National Academy of Medicine

Pervasive Bias: An Obstacle to Obesity Solutions

By Rebecca M. Puhl, Theodore K. Kyle
September 08, 2014 | Commentary

In the ongoing work on critical issues in obesity, the neglected problem of societal bias, stigma, and discrimination toward individuals with obesity impedes progress toward evidence-based solutions. Much of this bias and discrimination stems from negative stereotypes that persons with obesity are lazy, gluttonous, lacking in willpower and discipline, and personally to blame for their weight. National estimates indicate that the prevalence of weight discrimination has significantly increased in recent decades and is comparable to rates of racial discrimination. This form of bias is pervasive in many domains of living, including employment settings, health care, educational institutions, the media, and interpersonal relationships.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.