December 10th marked the United Nations’ International Human Rights Day, and an opportunity to reflect on and raise awareness of the human rights elements of living with obesity.
Weight bias and discrimination is all too common in Canada, which prevents many Canadians from being able to participate fully in society. Social stigma and misunderstandings about this chronic disease create environments in which individuals living with obesity do not feel welcome or safe, and barriers in physical environments that do not allow for larger bodies to be present. People with obesity are often discriminated against, and this is perhaps most damaging in health care settings where we are subject to a lesser standard of care. This is absolutely a human rights issue that is rooted in deep misunderstanding of this chronic disease and overly simplistic narratives about weight.
In the past few years Obesity Canada has recognized the importance and taken action on patient advocacy. From bringing patient voices and lived experience into health professional training and research to speaking up on health policy with federal and provincial governments, Obesity Canada is working hard to make a difference. One of many examples is our participation in the Transportation Agency of Canada’s Accessibility Advisory Committee. Just last week I attended a meeting of this committee on behalf of Obesity Canada to help shape accessibility policy, including within air travel. Together, we can raise the issues that impact Canadians living with obesity and make this a better world for all.
If you have experienced weight bias or discrimination, please consider sharing your experience through our Weight Bias Reporting Tool. This will help us track where and how Canadians are experiencing bias and help us target our advocacy efforts.
You can become an advocate yourself simply by recognizing weight bias and discrimination when you see it, speaking about it with friends and family or sharing Obesity Canada news and stories within your networks. If you would like to get more involved, please reach out as we always have ways for individuals to add their voice to the movement! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, keep an eye out for BIG changes coming in the new year! It is time for Obesity Canada’s public footprint and impact to evolve and grow. In conjunction with the pending release of the new Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines for Obesity, we will be introducing new ways to engage, support and inspire Canadians while we create an empowered community.
Ian Patton, Director of Advocacy and Public Engagement