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Remove obesity stigma – new pledge launched on World Obesity Day

4th March 2020

Remove the blame culture around obesity. It’s not a choice we make. 

  • Over 50 international organisations and scientific bodies support new pledge to remove obesity stigma
  • Irish doctors call for new public narrative about obesity in line with modern scientific knowledge
  • New evidence highlights important role health professionals play in removing stigma

World Obesity Day 4th March 2020: A new pledge to remove obesity stigma was launched today by the Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism and St. Vincent’s University Hospital, led by consultant endocrinologist Dr. Karl Neff.

The pledge has been designed by a multi-disciplinary panel of 36 internationally recognised academics representing multiple scientific disciplines including endocrinology, nutrition, surgery, psychology, primary care, public health and patient advocacy experts. To date it has been backed by over 50 academic institutions, hospitals and professional societies across the world.

The pledge was developed by a group of international experts where Ireland was represented by Prof. Carel Le Roux. It follows a review of over 100 global research studies and evidence on the causes and harm of weight stigma.

The summary of evidence – published for the first time today – highlights:

    • Among adults with obesity, the prevalence of weight discrimination ranges from 19-42% with higher rates among those with higher BMI   and among women compared to men
    • Media is a pervasive source of weight bias and can reinforce stigma through the use of inaccurate framing of obesity and inappropriate images, language and terminology that attribute obesity entirely to personal responsibility
    • Children with obesity are frequently subject to weight-based teasing and bullying at school
    • Exposing individuals to weight stigma can lead to increased food intake, regardless of BMI
    • Evidence suggests that physicians spend less time in appointments and provide less education about health to patients with obesity  compared to thinner patients
    • There is a low level of public support for coverage of anti-obesity interventions beyond diet and exercise regardless of their evidence base
    • Individuals who lose weight through metabolic surgery can be at risk of stronger stigma because they are stereotyped as being lazy and  being less responsible for their weight loss
    • Public health efforts to date have typically neglected stigma as a barrier in efforts to address obesity
    • Individuals with obesity have reported receiving lower starting salaries, can be ranked as less qualified and can work longer hours than do thinner employees
    • The prevailing narrative of obesity in news coverage, public health campaigns and political discourse – centred heavily around notions of personal responsibility – can play an important part in the expression of weight stigma and reinforce weight-based stereotypes

Dr. Karl Neff, Consultant Endocrinologist, St. Vincent’s University Hospital said: ” People with obesity are not only facing an increased risk of severe medical complications but are also subject to pervasive and relentless discrimination, that limits their opportunities to access appropriate healthcare, and even to fully engage in society . Obesity is not a choice we make or something that we should be blamed for.  Individuals with obesity are not lazy. They are not gluttonous people, and they do not lack will power. We need a new public narrative that is coherent with current research and knowledge. Obesity is a disease, not a lifestyle choice.”

Prof Donal O’Shea, Consultant Endocrinologist, St. Vincent’s University Hospital added: “It’s down to us, as health professionals,  to work together and address this stigma by reaching a common consensus and speaking as one voice. This pledge is an important message and call to action to all stakeholders around the world to remove the blame culture around obesity and put an end to weight stigma and discrimination.”

*See pledge and supporters below



We Recognise That

* Individuals affected by overweight and obesity face a pervasive form of
social stigma based on the typically unproven assumption that their body
weight derives primarily from a lack self-discipline and personal

* Such portrayal is inconsistent with current scientific evidence
demonstrating that body weight regulation is not entirely under volitional
control, and that biological, genetic and environmental factors critically
contribute to obesity.

* Weight bias and stigma can result in discrimination and undermine human
rights, social rights, and the health of afflicted individuals.

* Weight stigma and discrimination cannot be tolerated in modern societies.

We Condemn

* The use of stigmatizing language, images, attitudes, policies, and
weight-based discrimination, wherever they occur.

We Pledge

* To treat individuals with overweight and obesity with dignity and respect.

* To refrain from using stereotypical language, images, and narratives that
unfairly and inaccurately depict individuals with overweight and obesity as
lazy, gluttonous, and lacking will power or self-discipline.

* To encourage and support educational initiatives aimed at eradicating
weight bias through dissemination of current knowledge of obesity and body
weight regulation.

* To encourage and support initiatives aimed at preventing weight
discrimination in the workplace, education, and healthcare settings.


Professional and Patient Societies
– World Obesity Federation (WOF)
– American Diabetes Association (ADA)
– European Association for the Study of Obesity(EASO)
– The Obesity Society (TOS) – USA
– American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) – USA
– Obesity Action Coalition (OAC)
– Diabetes UK
– American Association for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS)
– International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and metabolic Disorders (IFSO)
– Obesity Canada
– The Royal College of Physicians (UK)
– Mexican Society of Obesity
– Hungarian Society for the Study of Obesity
– Sociedad Argentina de Obesidad y Trastornos Alimentarios
– Romanian Federation of Diabetes, Nutrition, Metabolic diseases
– Obesity Society of Nigeria
– Hellenic Society for the Study of Obesity,
– Metabolism and Eating Disorders
– UK Association for the Study of Obesity
– Croatian Society of Obesity
– Obesity UK
– Italian Obesity Society (SIO)
– Obesity Australia
– Obesity Collective
– Latin American Federation of Obesity (FLASO)
– Obesity Medicine Association (USA)
– South African Society for Surgery Obesity and Metabolism
– Hong Kong Association for the Study of Obesity
– Hong Kong Obesity Society
– Obesity Care Advocacy Network (OCAN)
– European Coalition for People Living with Obesity (ECPO)
– The Israeli Association for the Study of Obesity
– American Society for Nutrition (ASN)
– Korean Society for the Study of Obesity (KSSO)

Academic journals
– Nature Research (all journals)
– The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology
– Cell Metabolism (Cell Press)
– Med (Cell Press)
– Trends in Molecular Medicine (Cell Press)
– Obesity Reviews
– Pediatric Obesity
– Clinical Obesity
–  Obesity Science and Practice
– Obesity Surgery
– Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases (SOARD)

Academic Institutions and Hospitals
– King’s College London (UK)
– Pennington Biomedical Research Center (USA)
– University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity (USA)
– University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UK)
– Summer M. Redstone Center, Milken Institute
– School of Public Health, George Washington University (USA)
– The Charles Perkins Institute, University of Sydney (Australia)
– Geisinger Obesity Institute; Geisinger Health System; Danville, PA (USA)
– The Veneto Obesity Network (Italy)
-London Bridge Hospital, London (UK)
-St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin (Ireland)
-St. Vincent’s Private Hospital, Dublin (Ireland)

Parliamentary Groups
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity (APPG) – A Group of cross-party members of the House of Commons and House of Lords campaigning for improved prevention and treatment of obesity (UK)

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