Obesity and Stigma

Stigma is defined by the Obesity Society as “negative attitudes that affect our interpersonal interactions and activities in a detrimental way.” This can manifest itself in various forms such as verbal bias that includes teasing, ridiculing, being called names, and being a target of pejorative language. Stigma can occur in places of employment, social occasions, schools and even doctors’ offices. Sadly, stigma and bias against obese and overweight people has identified in areas of employment in which job applications accompanied by videos of overweight people have been rated negatively compared to those of individuals thought to have normal weight. The general opinion is that obese and overweight people lack self-control, or are lazy or soppy, and lack self-discipline. Students who are overweight are at risk of being harassed and called names by their peers, and sometimes, even their teachers. The consequence of such experiences includes depression, low self-esteem, ostracism and poor psychological adjustment. Recently, a study by Lowry and associates found an association between obesity and suicide ideation and attempts among youth.

Child Obesity Foundation has taken on the monumental task of preventing the above trend of events by combating obesity through a program known as Lifestyle Ambassador Program. This Lifestyle Ambassadors will penetrate various areas of our communities to educate individuals and families about prevention of obesity. This program will focus on recruiting volunteers from the community, training them as health ambassadors in formal classrooms for two months using an interactive and demonstrative instruction approach, and fieldwork requiring hands-on practice of what they learned. The graduate health ambassadors will engage in fieldwork working one-on-one with community members, and help them identify their weight loss challenges so that realistic weight loss goals can be set. They will teach parents to interact with their children to allow the family unit to work as a team. The ambassador program will organize cooking classes and will educate participants about reading food labels grocery stores and identifying unhealthy foods from healthy foods.  The ambassador program will create weight loss management menus. This training will provide continuing education credits. The health ambassadors will also monitor the results of their program and the impact of the program on all participants as well providing the needed support.