On Thursday, February 11th, I caught an intense conversation about childhood obesity on the Diane Rehm's radio show. I don't know the specific statistics regarding obesity, but I keep hearing that childhood obesity is on the rise and that more people will be diagnosed with Type II diabetes. The rise in obesity related diseases and conditions are also thought to require greater spending on health care.
In the past weeks, network media have also highlighted Michelle Obama's initiative to reduce childhood obesity.
Because I care about issues of public health, I naturally support any effort to improve health and prevent illness and disease. However,efforts and campaigns to reduce obesity are sometimes criticized for perpetuating the stigma against individuals who are obese. By focusing on "reducing obesity," our public health professionals and Michelle Obama worsening the stigmatization of individuals who are not "normal weight"?
According to some researchers, our concern with obesity has more to do with morality than science, and the danger of campaigns against obesity is greater hatred and disgust (much of which may be subtle, rather than blatant) of individuals who are not "normal weight." So, in the end, could this campaign adversely affect how obese individuals view themselves?
What is interesting to consider is the link between obesity and socioeconomic status. It costs more money to eat healthier. Also (to add another "mental health" spin to this post), marginalized groups are more likely to experience stress and stress-related health outcomes, such as unhealthy fat gain and clogged arteries. Clearly, there are many factors involved in weight gain.
The question remains: If we agree that obesity is a problem in America (not everyone agrees), how can public health professionals sensitively address this issue?