World Obesity Day 2020: Researchers Play Role in Ending the Stigma of Obesity

Brian Gifford

Brian Gifford
Director, Research and Analytics

A recent consensus statement by an international panel of 36 experts reports that stigmatization of obesity is pervasive and damaging. The panel points to the stigmatizing role of several social institutions—including research.

Health and productivity studies often point to “the disease burden” of a condition in terms of excess absences or impaired job performance compared to a “healthy” population. It is easy to see how such findings, taken by themselves, without a close reading or reflection, could contribute to stigma.

So how might researchers do this kind of work without leaving the impression that employees with health issues are less valuable in the workplace?

Focusing on how patients’ health-related quality of life influences their work can underscore that the symptoms of illness—not the person—are responsible for disease burdens. It also drives home that managing illness through effective treatments and work accommodations that align with patients’ perspectives, preferences and values is critical for preserving employees' quality of life and their productivity.