December 15th, 2015 No comments »
The New York Times published yesterday a sobering view of the discrimination faced by persons with severe obesity to access nursing home care. It is a sobering picture and one that is not likely to get better anytime soon.
December 11th, 2015 No comments »
Fellow blogger Al Lewis has an excellent post on Huff Post Business on the promotion of fat-shaming in “employer wellness” programs. He points out that (a) these programs do not cause weight loss, (b) they are often structured to embarrass and harass overweight employees by their colleagues, (c) the penalties for failure to reach an employer goal of a specific BMI or weight loss amount are outrageous. What he might add is that millions of American workers are affected by these programs, them the largest human experiments in history. No doubt the numbers of affected employees dwarfs those in medical or surgical treatment programs. What he does not explain is the absence of outrage in the scientific and medical community over these scams.
October 21st, 2015 No comments »
A systematic review of obesity stigma among dieticians and nutritionists has been published. Six of eight studies showed significant levels of stigmatization although less than among the general population. The results showed dieticians and nutritionists believed in a high level of “internal” factors (read willpower) than genetics or biology.
November 13th, 2014 No comments »
Want an example? The November 13, 2014 edition of the Washington Post carries a sad story of a talented young man who put on weight, was bullied at school and turned to marijuana to ease the pain of the taunting. The marijuana use brought him into contact with violent drug dealers who are suspected in his shooting. This case will no doubt be listed as a drug-related crime and the shooter or shooters will probably be found and prosecuted. But the bullies at his school, his teachers and administrators, and his classmates who did nothing…they will not shoulder any responsibility but their guilt will be just as great.
May 19th, 2014 No comments »
Avid readers of the Downey Obesity Report may recall interesting research by Angelina Sutin and colleagues on personality aspects and obesity. Now, she has published a new study looking at multiple personal characteristics and their association with physical,emotional and cognitive health in older adults. Participants rated their everyday experiences with discrimination and attributed these experiences to eight personal characteristics (race, ancestry, sex, age, weight, physical disability, appearance, and sexual orientation) at two points in time. The results indicate that discrimination based on age, weight, physical disability and appearance were associated with poor subjective health, greater disease burden, lower life satisfaction and greater loneliness at both time points. Discrimination was generally unrelated to cognitive health. They concluded that the adverse effects of discrimination on physical and emotional health are not limited to young adulthood but continue into old age and are primarily driven but changeable characteristics (age and weight) versus fixed characteristics (race and sex). (One interesting finding was that the most consistent effect for race discrimination was found for cognitive health: White participants who perceived discrimination based on their race scored lower on mental status, while African Americans who perceived race discrimination scored higher.)
May 17th, 2014 No comments »
An article by Sheri Fink in the New York Times on May 16, 2014 will raise many questions. The article describes a program of data-mining of Medicare records for use in emergencies, such as hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy. Under the program, vulnerable people are identified who may need help in evacuations or need to help to get to shelters. However, the data are also used to identify those who take frequent ambulance trips or alert primary care physicians when their patients are admitted to hospitals. In emergencies, ‘authorized individuals’ are allowed to access medical records even though they have not been given permission. In an effort to protect privacy, federal officials have decided not to identify “stigmatized groups” including those with mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities and those with obesity. The system is being tested by looking at those on ventilators or using other medical devices who may lose power and have batteries run out of power.
But the issue of not including persons with obesity and those with mental and intellectual disabilities is a challenging one. Are they being left without this safety net? Obviously, not every person with obesity would need this level of attention but those with morbid obesity, in wheelchairs, on insulin surely would. Ask the obesity specialists at Pennington about trying to get insulin to patients after Hurricane Katrina if you want a picture of what a natural disaster can mean. So, is this protection of privacy or leaving the most vulnerable to fare for themselves while others are saved? The debate has only begun.
May 17th, 2014 No comments »
On May 3, 2014, the White House Correspondents Dinner brought together the political-media-Hollywood elite in annual, one-of-a-kind event. The entertainment was provided by Joel McHale who took the opportunity to pepper his act with a number of fat jokes. Targets included New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, and fat Mexican immigrants.
So, given Michelle Obama’s concern about childhood obesity, you think she might have said something. The Obamas have decried bullying, school lunches, opponents of education of girls, religious intolerance, racial intolerance, homophobia, anti-Semitism, junk food marketing to children, fast food, and too much television viewing. So, it isn’t like they have not used the ‘bully pulpit’ before.
You might think that Michelle would see an opportunity to tell the nation’s poli-media-entertainment elite that fat jokes should go the way of gay jokes, ethnic jokes, racial jokes and religious jokes. How much of obesity does she not get? When the nation’s elites signal that fat people are fair game for stigmatization, they authorize everyone else to stigmatize and discriminate.
A few days later, basketball star Charles Barkley decided that the women of San Antonio were fair game for fat bashing. Kudos to NAAFA and the Obesity Action Coalition for standing up; Michelle Obama sure won’t.