone your HIV/AIDS status, or in the case of chronic diseases that you had diabetes or heart disease.
Prejudice doesn’t end with labels (especially the label “disease” which actually is at best quite vague, and hard to define), it takes a lot more than words to change people’s minds. We need education that teaches people empathy, compassion, and understanding.
I could go on, tell some stories from life I’ve met with that describe the way (some, not all) health professionals judge people who are overweight or obese. But I think I’ll leave those for another post.
And because I am at best just writing a quick post to add my two cents, I’d like to send you to a couple great posts on the subject, by a couple of my favourite bloggers. Find them here and here; as always both are well thought out, share lots of great points and evidence and provide great food for thought.