Weight bias, weight stigma and weight-based discrimination affect people of all ages and across settings, including in schools, at home, workplaces, healthcare systems and in popular media.
Current narratives around obesity may contribute to weight bias by oversimplifying the causes of obesity and implying that easy solutions will lead to quick and sustainable results (“eat less, be more active”). This narrative may also set unrealistic expectations and mask the difficult challenges people with obesity can face in managing their disease.
Unfortunately, this narrative is also pervasive in public health policies, which tend to focus obesity discussion around individual behaviours and perceived failures, while neglecting to take into consideration important biological, social and environmental factors that drive obesity at the population level.
Obesity Canada is committed to providing health care professionals and policy makers with evidence-based tools and resources to improve their work and achieve better results for all Canadians while also being attentive to the specific needs of individuals living with obesity.
Changing obesity narratives in public policies will require a reflective and critical approach to identifying deeply rooted assumptions and beliefs about obesity. The Government of Canada has used Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) to assess how policies and programs may impact diverse groups of people. Recognizing that we all have multiple identify factors that intersect to make us who we are, this analytical process helps public policy makers to consider how diverse groups of people may experience public policies. Unfortunately, obesity is not one of the factors that is considered in the GBA+ analytical process.
So how can policy makers assess the unintended consequences of obesity policies?
To address this gap, Obesity Canada worked with weight bias experts to develop a tool that can help policy makers ask questions, challenge assumptions and identify potential unintended consequences of obesity policies, programs and strategies.
Our hope is that by using a weight bias lens in the development of obesity policies and programs, we will be able to avoid unintended consequences for people with obesity, including the perpetuation of weight bias, stigma and discrimination.
The Weight Bias Analysis Tool for Public Health Policies is available in the appendices to the 2019 Report Card on Access to Obesity Treatment for Adults in Canada.