To mark World Obesity Day 2021 we are launching our ‘Stand Up to Weight Stigma’ campaign. In this post we introduce the campaign and how you can be involved today and through the year.

Why are we launching this campaign?

In April 2020 a multi-disciplinary group of international experts, including representatives of ten scientific organisations, published a joint consensus statement for eliminating weight bias in the journal Nature.

It highlighted that in addition to the increased risk of serious medical complications, people with obesity also endure social stigma.

Often perceived – without evidence – as lazy, gluttonous, lacking will power and self-discipline, individuals with obesity are often discriminated against in the workplace, education, and even by healthcare professionals. As a consequence, individuals who experience weight stigma are also less likely to seek and receive adequate care.

The commonly held view that obesity is a choice, and that it can be reversed by voluntary decisions to eat less and exercise more, can mislead public health policies, undermine access to evidence-based treatments, and compromise advances in research.

What needs to be done?

Raising awareness of the negative consequences of stigma is important. But on its own it is insufficient to eradicate it. In addition, we need to:

  • Challenge longstanding preconceptions,
  • Changing widespread, deep-rooted beliefs and prevailing mind sets 
  • Promote a new public narrative of obesity that is coherent with modern scientific knowledge.

Given the pervasiveness of weight bias, this goal can only be achieved through concerted efforts of a broad group of stakeholders, including healthcare professionals, researchers, the media, policymakers, and patients.

The OEN ‘stand up to weight stigma’ campaign

Together with OEN Champions, Professionals, and Members the campaign aims to:

  • Raise awareness of the prevalence of weight stigma.
  • Inform about the causes and harms of obesity stigma. 
  • Explain the myths and misconceptions that reinforce weight bias. 
  • Propose a novel narrative about obesity, coherent with scientific evidence and respectful to the rights of individuals afflicted with this disease.

How to get involved?

  • Get informed about weight stigma. Watch this Panel Discussion about the effects of weight stigma on people with obesity.
  • Pledge to end weight stigma. A team of experts, including OEN’s Chair, Professor Rachel Batterham, have developed a Pledge to end the social stigma of obesity and invite organisations and individuals to sign the pledge to help eradicate weight-based stigma and discrimination. You can read and sign the pledge here.
  • Follow OEN UK on Twitter and Facebook.

The OEN UK ‘Stand Up to Stigma Campaign’ will be running for the next 12 months until World Obesity Day 2022. We invite you to check back regularly and keep an eye out for #StandUpToWeightStigma posts on OEN social media channels in the coming months to follow the campaign.

OEN UK is committed to making obesity prevention and treatment a national priority and removing health inequalities.