Changing the way we communicate about obesity
Researchers are recommending a stronger move towards less stigmatizing, standardized terminology in scientific journals and with patients, which reflects our understanding of obesity as a disease. This is in accordance to a new study in the Obesity journal.
The mechanisms contributing to the development of obesity are increasingly well-characterized; however deeply ingrained perceptions within the medical community and the public have seen the persistence of negative attitudes towards obesity. This study aimed to access how frequently negative terminology was used to report bariatric surgery. A secondary goal was to evaluate the patient`s perspective of potentially stigmatizing language and its implications for forming constructive relationships with healthcare providers and engagement with weight-loss interventions.
The Results revealed that out of 3,020 papers screened, 2.4% included the term "fail" and 16.8% contained "morbid" used in conjunction with obesity. The patients felt that that negative language, particularly the word "failure," implied a personal responsibility for lack of weight loss.
Our words truly do matter! The old expression "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" doesn't apply for those living with obesity. As the it has been demonstrated, poor or outdated language hurts the provider/patient and ultimately keeps people with obesity from seeking or receiving care. So the message given out here is - It's time we prioritize better language around obesity.
Dr. Nandita Mohan
BDS, MDS( Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry)